Water professionals examine the past, present and future of the industry
The water quality industry has a rich history, and the key to its success is to use that past to inform the future. As we reflect on the past 20 years and look ahead to the next 20 years—or more—to come, WQP asked industry experts representing associations, manufacturers and certification bodies to share their thoughts on the past, present and future of their organizations and our industry.
Director of Communications, Water Quality Assn.
Preparing for the Future
WQA’s top priority for the year was to revamp and refresh its website, www.wqa.org. Thanks to the tireless efforts of staff and member volunteers, the new website, which launched in September 2014, boasts a clean look and feel combined with valuable search tools designed to connect consumers with member companies.
WQA achieved breakthroughs in the governmental and regulatory realm in 2014, playing a pivotal role in removing onerous bureaucratic impediments on companies wishing to do business in the states of California and Wisconsin. Third-party product certification is now accepted in both states, leaving Iowa as the only remaining U.S. state that still requires governmental approval of water treatment products. Even for companies that do not do business in California or Wisconsin, these changes represent major progress toward a regulatory environment that is friendlier to our industry.
Two new educational tools–the Modular Education Program (MEP) and Knowledge Base – were also unveiled last year. The MEP, WQA’s new approach toward training water treatment professionals, combines theory and practice, delivering pivotal knowledge to maximize job performance for all employees. The Knowledge Base, a handy online reference tool, gives staff instant access to a wealth of water treatment information previously only available in WQA’s textbooks.
2014 also marked the launch of the Water Quality Research Foundation’s “Investing in Your Future” capital campaign. With remarkable support and leadership from numerous donors, by year’s end the campaign had raised more than $1.8 million toward its $2.5 million fundraising goal.
WQA members will have plenty to look forward to in the future as the association continues to put membership dues toward initiatives with maximum impact for the industry.
WQA enters the new year with a solid plan for stabilizing its leadership for the long term. David Westman joined the association in early November as interim executive director. The board of governors also has begun the process of recruiting an executive director to serve in a more permanent capacity.
On the technical front, WQA is developing several important publications designed to help member companies address pivotal topics. These will include best practices for reverse osmosis technologies and a guide for complying with the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
In the product certification realm, WQA and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers are partnering to develop a groundbreaking product standard. WQA/ASPE 500 will highlight the additional consumer benefits of our industry by allowing certification of point-of-use and point-of-entry drinking water treatment products for reduction levels that provide maximum protection for public health.
The Regulatory Affairs team is working on a new Web-based tool exclusively for WQA members, known as the Regulatory Info Search. Members will be able to look up and access a continually updated collection of federal, state, local and provincial water treatment regulations in effect across the U.S. and Canada.
Leveraging a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Ground Water Assn. has contracted with WQA to evaluate programs aimed at raising awareness about the need for regular testing, maintenance and treatment of private wells.
In closing, the staff and board of WQA also would like to offer their heartfelt congratulations to WQP magazine for 20 years of outstanding service to the water quality improvement industry.
Executive Director, Texas Water Quality Assn.
One Voice for Texas
The Texas Water Quality Assn. (TWQA) is a not-for-profit state trade association that formed in 1973, when seven individuals banded together to find a way to validate the water treatment industry and its dealers.
Originally, the purpose of TWQA was to assure an individual’s right to enhance water quality by providing continuing education and training to our members, government entities and the general public. With the implementation of the requirement that individuals who install and maintain water treatment products carry either a master plumbing license or a level 1, 2 or 3 Water Treatment Specialist License, TWQA became the provider for the state-required Basic and Advanced Water Conditioning courses. The association endeavors to keep industry professionals updated on all water treatment issues that affect them and the public, and keep them up to date on the newest technologies available.
Membership through the years has seen some interesting trends. At its outset, TWQA was mostly made up of one-man operations, small mom-and-pop businesses and some larger single- and multi-location water treatment companies. Today it is made up of retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, suppliers and other interested parties, which include plumbing companies, water well companies and members of the general public who want to know more about water.
When TWQA was founded, a family atmosphere was a priority when planning the annual convention and exhibitions. Even today, TWQA believes that you should always mix business and pleasure. While the main purpose of its event is to introduce new and exciting information and technologies to the attendees, we see it as an opportunity to truly get to know each other. Lifelong friendships have been started at TWQA conventions, and families are always welcome.
