The Voice of Water Treatment
WQA touches on its convention, national advocacy efforts, building public awareness, future of water treatment and more.
The Water Quality Association (WQA), based in Lisle, Illinois, is a not-for-profit association for the residential commercial, and industrial water treatment industry, representing more than 2,500 member companies — equipment manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and distributors of water quality products and services — around the world. It has been its focus to educate on best safe water treatment practices and act as a resource for professionals and voice of the industry through initiatives such as its Gold Seal Production Certification Program and the Professional Certification Program. It is the organization’s ultimate goal to be recognized for its resources and advocacy that align with the betterment of water quality.
WQA Convention & Expo to focus on strengthening networks
The WQA Convention & Expo will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida on March 28-31. The show promises to deliver practical solutions and strategies from industry experts, a chance for attendees to discover latest technologies and innovations, a connection with like-minded professional peers and ideas that can be implemented in businesses and organizations back home.
This year the convention’s learning has been split up into two main portions — technical and business educational sessions.
“The technical side focuses on learning about treatment processes and technology, but we also have a large business portion too. Owners can learn about some of the best practices out there for running their businesses. We’re really trying to amp up the business end this year and get it renewed and refreshed from previous years,” says Pauli Undesser, executive director, WQA.
Part of this focus on leadership growth includes an emphasis on young professionals.
Undesser says, “This year we’ve put together networking events for young professionals and education that is directed around them. Some of the education is going to include millennials to get their perspective on what drew them into the industry, and how are they working in it.”
Though many conventions in the trade industries emphasize networking as just one component of its agenda, WQA’s 2017 Convention & Expo emphasizes it as an all-encompassing theme.
“Networking is what our convention is about — whether you’re a newbie to the industry or to the convention, and you’re trying to get to know people, or you’re in the legacy folks of the industry, and you’re trying to keep up your contacts,” Undesser says. “We do a lot of networking to get the engagement between the attendees and the exhibitors and those who are working on behalf of the industry.”
David Loveday, director of Government Affairs, adds: “The theme this year is about connection. It’s about getting to meet your peers. A lot of times, at our convention, people will say ‘I have this same issue. How would you handle it in your position?’ You get a chance to share your ideas and experiences with your colleagues, and that helps the industry.”
Another essential layer to the convention is the focus on technology, which serves as a vehicle for further connection. This will allow manufacturers and the general public to access the roles they play.
“Connecting with technology is how we connect with manufacturers of products, but also how we connect with the public too,” Undesser says.
Loveday adds: “Some of our education is going to establish how to deal with the media and social media, and how to get our members engaged in conversations. We’re putting together some training on how to reach out to media, how to send press releases, and also how to use platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to get a message out and be connected.”
This year’s convention is especially pertinent because it will reveal highly anticipated results. Every 2 years WQA’s Survey Group puts together a national consumer survey that goes out to about 1,000 people all over the country, who are called over a 6-week period. WQA will share and facilitate a discussion about this information.
“I think one of the big things we’re going to see at the convention this year is a lot of interest in the 2017 survey results. I would think people are having more concern about their drinking water and are interested in taking more personal responsibility,” Loveday says.
WQA is already shifting into gear for next year’s convention, which will springboard off some major topics and points gathered from this year.
“In 2018, we will continue to have a big focus on the business aspect, as well as the communication side of things where social media, government avenues and public communication come into play,” Undesser says.
Building credibility: National and state advocacy, leadership events and more
On March 7 and 8, WQA will be connect with officials in Washington D.C. on rules and regulations, what’s happening with the EPA and in Washington as it relates to the industry. WQA will discuss with congressmen and senators some of the implications of various issues and how the organization may continue to position itself as an advocate for the water quality treatment industry. WQA will also be hosting its Leadership Conference in San Bernardo, California on Sept. 12–14, which involves top decision-makers, water treatment manufacturers, suppliers and dealers who will focus on the state of the industry and large-scale initiatives. These initiatives will help WQA continue to build upon the leverage it has been able to establish.
