Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

WQA Aquatech Las Vegas: Where Does the Future Lie?

By Karen R. Smith


Note: Softened water contains less than one grain of calcium carbonate (CaCo3).

Two new definitions: Less than 17.1 ppm is soft; less than 1.7 ppm is very soft.

Ultrasoft water is less than 1/100th grain CaCo3.

A device that chemically reduces CaCO3 to less than 17.1 grains is a softener; reduction must be no less than one grain CaCO3 per gallon.

Anything else is a conditioner; a no-salt-water conditioner is anything that enhances water without the use of salt(s).

A salt is defined as anything once an acid and base.

Physical water conditioners do not use chemicals to treat water.


The biggest question at this year’s WQA Aquatech trade show and conference was what the future might hold. The answers were as varied as the crowd itself.

As the gathering commenced on Tuesday, many took advantage of the educational sessions being offered by the Association of Water Technologies (AWT) and the International Ozone Association. The former hosted a half-day program on boiler and cooling tower water treatment; the latter presented a full day of education on commercial and industrial ozone applications. Simultaneously, task force meetings and classes were held. This was the top complaint of many attendees as well as a backhanded compliment. The WQA has added a vast amount of activities to this annual convention (kudos here) without increasing its duration. Therefore, every single decision is a complicated trade off. As noted above, commercial and industrial ozone training by the experts in that field was an all-day course. Sign up for that and miss everything else that day—the task force meetings all morning on subjects ranging from salinity to POU cooler cleaning and the first of the educational sessions in the afternoon. Skip the all-day training and there were still choices to make. For example, at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, one had to select between three different educational sessions that all were of interest to dealers: arsenic in groundwater; an overview of the new WQA Commercial Water Specialist program and novel membrane pretreatment processes using ion exchange. Every option exercised meant passing up on several others. This results in a negative sum for all attendees as it stands today. In future, the schedule of events needs to better meet the needs of WQA members. While this may generate enhanced sales for the WQA’s CDs, it runs the risk of folks assessing that they should skip the conference next year and simply purchase the digital recordings after the fact.

At the salinity task force meeting, big news on two western fronts. The positive can be summed up in three words: The Phoenix Challenge. This new WQA initiative has been developed with the Central Arizona Project’s Water Conservation District’s board member Paul Hendricks. The goal is to fast-track new technological developments by the water treatment industry that will increase brine efficiencies, seek salt-free technologies and reduce water waste. Phoenix is facing record growth and has no new sources for water; the municipality has opted for a longterm plan that relies on reuse, making TDS an important factor. This drew legislators and regulators to conduct a salinity study, which identified water softeners as a major contributor to brine discharge in the Valley of the Sun. Some departments within Maricopa County were already discussing a softener ban when the WQA intervened. Peter Censky and David Loveday flew to Phoenix, where Rayne Water Conditioning’s Vice President and PWQA board member H. Martin Jessen had arranged a sit-down meeting with Hendricks. The result of that meeting and several others was this unique initiative where technology and practice are being given a chance to maintain the quality of life—and water—that Phoenicians value. Hendricks was the featured speaker at the manufacturers’ section meeting; he spoke at length of the role of technological development in a sustainable future.

Dark news from California at the salinity task force: Assemblyman John Laird (27th district, representing portions of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties) has introduced a bill that would effectively eliminate the protections water treatment professionals have worked to achieve over the past 30 years. As currently drafted, the bill states, “…if the state board or a regional board makes a finding at public hearing that the control of residential salinity input will contribute to achievement of water quality objectives, any local agency…may by ordinance take action to control residential salinity inputs, including those from water softeners…” PWQA and WQA have already filed a letter of opposition on this matter and will work against the draft.

The new MOU between WQA and National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) made for an exciting gathering of the onsite wastewater task force. Nancy Deal of North Carolina State University explained the process of gathering and analyzing the data from the joint field study conducted last year. First and foremost, this study will establish protocols to be used in other such field studies throughout the country. “Thirteen houses is a start, but we cannot extrapolate universal truths from such a statistically small sampling,” she cautioned, “There are dozens of confounding variables.”

