A New Challenge Brings New Perspective

When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1366 on Oct. 11, 2009, the world of water treatment in that state became even more complicated. The bill allows local governing bodies to enact bans on salt-based residential water softeners once studies and public hearings are conducted to determine the need for such a measure.

For dealers in the affected regions, the future may seem uncertain. One business, B&D Quality Water, is ready to face the challenges a potential ban may bring.

B&D Quality Water was founded in 1985 by Bart Richey and Donna Holstein. Richey and Holstein entered the industry in 1982 and decided to venture on their own in 1985 to open B&D Quality Water.

“They saw an opportunity to go into business for themselves in the dynamic industry of water, and that’s how they got started,” said Joe Holstein, now the president of the company, whose service area covers most of central California. While the corporate office is located in Fresno, they serve areas as far north as Sacramento, as far west as San Jose and Monterey and down to Bakersfield.

Joe Holstein, president of B&D Quality Water, Inc., Fresno, Calif.

Many things make the business unique, from their large service area and careful hiring strategies to offering medical-grade air purification equipment. Now, facing this unique legislative challenge, Holstein is optimistic.

Education is Essential

The major challenge dealers must take on concerning AB 1366 is education, according to Holstein.

“We have a lot of education ahead of us. Most of the people in our area, including our employees and consumers, may not be aware of what the bill says. Either they are unaware, or they think it’s a softener ban bill,” he said. “It’s really not—it’s an environmental impact bill—and the softener ban is just a small, minute piece of that.”

The spirit of the entire bill is to take better care of the environment, something Holstein and his business wholeheartedly support. He noted that the use of at-home filtration counteracts the impact of bottled water in landfills, allowing families to get high-quality water at a better cost while not wasting plastic.

It’s not just consumers or even employees who may need education—wastewater treatment plants need to be aware of the effects of banning water softeners, he said. They may be very aware of how to treat wastewater, but may not necessarily be informed of the impact of residential softening on their particular markets, which would most likely be miniscule at best, Holstein said.

“Day to day, we need to get more involved, explaining what softening does, what the impact is, and the potential impact of banning water softeners on the community, the consumer, as well as the wastewater facilities,” Holstein said.

“The more education we give them,” he said, “the better it will be for them, for our industry and for the consumer, as well.”

If a ban is proposed within Holstein’s service area, he has a plan:

  1. Get involved with the wastewater treatment plants and let them know what the true impact would be, and hopefully avoid a ban before it happens.
  2. If that doesn’t work, he will provide the next best available technology for treating water to his customers.

Industry Impact

Long term, Holstein thinks the bill will ultimately make the industry better. Whether bans are enacted on a wide scale or are largely defeated, it will spur development of better technology. While water treatment has been continually advancing, there is much more urgency now, he said, adding that “the industry has always adapted in the past, and I think they’ll adapt to this.”

In the end, “consumers are going to win out of this,” Holstein said. “They are going to end up with a higher quality dealer.” While businesses just looking for the easy dollar are going to be looking for new industries, dealers who have built their businesses on honesty and providing a high-quality service to consumers will become stronger and more adaptable.

Only time will tell how the bill will affect the industry and consumers, Holstein said, but the Water Quality Association and Pacific Water Quality Association are doing their best to support dealers while the industry is headed into uncharted territory.

To other dealers who are watching the situation closely, wondering if similar legislation could happen to them, Holstein offers simple advice:

“Get involved in your community,” he said. “Get involved to educate and support the people at the wastewater treatment plant, city and water district, and find a common solution where everyone wins. They have a job to do as well, and they’re in it for the right reasons: to protect the environment and provide the highest quality water economically to consumers in their districts.”

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