“Over the last year we’ve become an expert, we think, in providing information on water quality standards to the media. Our findings appeared in over 2,000 articles in 2016,” Loveday says.
Loveday touches on the traction they’ve gained as a leader in water quality treatment.
He explains, “We saw a lot of hits on our website hits from 2015 to 2016, especially with the links that direct visitors to search for certified products. Our water treatment providers, who are members, went up by 25 percent. We have certified professionals, who have been certified through our education program. This number increased over one year by 94 percent. I think these numbers show that there’s real value to becoming a member.”
WQA has been partaking in strong outreach efforts and having success in regulatory issues and government affairs issues both in Washington and at the state level.
WQA was instrumental in its outreach efforts during the Flint Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan. It offered on-scene communication with affected residents. The three essential take-away tips it discussed with residents were to get water tested by a certified water testing laboratory; consult with a certified water treatment professional, and; to look for certified products with validated claims when selecting a water treatment solution.
WQA and others in the water treatment industry continue to strive toward professionalism, which will allow them to zero in on best practices and measures of excellence.
“Credibility and professionalism of the members is huge. And I think that’s one piece of that, but validation of people is also essential. You have to have ethics, the right products and the right people to do that,” Undesser says.
Undesser continues, “You’ll see some things coming out later this year around best practices in business excellence within the water treatment industry. You’ll see a focus on WQA’s business side and how we can push that to the consumers. Consumers are driving it; they’re using the tools. It drives the membership at the same time.”
One of the ways in which WQA will continue to establish its business endeavors and professionalism is through its Modular Education Program (MEP).
“With our MEP program we are able to walk people through their certification rather than having them go through a stack of books and telling them ‘Good luck on the exam,’” Undesser says.
WQA has also focused on fueling its new career center, which was established last year. The career center is used to draw new professionals to the water treatment industry and get them excited about their careers.
“The career center is helping to populate the industry and have new professionals feed into the industry. We will continue to work with advocacy at the federal and state levels to make sure that we’re getting awareness out there in the public. And we want regulators and legislators to understand that we’re here as a resource, and we have tools that can help,” Undesser says.
The future of water treatment
Some of the most important work that remains this year and for years to come in the water treatment industry includes building public awareness and establishing a national presence that has an impact on policy.
“Public awareness is a challenge in itself. Just to get the consumer and the general public to understand that they actually have a role in the water quality within their home, even if they’re on municipal water, is a challenge. Buildings that were built in the 1970s or before can have ions that place a bigger responsibility on the consumers,” Undesser says.
Loveday touches on the U.S.’s looming water infrastructure concerns and how WQA will work to partner and connect with some of the key players around water quality.
“The cost effects of infrastructure just on the water side is astronomical. Just to replace all the copper lines within the homes is $30 billion. There isn’t a lot of extra money lying around, so we’re looking to partner with AWWA and EPA and other states,” Loveday explains.
Loveday and Undesser both touch on some of the recent and increasing findings of lead in schools and homes, which will continue to plague our nation’s oldest buildings.
“A lot of our work is politics: educating regulators and public officials of options and what you can do immediately,” Loveday says. “A more recent example is what’s going on in schools right now, many of which will be required to test their fountains and other water sources. A lot of them are coming out with lead issues.”
WQA, like many of us who have been following along with the trials across the country, understands that Flint, Michigan was the beginning of a long haul of work that has yet to be done.
“Flint, Michigan was not the beginning nor the end of lead issues across the U.S. We’re still going to have contamination with the aging infrastructure, but there are also new contaminates that are coming up in higher levels,” Undesser explains, “For example, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) reduction is something that is very high on the EPA's list, and I would not be surprised to see some regulations come through there in the next few years.”
Though much of our water quality issues are daunting, WQA is hopeful that there will be a lot of opportunities to do good by the people.
Loveday concludes, “The water treatment industry is looking at some opportunities for years to come because of everything that has been going on in the last year or two, and I think it’s an exciting time to be apart of the industry.”