Water Quality Technology in 2015 - - What will it look like?

What will your company be exhibiting at WEFTEC 2015? Better yet, fast forward to 2015 and beyond.

What will your company be exhibiting at WEFTEC 2015? Better yet, fast forward to 2015 and beyond. What will your company look like? What will be your position in the market? What technologies and products will you offer? Or, more to the point, what technologies will the water quality industry be looking for from equipment manufacturers?

Having gone to WPCF and now WEFTEC conferences for more than 30 years, I have spent a lot of time on the exhibit floor. The question most often asked by customers at a manufacturer’s booth is, “What’s new this year?” The honest answer for most manufacturers is, not much if anything.

Why is this the case? What has changed over the years? The fact is that equipment manufacturers are doing less research and development. Competition is increasing, market pressures are holding prices down, and the bottom line is being squeezed. All this means less money for research and less money to develop tomorrow’s technologies. Statistics show that the average manufacturer in the water quality industry is spending less than one-half of 1% on research. This fact puts our industry at the low end as compared to other industrial segments within the United States. Of course we want to do more research. But the resources just aren’t there. So how can we leverage our limited resources? There is a solid alternative for equipment manufacturers - the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF).

WERF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding water quality research for a broad range of industry subscribers, including equipment manufacturers. WERF is a diverse organization consisting of 500 collaborating organizations from around the world each with a commitment to improving wastewater collection and treatment. WERF is made up of wastewater utilities and municipalities representing approximately 70% of the U.S. sewered population.

As an equipment manufacturer, keeping our finger on the pulse of the trends in water quality technology is no small task. Sure we can operate within our own limited knowledge base and spend our limited funds to develop what we hope will be the technologies required for the future. But what if we are wrong? Did we spend our R&D monies on technologies that were too late or were never in demand?

So how can subscribing to an organization like WERF help equipment manufacturers stay abreast of what is required?

WERF now has program-directed research which is a more progressive approach in which subscribers, including municipal utilities, consulting engineers, and manufacturers, establish the research agenda in six main program areas: Wastewater Treatment and Reuse; Conveyance Systems; Infrastructure Management; Solids Treatment, Residuals and Reuse; Stormwater, and Watershed Management and Water Quality. It is of tremendous value to be a collaborative part of this knowledge base as future needs are visualized, assessed and as research programs are formed and research is carried out.

A manufacturer needs to be a collaborative part of basic research. This involvement will ensure that a company is in the best position to carry out applied development of technologies or products that will actually be required in the future, ensuring success.

How does this work? Let’s look at an example. In the early 90s, UV disinfection of wastewater was new and considered a high-risk solution by many utility managers. WERF sponsored research that demystified the design, maintenance, whole-life cost, effectiveness, and fundamental technology mechanisms, helping lead to the widespread acceptance of this new technology. Manufacturers that were a part of this process were best positioned to enter the market with the right product at the right time.

The company we keep says a lot about us and the leadership role that we play in the water quality industry. That is why manufacturers serving the wastewater and stormwater communities increasingly choose to subscribe to WERF and to be a partner in developing solutions that shape the technologies, products, and services that we will be offering to the market in future decades. I truly believe our company’s investment in WERF produces tangible and valuable return.

Subscribing to WERF and being active in the program area(s) that match your business is one of the best ways to efficiently and effectively keep pace with current and future scientific advances. You will also better understand what your customers’ needs will be in the decades ahead.

About the Author:
Vernon D. Lucy is President of Infilco Degremont Inc. He serves on the board and as Chair of the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF). He is also on the board of WWEMA. He formerly served as Chair of the Manufacturers Council and on the Board of AWWA.

More in Technologies