Dec 28, 2018

2018 Industry Forecast: A Look Ahead

Industry experts weigh in with predictions for 2019

Industry forecast for the water quality industry for 2019

The new year is upon us, and WQP reached out to a panel of water quality professionals to get their take on the next 12 months. One common theme stood out among all the responses: contaminants, both old and new. As more lead contaminations are revealed at homes and schools across the country, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are increasingly discovered in groundwater, the water quality industry is being called upon to provide solutions. 

The 2018 State of the Industry survey, reported in WQP’s December 2018 issue, indicated the most common product offerings among respondents were filtration products and reverse osmosis systems. Further, 83% of respondents said contaminants would be important or very important in the coming year. Sixty-four percent said the same about state regulations, while 60% said the same about national regulations. From these results, it is clear that the water quality industry has its eye on contaminants—and rightfully so, according to our panel of experts. 

Rick Andrew
Rick Andrew

Contaminants of Concern

Rick Andrew

Director of Global Business Development – Water Systems

NSF Intl. 

[email protected]  |  800.673.6275 

Looking forward into 2019, I see two trends that have been gathering momentum continuing to build and grow.

The first is a focus on lead in drinking water, particularly in schools. More states have begun to test lead in drinking water at schools, and I expect this trend to continue. 

I also expect there to be more focus on water management plans for schools. In many cases, testing initiatives result in lead detected at certain outlets in schools, but there is no predetermined plan in place to help the schools move forward. Many schools instantly move into panic mode and are not sure what to do because no one thought it through ahead of time. Some schools completely shut off the water to drinking fountains, which can create plumbing dead legs with stagnant water. The best approach is to develop a holistic management plan for the building water, as opposed to a one-dimensional emergency response of eliminating consumption of lead but potentially causing other problems.

I also see more detection, remediation, concern and research related to PFAS in 2019. These substances have been detected in water systems and fish in 2018. Communities have been impacted by PFAS detected in their source waters and advisories to not eat fish in certain water systems. There are different PFAS compounds that were used for many purposes for several decades, but until now, research has tended to focus mainly on perflourooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, so there is more research to be done. PFAS compounds are environmentally persistent, meaning they do not break down over time in the environment. Because they persist in the environment, they tend to bioaccumulate, meaning that they are absorbed by animals faster than the animals can excrete them or break them down. These properties add to health concerns, which require additional research. This research likely will lead to additional source water systems being identified as impacted, and also will lead to improved understanding of the health impacts of ingestion of PFAS compounds through drinking water and food.

Pauli Undesser
Pauli Undesser

A Global Solution

Pauli Undesser, MWS

Executive Director 

Water Quality Assn. & Water Quality Research Foundation

[email protected]  |  630.505.0160

The coming year promises to be a critical one for the water quality industry as we respond to widespread drinking water contamination and monitor trade negotiations that impose additional costs on member companies. I am optimistic because our industry once again is uniquely suited to provide effective solutions for addressing these water quality challenges and respond to changing market dynamics even as we work together to understand them.

In May 2018, Water Quality Assn. (WQA) Technical Director Eric Yeggy and Global Government Affairs Director David Loveday took part in the U.S. EPA’s National Leadership Summit on PFAS contamination and how to establish a national management plan. 

“Contamination is widespread across the U.S. and globally,” Yeggy said at our Virtual Mid-Year Leadership Conference. “The compounds are stable in the environment and they bioaccumulate. We know the most about the two PFAS that were phased out by 2015, and we know the least about all the new PFAS which are currently in use.”

He concluded, “There is no practical way that the EPA can regulate such a large class of compounds, which we know so little about, through the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

That is alarming news, and yet, as Yeggy explained, our industry can offer point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) solutions that have been demonstrated to work.

Three POU and POE technologies have been demonstrated to be capable of reducing PFAS: anion exchange (research funded by the Water Research Foundation), reverse osmosis (tested by WQA in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Public Health) and carbon systems (tested by both WQA and NSF). New American National Standards will soon be adopted for the evaluation of technologies providing these critical reduction claims, allowing use of the Gold Seal certification mark.

Keeping technology affordable for the people who need it most will be a big concern in 2019 as well. Industry leaders are working to convince government officials that water treatment products should be exempt from the 25% tariffs on products imported from China. Additionally, the U.S. International Trade Commission is holding a Feb. 26, 2019 public hearing on trade-related barriers that disproportionately affect the U.K. exports of small and medium enterprises. The U.S. Trade Representative has asked for the feedback as it prepares to negotiate new trade agreements with the U.K. ahead of its withdrawal from the European Union.

It is critical for our industry to keep a close eye on international trade, because the global marketplace is very strong right now, with a positive outlook for long-term growth. From small independent dealers to large multinational manufacturers, we all must diligently pay attention to marketplace initiatives that might impact our industry.

