The Water Quality Association (WQA) held its annual conference and trade show on March 5 - 9 in New Orleans, La. As if the excitement and history of the town wasn’t enough to entertain attendees, they also were welcomed to the exhibition by keynote speaker Larry Winget, whose dry humor had the audience roaring with laughter. His message: Take responsibility, be helpful and flexible to your customers and have fun.
The trade show featured many new products from its more than 220 exhibitors. The conference seminars featured topics ranging from business management to various technologies and from standards and regulations to marketing.
If one theme stood out more than any at the WQA Show it was to reach out to new marketplaces. Go where you never before considered. Every homeowner works somewhere, and every employee has a home. Don’t be afraid to talk to everyone about their water quality and treatment.
For example, the WQA is focusing attention this year to reaching out to health fitness professionals — not through health clubs, but through the trainers themselves. “It is a great fit,” explained Pete Censky, executive director of WQA. “We will use Bob Greene’s natural audience — fitness professionals.”
The WQA will continue to educate consumers and now trainers on the importance of hydration, home water treatment and helping consumers understand which technologies are best suited for their needs. This year the WQA will be exhibiting at the American College of Sports Medicine in Orlando and at the IDEA show in San Diego (an international association for health and fitness professionals). Not only is the WQA reaching out to these markets, but also continues reaching out directly to consumers. The WQA will be featured on a five to seven minute program on the House & Garden Channel to discuss home water treatment. In addition, with a small 1-inch blurb in Parade magazine, the WQA received an astonishing 3,700 calls requesting additional information.
Despite taking place first thing in the morning, the bioterrorism seminar was well-attended. The messages here were simple: You must have emergency plans in place. Dealerships all should have emergency plans (for more threats than just bioterrorism) in place including a list of phone numbers and a chain of command to follow.
A list of possible agents that have been weaponized and possible targets such as source water, single buildings or distribution systems were presented.
The Army currently is conducting research on biological agents, but chemical agents cannot yet be addressed.
It was agreed that the nation’s pipes and infrastructure is where the real threat is to our water systems and not at the plant. POU/POE effectiveness also was discussed, and Donald Reasoner, chief micro at U.S. EPA Risk Reduction Engineering Lab, said that research is needed “in order to figure out what role POU/POE devices will play in protecting against a terrorist attack.”
For the first time ever, bottled water made its appearance in the WQA seminars. A broad range of topics was presented to bottled water dealers and those interested in getting into the business. Topics included source location and development, regulations and managing a bottled water business. The bottled water sessions were well-received by dealers. It was reported in the retailer/dealer section that more than 60 percent of dealers are either in or considering getting into the bottled water business. Such high numbers have forced WQA to take a look at this market and serve its members that are involved in that sector. The bottled water sessions were the first step. The next one? Perhaps a bottled water section meeting. Although dealers said they would consider such a section, many commented that their needs still may be met through the retailer/dealer section and that might be all that is necessary. Further discussions will take place on that subject. “The International Bottled Water Association puts on a great program, and we do not want to redo what they have already accomplished and duplicate what they can offer,” commented C.R. Hall, Culligan dealership owner and 2001-2002 WQA president.
The WQA Mid-Year will be Sept. 11 -14, Hilton Sedona, Sedona, Ariz. The 29th WQA Annual Convention and Exhibition is March 18 - 22, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nev.