With 2007 behind us, now is the time to take a look at some of the issues that may have an influence on our industry in the coming year. While it is difficult to try to predict what the new year will bring, I believe it is important to look back at the events and issues that came into play last year in order to better prepare for the effects they will have on the water treatment industry in 2008.
The predominant issue that seems to come up again and again is the declining housing industry. The National Association of Realtors is expecting a 1% drop in total sales for 2008, with no hope in sight until the following year. This would be the third straight year of housing decline, which means that water dealers who rely heavily on residential water treatment should be seeking opportunities in other markets such as the commercial and industrial sectors.
If business is challenging, I believe it is a good idea to also offer rentals, salt, bottled water and reoccurring filter changes.
Significant progress was made in 2007 concerning the ongoing water softener debate, and the partnership that was developed this past year between the WQA and NOWRA should bring a scientifically based solution to this problem in 2008.
The two organizations came together this past July to study the potential effects, if any, water softener brine discharges might have on septic tank systems. Thirteen residential sites in North Carolina were sampled and studied, and the results of this pilot study will be forthcoming this year.
For the bottled water industry, 2007 was a year of mixed emotions. While this industry has been experiencing unprecedented growth (bottled water consumption increased by 9.5% in 2006 to 8.25 billion gal, the second-most consumed beverage behind soft drinks, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.), it has also been the subject of many attacks from activist groups. The industry received extensive media coverage because of this, even though many of these attacks were based on subjective criticism and misinformation.
In turn, this has encouraged professionals in our industry to become well informed of the issues that affect water treatment businesses and confidently respond to critics. The IBWA did an excellent job responding to criticism and promoting a positive industry image in 2007, which is why I expect 2008 to be another excellent year for this portion of the water industry.
While 2008 looks to present our industry with many great opportunities, some serious challenges lie on the horizon—many of which will have an impact in the coming year. For instance, severe drought in the Southeast and southwestern U.S. is causing serious water shortages in these areas. As Lake Mead in Nevada and the Colorado River, which supply water to most of the Southwest, begin to dry up at increasing rates, residents are forced to conserve water as much as possible, while local governments are left wondering what solutions exist.
And while Midwesterners may think they are free of climatological catastrophe for now, the Great Lakes watershed and drainage basin is suddenly being viewed as a potential gold mine as talk begins to stir about piping water from the Great Lakes out to the growing, drying Southwest.
These issues and more will certainly have an impact on the water treatment industry in the coming year, and as water treatment dealers, I encourage you to stay abreast of developing information and issues in order to run a successful business, provide the public with healthy drinking water and keep our industry thriving.