Last year at this time, many of us knew that the coming year would provide a plethora of opportunities and challenges for our industry, but I don’t think anybody quite expected to encounter the challenges we faced this past year. But as you have heard before, challenges provide the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and that we certainly did.
The economic situation had been sliding well before 2008 ever showed its face, and although it may be worse now than expected, many water dealers have been prepared and are staying afloat. As in any industry during an economic predicament, Darwinism has come into play and the business-savvy water dealers are surviving and thriving. In 2008, dealers have grown their rentals, expanded service offerings and embarked—and succeeded—in new market sectors such as commercial and light industrial. This sort of business expansion is great for our industry and should enable growth for years to come.
But perhaps the greatest obstacle our industry faced this year was the proposed California water-softening ban, AB 2270. This legislation threatened to unfairly ban water softeners, allowing the government to intrude into private residences to remove private property.
As the bill passed through the various levels of legislation and landed itself on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk to await his final yea or nay, the water treatment industry came together to stare adversity in the face. Members of the industry worked together to form a powerful coalition to oppose the bill and took on an aggressive public-awareness campaign. The industry fought for a cause and hard efforts paid off as Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2270 in late September. It is important that our industry maintains this camaraderie because we are sure to face similar legislation in the future.
In March 2008, the Associated Press raised the public’s awareness of water quality with a published report on pharmaceuticals found in drinking water supplies. While this was relatively old news for the industry itself, it quickly became one of the biggest public health concerns in the media. The highly publicized article changed the public’s awareness of contaminants and the benefits of point-of-entry and point-of-use filtration systems. In response, the Water Quality Association immediately provided fact sheets and guides for consumers online, and NSF established a Task Group to focus solely on standards for this group of chemicals. Expect more studies, testing methods and standards to emerge on this subject in 2009.
As consumers become more knowledgeable of water quality, you as water treatment professionals need to do the same. A recent Water Quality Products’ State of the Industry survey revealed that 74.5% of you utilize the Internet as a resource for continuing education. With access to industry and association news, and search engines such as WaterInfoLink.com—a website designed specifically for busy professionals who use the Web to search for industry information but don’t have the time to sift through “junk”—all water treatment professionals should be using the Web to stay abreast industry news.
We expect the results of many ongoing studies in 2009, such as the Phoenix Challenge and a WQA study on the benefits of water softeners, so you better be doing your research in order to confidently respond to your customers who are more concerned about the quality of their drinking water than ever before.