Matt Byers (Zoeller Pump) DJ Shannahan (Sharp Water) and Bob Boerner (Culligan San Antonio) brought the audience up to date on a number of issues, bolstered by WQA’s Joe Harrison and Dave Loveday. Shannahan provided a recap of his visit to the Virginia sites (of a previous study) with Trapper Davis; Harrison explained his dialog with Mary Strawn of the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) to define the scope of future research by that organization (WERF is currently considering such to ‘assess the field impacts of water softeners on septic tank performance.’ Outgoing WQA President Dennis Rupert noted that recent inflammatory articles proclaiming softeners as the culprit in onsite system failures did not originate with NOWRA or its members; in fact, members of the board of that organization had written to several publications decrying those unfounded attacks as  baseless and without scientific proof. Dialogs with members of the State Onsite Regulators Alliance, Orenco’s Terry Bounds and others are all leading to positive relationships that will continue to spearhead actual investigation—and ultimately scientific data and analysis—on this important issue.

Calcium and magnesium task force members reported no changes nationally or internationally at their meeting. WHO will be conducting more research and hearings in the coming months and appears to still favor the position that these minerals must be added to waters worldwide. Membership marketing task force members were in a congratulatory mood as membership numbers were up for the year, in large part thanks to this active group’s efforts. Task Force Chair (and WC&P Publisher) Kurt Peterson received WQA’s Platinum Award for recruiting 75 members in his lifetime…an honor he intends to repeat in the years to come! Two RainSoft dealers, Antoine Elias of Balinville, Quebec, Canada and Peter Waelti of Denver, Colorado, were inducted into the Lifetime President’s Club for their recruitment of three or more members for five consecutive years. In addition, Waelti shared the Bill Peltier Award for number-one recruitment honors with Phoenix’s Jerry Bishop of Water Resources International. The Team Award went to Scott Brane of Dunnellon, Florida; Clack Corporation’s Sid Fly; Cindy Gresham of Thermax; Skip Ruedeman of Clear Choice Water Conditioning and Bishop and Peterson.

Language was the main subject at the Water Sciences & Government Relations Committee. Readers will recall that members of the former had begun working on definitions of water softeners and soft water. Identifying what different products are and what they produce will translate as consumer protections in the marketplace once manufacturers adopt these new definitions internally and in their promotional and packaging efforts. While this committee does not and will not dictate their definitions to manufacturers, the majority agreed that succinct definitions would benefit the industry at this time. A draft was agreed upon; this draft will go to WQA’s Board of Governors for approval. If approved, the definitions will be announced and incorporated into the WQA Glossary of Terms. As this concludes the mandate of the task force, it was dissolved.

In light of the recent public attention to the presence of pharmaceuticals in many water supplies, committee members questioned how to respond to this important issue. NSF’s Tom Bruusema announced that a committee has been formed there and noted that public perception may trump science on this issue. Senator Barbara Boxter is holding hearings on the subject and concern is growing daily. Activated carbons and RO treatment was the response of choice for most; but the question arose as to whether or not one would become liable if they suggested these (or any other) technologies to customers and they did not fully remove all endocrine disruptors. Harrison noted that at present, everyone is in the same position. “All of us kind of feel RO is extremely effective…yet if you sell it for a problem, you better fix it.” WQA has volunteered to work with a Congressional committee on the problem; Regu Regunathan mentioned the current US EPA silence on the issue.

Interestingly, WQA seems committed to funding a new study to look at how much detergent is saved by the adoption of a water softener in a hard water region, while many feel a life cycle analysis (LCA) study might be a better use of money given today’s consumers concern with carbon footprint and sustainability. In fact, the LCA mentioned by members of the committee was the work of John and Candace Blount in WC&P last year. Dr. Bruce Tepper of Proctor & Gamble noted that his company has a great deal of data on Tide® users. “The ideal consumer is doing seven loads of laundry a week with Tide, at a cost of $98 per year. If water softeners were capable of saving 20 percent of that, it would only amount to $13.” That would seem to be hardly a motivator for a significant purchase. Tepper further explained that previous savings attributed to lack of wear and tear on clothing thanks to softened water was no longer a factor because today’s detergents are actually protecting fabrics.