Frank A. Brigano
Frank A. Brigano

Issues on the Horizon

Frank A. Brigano, Ph.D.

Vice President, Senior Research Fellow

Marmon Water Inc.

[email protected]  |  203.764.2506

My colleague Dr. Nabin Pal published an article in the September 2018 issue of WQP titled, “Emerging to Emerged.” In it, Pal addressed contaminants of emerging concern, which are chemicals, synthetic or natural, not commonly regulated that may or may not be harmful to humans and the environment. His article focused on pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), pesticides, hormones and endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs). These compounds have emerged from beyond the horizon to take center stage for action. But what water treatment challenges are peeking over the horizon? 

For example, perfluorinated compounds first emerged about 12 years ago and are receiving renewed attention and regulation. Persistent organic chemicals are another class of compounds that has risen above the horizon. Many of these compounds are PPCPs and EDCs. Just at the horizon are glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, as well as Legionella and other opportunistic pathogens potentially present in water. 

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds and desiccate crops. Though not absorbed through the skin, it can be aspirated and swallowed, where it is then transported through the bloodstream. Its use as a crop desiccant has resulted in its presence in all levels of the food chain. The U.S. EPA set a maximum contaminant level and maximum contaminant level goal of 0.7mg/L. There are specialty materials and oxidation process that can remove or degrade glyphosate in water. Unfortunately, membrane technologies have been shown to be ineffective in removing glyphosate from water. More work is needed. 

The Flint, Mich., lead crisis highlighted the persistence of Legionella and other opportunist pathogens in our water supplies. These microorganisms can inhabit biofilms and are found in plumbing and water fixtures. They are not indicators of fecal pollution, but rather natural inhabitants of the water that survive the water treatment processes. The immunocompromised typically bear the health risk from Legionella and other opportunist pathogens. Biofilm control, post treatment with anti-microbial filters at the tap and the showerhead, and water disinfection will provide a level of protection to our customers.

Historically, our industry has responded to these new water treatment challenges with technologies to treat and standards to validate performance. Recognizing the next contaminant that is lurking just below or at the horizon, whether chemical or microbial, is difficult. The ability to detect smaller concentrations of chemicals and awareness of potential health risks has made it critical that our industry respond quickly and effectively. Deploying affordable, effective drinking water treatment technologies in the home and place of business, rapidly, is necessary to meet the human need for the next Flint.

The time for believing that all our drinking water treatment needs can be handled at the treatment plant is long over. We must develop solutions that can overcome the longstanding regulatory objections to POU and POE as the true final barrier solution. The implementation of real-time sensing technologies, Internet of Things analytics and auto-ship means for filter changes and proper system operation will guarantee safe, clean, affordable drinking water to the consumer and the sustained growth of our industry.

James Peterson
James Peterson

Driven by Technology

James Peterson

Product Manager

Crystal IS

[email protected]  |  518.271.7375

Looking into 2019, the water technology market is shifting its focus from cost-cutting to driving new revenue and competitive differentiation in how it provides consumers with clean drinking water. With water crises occurring across the country, delivering safe water at the point of use presents a new opportunity for manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage. In the coming 12 months, companies will be focused on adding features that will enable them to deliver the most advanced and differentiated products to ensure consumer water safety and enjoyment. 

The budget purification option no longer will be a viable answer for how to market a successful product in the coming year, as priorities are shifting to create more engaging experiences around water and beverages. For example, the roughly 75% of the water cooler market that is under rental contracts will experience further proliferation of compact technology features such as carbonation and on-demand temperature control. Therefore, dealers can continue to bring new features to users to grow monthly revenue, while manufacturers can continue to justify increases in equipment costs. 

Consumers increasingly are concerned about the safety of their water because of recent scares of Legionella in areas such as New York and Disneyland. In addition, this year’s hurricane season has taught us that unlimited access to clean drinking water should not be taken for granted. Leaders already are acting on these events with the European Parliament’s draft Revision of the Drinking Water Directive, which includes aggressive new standards on Legionella presence in water for human consumption. The addition of design and technology features that assure water hygiene will become more common to address these threats and to win consumer trust in products and services.

The attraction to more responsive, yet less involved technology is another trend that will dominate 2019. Driven by growing preferences for service-based and instant-gratuity experiences in consumer lives, products will strive to stay out of mind when not needed, but react immediately when demanded. Product design is paramount to achieving this. The technology powering new products needs to be compact, rapid and low-maintenance, while style must keep up with modern home appliance trends, not hardware store bargain buys. Some technologies that cannot meet these demands, such as bottle-fed coolers and mercury lamps, already are seeing weakening growth rates against incumbent solutions. We will see more rapid competitive responses to design with features including real-time water sensing, compact instant water heating and disinfection applications, such as the use of deep ultraviolet LED technologies.

About the author

Amy McIntosh | Managing Editor | [email protected]