Lauren Del Ciello | managing editor | [email protected]undefined
WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello asked David Loveday, global government affairs director for the Water Quality Association (WQA), about how the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water quality industry is adapting to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns. Read Loveday's responses below, learn how WQA is working to help their members, and find resources to help your business.
Additionally, explore the WQA's COVID-19 resources webpage for more information on the association's response and a member toolkit.
COVID-19's Impacts on the Water Quality Industry
Lauren Del Ciello: During COVID-19 concerns, what are considered essential roles right now and how do WQA members fit into that?
David Loveday: Several states have put in place shelter in place orders around the country. Each governor has done a little bit differently, but one thing that seems to be consistent with their orders is that they are relying on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines to determine what are essential businesses. The guidelines don't call out businesses by name, but they put them in categories. So we reviewed that and we found that manufacturers and dealers fall in several of those places that are essential businesses. Again, health and safety is most important, and health and safety and water is very important and has been called out in those guidelines.
Del Ciello: Those guidelines seem a little confusing to decipher what exactly falls into those categories since they're not so clear cut.
Loveday: And they did on purpose, quite frankly, they didn't want to call out individual businesses. That would have taken too long and they would have missed something. So they decided to put them up in categories. For example, on Saturday (March 21, 2020) I reached out to the governor's office in Pennsylvania to determine – as you saw on our website we have letters that are going out and explaining why we felt we are essential following DHS guidelines – and they got back to me very quickly and said, 'Yes, you fit into the categories.' You can imagine these governors and state agencies are very busy right now.
Del Ciello: Absolutely. I know you've sent out some letters, so how is WQA working to advocate for its members best interests right now on both a state and federal level?
Loveday: We've been very active in communicating at the federal level. We sent letters to the White House and to the four congressional leaders talking about the essential role of the industry. We also sent letters to Congress this week trying to make sure some of the stimulus package covers important aspects. We also sent comments to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from members talking about what they would like to see and what will be helpful to put into a stimulus package. Some of our members sent comments to me and I forwarded them to the U.S. Chamber. We're certainly advocating for them with their interests because they want to hear what small businesses were looking for.
We've also reached out to the National Governors Association. We've reached out to the National Association of Counties. We've reached out to the Western Governors Association. We've reached out to a lot of our large manufacturers. We've been in contact with them consistently and we've also worked with the Canadian WQA. They've reached out to us and we provided them with language that we've been using down here to take it to the government in Canada, which is looking at this issue right now. We've reached out to about 18 governor's offices right now, and again on our website, the communication team is putting out fact sheets, suggested ideas and CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations. Even if you're not in a shelter-in-place state right now, every business in the country should be following the CDC guidelines for social distancing and how to work in this situation right now.
Prioritizing Safety for Dealers, Manufacturers & Customers
Del Ciello: Right now as of March 24, 2020, obviously this is a constantly evolving situation, but what are some of the biggest obstacles you're seeing for the residential/commercial water treatment industry as related to the COVID-19 concerns and shelter-in-place orders?
Loveday: It's going to be how to deal with customers in their homes. One of the things that we're asking members not to do, for example, in shelter-in-place is no door-to-door [sales]. But what I'm hearing from members is that they're very busy. Phones are ringing off the hook. People want filtration put in homes. So our biggest thing we would tell our members is make sure health and safety is number one, make sure it is essential. If it is not essential, delay it for a couple of weeks until the orders or things settle down. There seems to be plenty of business going around with the filtration issues right now. ROs (reverse osmosis) and things like that. Very busy right now. The biggest challenge I think in the next few weeks is to see how the supply chain works.
Del Ciello: Are there any other concrete steps that dealers and manufacturers can take both to remain safe and also work to ensure customer safety?
Loveday: I would go to our website on a regular basis. We are in communication with the Department of Labor, with the Department of Commerce and with the EPA on different aspects of this, so we're moving forward. As a stimulus package comes out of Congress, we'll see how that affects small businesses and what the breakdown is. We'll evaluate that and get that information out as fast as possible. If people have any questions contact WQA and we'll certainly try to find an answer for them. But we're in contact with the federal government. As you said, that is moving very fast every day. The biggest points: follow the local ordinances and guidelines, both state and local; follow the CDC guidelines on social distancing; and wash your hands and use protective gear if you need to.
Preparing for the Future After COVID-19
Del Ciello: How can the water quality industry potentially learn from these experiences to create an even more resilient future?
Loveday: I think we're showing it right now. I think our members are stepping up right now. Clean, safe water is essential to communities both for municipal areas and just as important for the 40-plus million Americans that are on private well water. We have to keep that water safe and clean. So I think our members are stepping up. They understand the importance of clean drinking water. I think is all about health and safety. If it is not essential, put it off for a few weeks. At the same time, at WQA we're still moving forward. We're preparing the virtual Convention. We have the virtual opening general session next week. We're going to do education virtually for the next few weeks. As we move forward on dealing with this, we're still trying to be as normal as possible and continue normal business of the association.
Del Ciello: It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has on the role remote work plays in the water industry. Obviously, there's a lot of positions where it is not capable to do that, but with the changes in so many educational opportunities having to be shifted and thinking on your toes, like WQA is doing with the Convention right now. It will be interesting to see the ripple effects that has through the next few years and how we rise to meet that.
Loveday: I think you're 100% right. I still think the face-to-face convention is going to be important, but you make a very good point about education. There can be some opportunities and some things we learn and be able to improve. The only other thing I'd like to stress is that WQA is working very closely with state and regional associations and they have been terrific. They are vital to communicating with members and communicating with local officials. So we've been working very closely with them too.
Del Ciello: That's good to know and certainly very important because some of these things are operating on a state-by-state basis. Well, that's all for me, David. Thanks for taking some time to talk to me.
*Editor’s note: The above interview has been edited for grammar and clarity. The above interview was recorded March 24, 2020.