Outgoing Chair Glen Trickle was commended for his work and Gary Hatch (Pentair and WC&P Tech Review Committee member) assumes the lead for the water sciences half of this committee; they have a ‘proceed through chairs’ approach to ensure regular changes in leadership. The government relations side of the committee is going to adopt the same procedure; current Chair Sam Karge (GE) asked for members to provide nominations at WQA MidYear in June with the intent of the new Chair assuming office at next year’s WQA Aquatech in Rosemont.

On the regulatory side, the most positive change is the UK’s requirement for residential water treatment. Whether by means of a softener or a conditioning device, Britons must now have water treatment in place to sell or otherwise transfer residential property. This was enacted to help save energy in the UK. Joe Harrison acquainted members with the changing Canadian regulatory standards; UV devices will now become part of Code 2010 there. This goes well beyond the NSF standards that apply to these devices, mandating wear testing, durability of coatings and more. The Canadians have excluded water treatment devices produced in small volumes (or custom made) from 2010; at Health Canada’s last meeting, the regulators stated that UV devices are mass produced and should therefore be certified under the code. UV manufacturers say this will double the price of their products.

In Iowa, state rules are changing, with comments due in April. At present, it appears manufacturers will no longer have to do their own certifications there and that the state will accept NSF certifications instead; data sheets will be accepted in this process. There are still questions, and Clack’s Loretta Trapp volunteered to help WQA and interested members. The anticipated outcome is that Iowa will become much like California, where the cumbersome state process was also streamlined thanks to the WQA. Frank Brigano (KX Industries) pointed out that there is still work to be done, “What about the time of the process in Wisconsin,” he queried. The committee agreed that, using California and Iowa as models, it is time to talk to Wisconsin. In that state right now, water reuse and reclamation regulations are being created; WQA members Hellenbrand and Water-Right are participating in that process.

In Minnesota, a new code will be issued this summer that will govern the 8,000 wells drilled annually there; the guess-timate is that 20 percent will need treatment for arsenic. WQA is working with Mike Converary to create educational materials for the public and our industry. Joe Harrison and C.F. ‘Chubb’ Michaud (Systematix, Inc. and WC&P Technical Review Committee member) will write the brochure for Minnesota. The program will be similar to that already in place in New Jersey for that state’s wells. New Jersey for that state’s wells.

New Jersey has the highest demand for testing for contaminants and their health effects—there are nearly 30,000 tests performed annually in the Garden State. In addition, Minnesota is performing a study to evaluate which water treatment devices are best for the removal of perfluorochemicals (PFCs). (See WC&P Feb. 2008, Added Value of POU RO with Emerging Water Regulations.) WQA is a contractor in this study; phase one has concluded and phase two has not yet commenced.

Nine educational sessions were held Tuesday afternoon; by far the most popular was the one on arsenic in groundwater given by Dr. Paul Sylvester of SolmeteX®—once seats were filled, folks either stood or found a comfy spot on the floor to hear his presentation! At the close of the day’s final session, invitees headed to the President’s Club reception where the year’s award-winning recruiters were saluted over drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Wednesday, education sessions led the day, including a new assortment of classes designed to help dealers run their businesses better—from insurance insights to basic chemistry, it was a full morning for those attending. Everyone gathered for the official state of the industry presentation, which segued into the opening session highlighted by one of the event’s keynote speakers, Daniel Burrus. He spoke to the crowd on Technotrends®—the Big Ideas that are Changing Everything.

