Changes for the New Year

With all of the unknowns the U.S. faces today, such as the stock market, unemployment and the economy, many Americans are worried about the direction our country is heading. But with the negatives we face today comes a slew of opportunities for the future, such as energy efficiency, sustainability and increased consumer awareness about our quality of life, including drinking water. With this, the Water Quality Association (WQA) has big plans and objectives for 2009.

Sustainability

Companies have become more aware of the sustainability of our natural resources and the products we use today. With greenhouse gases on the rise and increasing energy demands, Americans are concerned about the future of our resources. Because of these concerns, companies have found opportunities for sustainable products.

The WQA is working with Battelle to develop a study that will demonstrate how much energy is saved in hot water heaters through the use of a water softener. We are all familiar with the bad press water softeners receive because of the chlorides they add to water supplies, but we rarely see in the media the benefits of softening water, such as the energy and soap savings, as well as the cleaning benefits. We expect this study to be complete in 2009, and if the results demonstrate what the industry expects, we will have quite a story to provide regulators that attempt to ban these products in the future.

Big-box retailers are also promoting green products to consumers, and our industry is responding. As consumers become more conscious about the money they spend, the industry must continue to provide sustainable products. Many of our carbon products come from sustainable coconut shells, while other products reduce the need for bottled water and help appliances save energy; all of which are accomplished by improving the quality of our drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is even focusing on water savings with the establishment of its new WaterSense program, which has been developed to promote water-saving products by allowing certified products to display an EPA WaterSense label. The EPA has already developed standards for faucets and toilets, and is currently developing standards for water softeners, reverse osmosis and irrigation systems and even whole-house certification. These are the types of products that regulators in California, Phoenix and other dry climate areas will want for consumers to conserve water.

Industry Standards & Regulations

The WQA promotes self-regulation through the use of third-party ANSI-accredited certification programs for drinking water treatment products rather than forced regulation from state health departments.

Now that power has changed in the White House, however, all industries may face increased government regulations. As an industry, we have to continue to be proactive and promote the third-party ANSI-accredited certification process to the regulatory community. The last thing we want would be individual state regulations for drinking water treatment products in all 50 U.S. states.

Closing Thoughts

WQA plans to offer several new member benefits in the coming year, proving that the association and the industry are strong. Several new programs are planned for 2009, which may include increased international activities, new partnerships or offices in Asia, commercial and industrial activities at the annual tradeshow and additional member benefits. Change was a powerful theme in the 2008 presidential race, and WQA plans to continue changing with the needs of our industry members. We look forward to working with each of you in 2009.

Thomas Palkon is director of product certification for the Water Quality Association. Palkon can be reached at 630.505.0160 or by e-mail at tpalkon@wqa.org.

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