TWQA’s code of ethics was designed to work closely with the attorney general, if necessary, to resolve any dispute between a consumer and a member of our industry. Through the years, TWQA and its members have worked hard to establish a well-respected reputation in the state. Consumers know that members of TWQA agree to abide by a code of ethics that sets them apart from non-member companies. This reputation leads consumers to the association website to find water treatment dealers who are TWQA members.
D. Samuel Karge.
Vice President, Pentair Water Purification, a Div. of Pentair
The water treatment industry is constantly evolving. Technological advancements, system enhancements and certification changes all have a great impact on OEMs, dealers and consumers alike. Consumers are more aware of what is going on with their water, and industry professionals are continually making more granular, incremental efficiency improvements on systems.
Four major trends will have an impact on the water industry in the next five years: housing market trends, consumer trends, new certifications and technological advancements. As the housing market continues to recover, the ability for consumer discretionary spending to pick up again is stronger than ever. With this additional income in consumers’ pockets, industry leaders have the perfect opportunity to provide higher-quality products and once again make water treatment top of mind for homeowners.
Industry leaders also are seeing more technologically savvy and far better educated consumers in the water treatment space thanks to the rapidly evolving Internet and other advances since the recession. Consumers are better educated, know how to use the technology to their advantage, and have better alternatives for water treatment. Dealers in this industry need to embrace new technologies and use them as tools to grow their businesses. If you ignore your website presence, apps and other new technologies forever, you will not survive long term. The dealers that can “crack the code” of technology and use it to their advantage will be the most successful in our industry in 10 years.
In addition to being more technically savvy, consumers are more aware of what’s in their water. According to a survey conducted by NSF Intl., 82% of consumers are concerned about trace levels of emerging contaminants, like pharmaceuticals, in their drinking water. In direct response to this concern, new certifications have emerged, like the NSF/ANSI Standard 401, which certifies products that reduce such emerging contaminants. Anyone who wants to continue to be a player in the industry should be focused on these certifications and look for ways to develop new solutions that address these concerns. Certifications allow the industry to create innovative products that help consumers while performing as advertised, and allow manufacturers and dealers to enjoy the success of those products.
Director, Global Business Development, Water Systems, NSF Intl.
A Look Into the Crystal Ball
There are many facets to the future of this industry. Considerations include potential new treatment technologies, changing industry structure, manufacturing advances, developments in analytical technology, emerging societal concerns, regulations and much more. I will gaze into the crystal ball in the area of standards and regulations, and present one vision of what the future may hold.
In general, I see the evolution of new standards to address various changes that will come.
NSF/ANSI 401 Drinking Water Treatment Units – Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants was published in August 2014. This new standard addresses point-of-use and point-of-entry technology in terms of claims of reduction of compounds being detected in drinking water at trace levels, including pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, insect repellents, herbicides and other compounds. These compounds have been detected at levels in the parts-per-trillion range due to advances in analytical technology. The NSF Intl. study that indicated that 82% of U.S. consumers are concerned about the potential health effects of these emerging contaminants in their water supply is an example of advances in analytical technology paired with emerging societal concerns that have led to the development of a new standard.
The other recent example is the launch of NSF/ANSI 419: Public Drinking Water Equipment Performance – Filtration, anticipated to be published in March 2015. This standard addresses the performance of municipal water filtration technologies, including microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membrane filtration systems, as well as bag and cartridge filtration systems used to remove Cryptosporidium from public drinking water. The standard incorporates U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) requirements, as well as other federal and state requirements such as certification to NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects, which sets health effects criteria for all components that come into contact with drinking water, such as plumbing components and pipe. By incorporating multiple requirements into one standard, NSF was able to streamline the testing process for these technologies and assist municipal water treatment facilities in sourcing compliant systems. This is an example of standards evolving to help meet regulatory requirements — in this case, both compliance with the LT2 requirements and the NSF/ANSI 61 material safety requirements.
The crystal ball does not show us everything, or even much, when we gaze into it. But one thing it does indicate is that standards will continue to be developed to help fill gaps and meet needs as the future unfolds. These are just two recent examples — there will most certainly be more as we move forward.