Highlights of the opening ceremonies were the award presentations: Edward (Ned) Jones III (Gordon Brothers, Inc.) was inducted into the WQA Hall of Fame; J. Christopher (Chris) Layton was awarded Lifetime Membership; Denise A. Nasternak (Stenner Pump Co.) received the Award of Merit; D.J. Shannahan, Jr. was given the Regents Award; the Ray Cross Award went to Glen Gruett (Water-Right, Inc./Mineral-Right, Inc.) and WC&P’s Kurt Peterson received the Platinum Membership Recruitment Award. At the conclusion of the assembly, the trade show officially opened and the audience streamed onto the show floor, where educational opportunities continued throughout the afternoon, making it possible to earn CEUs without missing a thing! Both the Member Services Committee and the Commercial Education Task Force convened during the afternoon, after which all met up at the industry reception, where old friends renewed relations and new acquaintances met and mingled.

Thursday was a jam-packed day of educational classes both on and off the trade show floor; invitation-only board and panel meetings and certification exams. Throughout the day, the History Task Force’s film crew met with the WQA members who have made this industry great and recorded their personal stories and memories. This is the start of the long-awaited
history project that will memorialize this very special group. Select photos from the 1950s through the 1980s were displayed on panels in the entry hall to the trade show and classrooms; nearby tables offered pens and cards for folks to identify those seen on the panels. The fun began when many found their younger selves on the display! The task force held a reception in the late afternoon and the film crew had the opportunity to record many at the soiree. It was a moment few will forget—a gathering of pioneers, reminiscing about their decades in POU treatment.

Section meetings highlighted the day. As noted, the manufacturers section featured Phoenix’s Paul Hendricks; in addition, Margaret Whittaker, President and Chief Toxicologist of ToxServices LLC spoke to members on issues surrounding the proposed prescription in NSF standards for 100 percent formulation information for every chemical abstract service substance for all wetted parts materials, ingredients and reactants. The industrial section included a panel discussion on what industrial end-users want, along with plans for future projects in this new area of activity. The dealer section presented progress reports on a number issues, ranging from bottled water to septic tanks and state legislation, which included a complete roundup of regents reports. Steven Moulton (Action Insight, Inc.) presented strategies for hiring extraordinary sales reps.

Industrial Speed Dating happened late Thursday afternoon. Whether or not it succeeded in its purpose—networking companies already involved in industrial water treatment—will, no doubt, be seen in the months ahead if these newly acquainted companies do business. Introduced by WQA board member Richard Mest (Master Water Conditioning), it was slow going at first; apparently, there are no single folks on staff at WQA who had actually experienced speed dating! Participants, having put their company ability posters around the room, stood awkwardly about the space, awaiting instructions. In a true speed dating environment, they would have then been processed through meeting each and every individual in the room. Failing that, Peter Censky took the microphone and instructed all to get on line at the bar, get a beverage and start talking to folks!

The day concluded with a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ reception, complete with a friendly boa constrictor named Scooby and Pudsley, a stunning macaw. All enjoyed the opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones. Many then headed out to enjoy Las Vegas—tickets for Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller and Cirque du Soleil were held by many. The siting of WQA Aquatech in this city of entertainment is a tremendous draw for many who attend.

On Friday, along with yet more educational offerings, keynote speaker David Scurlock told dealers how to teach their people not to sell. At the annual meeting of the WQA Board of Directors, Dennis Rupert handed over the presidency to Doug White of Watts. Sections and task forces summarized their progress and activities and WQA staffers reported the organization’s health, both in terms of dollars and members. The front line position the organization has taken on the pharmaceuticals in drinking water issue was the main topic of discussion. Censky pointed out how vital it is for people to understand the potential solutions to their concerns, including an understanding of what different technologies are capable of doing. The organization’s work to help establish an allied association in India was discussed, along with its expanded media relations program (a direct outgrowth of enhanced internet abilities). Growth of the WQA’s Gold Seal Product Certification Program was noteworthy—a jump of 480 percent in 2007—while there was a four percent drop in the number of certified personnel for the same time period.

Daina Grace of TWQA chaired the Regionals Meeting, where successful ideas were  traded while challenges and problems brainstormed by this group from across the country. All enjoyed the opportunity to get together to strategize for growth and success—which sums up the views of most who went to Las Vegas for WQA Aquatech!

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