What's in store for 2024?

Dec. 29, 2023
WQA Chief Executive Officer Pauli Undesser shares insight into what the industry can expect in the coming year.

Looking forward into 2024, several economic factors are driving uncertainty: 

  • On a steep decline for a decade, in 2023, the United States’ fertility rate hit a new low and widens the labor gap. 
  • S&P 500 earnings are stalled, which increases the potential for layoffs and further economic stress. 
  • Rising auto loan delinquencies, interest rates, and strictness in credit lending are barriers to consumer spending. 
  • The global economy is weak – all countries are in contraction mode. 
  • U.S. indebtedness per GDP is elevated at the highest level outside of wartime.  

Despite the uncertain economy, I am feeling optimistic about what lies ahead for the water treatment industry. After all, we have weathered tough times in the past, and as the Water Quality Association (WQA) prepares to mark its 50th year with manufacturers and dealers collectively advocating for and supporting the industry, we are stronger than ever. Let me break down a few key points that are going to shape our journey in 2024 and beyond:  

Legislative and regulatory changes emphasize use and the benefits of POU/POE water treatment solutions more than ever before. WQA's continued engagement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide education, research and support comes through in the proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements with expanded use of final barrier technologies being an intentional part of the solution for lead remediation. Specifically, the revision requires utilities that are chronically out of compliance with the law to educate consumers on the value of certified filters and make filters certified to reduce lead available to them. 

The EPA will finalize its first National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for six PFAS chemicals, and WQA is already on record with collective industry comments highlighting the capabilities of third-party certified drinking water systems in addressing PFAS. 

And WQA will continue to advocate for passage of the Healthy H2O Act, a proposal that would provide federal grants for water quality testing and certified treatment technologies in rural and underserved communities, particularly residents who rely on private wells. Lawmakers are taking notice of our message – if you missed it, check out my rural water issues hearing testimony before Senate Subcommittee last summer.

Important water topics

Our industry remains resilient in economic uncertainty. With regulatory changes spotlighting POU/POE water treatment, our industry is standing tall in 2024. WQA’s industry trends reports for Tanks and Valves, Reverse Osmosis and Business Operations collectively show that the industry is holding strong, and our 2023 Consumer Opinion Study Report reveals public sentiments are increasingly concerned about quality of water supply and desire to become more aware of treatment solutions. 

Early in 2023, a WQA task force cross-correlated industry market trends data – using our Tank and Valve and Reverse Osmosis reports plus Federal Reserve economic data and reports from banks – that generated a summarized report to examine potential future trends. Demand for water treatment solutions might not be at pandemic levels, but it is expected to be robust into 2024, according to that report. 

WQA’s laboratory prioritizes technology enhancements and continuous upgrades to ensure industry manufacturers and their products have access to state-of-the-art testing facilities. We are already testing products to the lower proposed EPA MCL for PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS compounds, and we offer independent testing of new products being designed with PFAS reduction in mind. In early 2024 we are investing in bench upgrades and efficiency tools to accelerate our operations to reflect a growing demand for our laboratory services – a great sign of market health. 

The Water Treatment Industry continues to raise the bar for excellence. Our industry is grateful for more opportunities for networking, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration. WQA launched registration for our 2024 Convention (March 5-7 in Orlando, FL) and early registration is strong. High engagement is also anticipated for WQA’s Business Boot Camp for dealer members and WQRF’s Scientific Symposium, focusing again on PFAS and adding a deep dive into water segment innovation. These events, our Mid-Year Leadership Conference in the fall, webinars, WQA volunteer opportunities and mentoring programs all serve as platforms for the industry to explore innovative solutions, debate industry trends and foster success. 

Finally, as I promised two years ago, WQA’s 2022-2024 Strategic Plan is not collecting dust but instead has been a compass, guiding our industry’s growth and strength. We will update the plan and our strategic goals in 2024 so that we can continue to fuel growth, professionalism, and energy in an outstanding market for another 50 years of collaborative engagement – and much, much more. Here’s to optimism and a wonderful 2024! 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Pauli Undesser

Pauli Undesser, MWS, is executive director for the Water Quality Association. Undesser can be reached at [email protected].

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