Changing for Success

Jan. 16, 2015
Industry experts look at the year ahead

Change is all around us, and being able to adapt to that change is key to business success, whether that means integrating new technologies or accommodating new regulations and certification requirements. The coming year is likely to bring plenty of change to the water quality industry, but these changes will bring opportunity.

WQP asked three industry experts to share their thoughts on the changes and trends that will affect the industry in 2015. From new regulations to evolving customer needs, there will be plenty of chances for our industry to adapt and find success.

A Bright Future

It is easy to become pessimistic in today’s world with the horrific news we hear every day: Ebola, war, beheadings, murders in the street, drought and more. Even our trade association is not immune to “bad” news, having had two leadership changes in less than six months.

That said, the state of our industry is good. Job growth is increasing, and the global economy is recovering. The world gets smaller every day, opening up global business potential. Opportunities abound for those who seek them out. For example, California and Wisconsin adopted the acceptance of American National Standards Institute-certified products without further review, making it easier for manufacturers and dealers to do business in those states. 

The leadership of the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) is doing an outstanding job guiding the association through tumultuous times, and the state of the association is on firm ground. The Water Quality Research Foundation also is in the midst of a successful funding drive to support research activities that will benefit our industry. 

Our industry continues to innovate and grow; new technologies and products are being introduced to solve global water needs. Plus, water treatment technologies are becoming more efficient. 

The new year will bring continued expansion into the global marketplace, especially in Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Technologies will continue to home in on global water issues, such as microbial reduction, water purification, chemical contaminant reduction, low pressure drop requirements and increased water recovery, to name a few. Technologies that address these global water issues include nanofiber technologies, capacitive deionization and ultraviolet (UV)-LED. We will see these technologies deployed to a greater extent in the coming years.

North America will see the introduction of new products and technologies to solve “old” water treatment problems. Chloramine reduction filters will emerge as the new baseline taste and odor filter technology. Product designs will finally become trendy. New product performance standards will promote confidence that our products serve customers’ needs without damaging the environment. Products and manufacturers that meet meaningful sustainability standards will dominate the marketplace. The future is bright for our industry—let’s take advantage of it.

By Frank A. Brigano, Ph.D.
Vice President,
Research & Development
KX Technologies LLC
[email protected]
West Haven, Conn.

Expecting the Unexpected

While the water treatment industry varies from region to region, there are certain issues we all commonly address. Most
of us are comfortable with water softeners and RO systems, and, depending on your location, iron filters or hydrogen sulfide oxidation may be common
as well.

Here in western North Carolina, we have little limestone in our bedrock, resulting in naturally soft water; however, the region has quite a bit of iron and generally low pH. As a result, iron and acid-neutralizing filters make up a large portion of our business. When a company has a staple like this—like water softeners might be for many of you—it means you become comfortable selling and servicing that product. You can become so comfortable that it almost seems odd when a customer has a need for something else. This is exactly the situation that I have found myself in more often lately—customers calling with concerns that make me think, “They want us to treat for what?”  

My company has experienced an increase in requests for out-of-the-ordinary water treatment solutions, and we believe that this trend will continue. Consumer awareness of water quality is growing—customers are becoming better informed and more concerned about the quality of their water. Testing is becoming more thorough, with additional contaminants being included as part of standard screening. Comparing a state-provided inorganic water test today to one taken 10 years ago, the number of contaminants tested for has almost doubled. Add all of this to the growing demand for water tests by mortgage companies, governments and homeowners, and we are certain to see an increase in “unusual” requests.

These outside-the-box situations are actually opportunities—ways for professional water treatment dealers to distinguish themselves. Being able to respond confidently to the unusual request is where you can make your business shine—and don’t think that customers won’t notice that confidence in your reply. 

Familiarize yourself and your employees with treatment solutions beyond your normal day-to-day products. This does not mean you have to be an expert on everything, but that you should develop a better understanding of issues outside your knowledge base. Talk to dealers in your area about what they have run into and the approaches they have used.

This year, my company installed eight uranium reduction systems on a small community water supply. We also helped several other customers with elevated levels of zinc. Both issues were new to us, but we won the jobs because we were familiar enough with the treatment approaches to have a confident conversation with the customer.

Expect uncommon issues to become more common, and prepare your team to respond in a confident and informed way—increase the size of your treatment wheelhouse. Do this and you will make your company stand out from the competition, help your business grow and be more profitable in 2015.

By Dennis Warwick, CWS
West Carolina
Water Treatment
[email protected]
Waynesville, N.C.

Environment & Sustainability

Environmental concerns over drought in the U.S. Southwest and decreasing water quality in some regions are expected to have a major effect on the water quality improvement industry in 2015. Accordingly, WQA intends to take a proactive strategy in its government relations and regulatory affairs efforts in the coming year. Strategic partnerships will be pivotal to this effort, and WQA plans to lean heavily on its relationships with state and regional WQAs to advocate for the industry with legislative and regulatory bodies across the nation.

WQA is working to provide members with more resources on the state, regional and local laws, codes and regulations that affect the water treatment industry. The Regulatory Info Search, a Web-based tool for WQA members slated for release in early 2015, will allow users to look up federal, state, local and provincial water treatment regulations in effect in the U.S. and Canada. The WQA Regulatory Affairs staff plans to continuously build on this regulatory data, incorporating codes and laws from around the world.

The water quality improvement industry has positioned itself as environmentally conscious and forward-looking by advancing sustainable products and practices. WQA/ASPE/ANSI Standard S-803 (2014): Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment Systems, created to help consumers identify environmentally friendly drinking water filters, will be expanded to incorporate several additional product categories, including UV systems and dispensers/coolers in 2015, and reverse osmosis (RO) and softeners/ion exchange media in 2016.

Drawing on the success of “Getting Smart With Softeners,” a free publication offering guidance and tips to promote efficient water softening practices, WQA plans to release a similar piece on RO systems early this year. The “Reverse Osmosis Best Practices” publication will include resources for water professionals, regulators and consumers.

Education and certification of water professionals also will play crucial roles in the industry’s regulatory advocacy, government relations and consumer outreach efforts. Specialty licensing requirements for water treatment equipment installers are becoming a reality in many parts of the country. WQA leaders believe that the hands-on training and mentoring built into its Modular Education Program will be key in positioning its professional certification as an alternative to specialty licensing in select states.

By Pauli Undesser, CWS-VI
Deputy Executive Director
Water Quality Assn.
[email protected]
Lisle, Ill.

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