By Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
Following the Water Quality Association (WQA) national convention and as WC&P wraps up another edition of its annual Buyer’s Guide, it got me to thinking about regional associations. In particular, I recalled some of the folk encountered at the show, over the phone/email and while attending a couple of functions put on by the Arizona WQA. Oddly enough, many of them are members of their regional associations but not national WQA participants. Reasons vary, but that’s not the point.
More important is the fact that, even with dwindling numbers in recent times and rampant talk of merging with their geographical neighbors, these associations still serve a valuable purpose for their members. One has to look no further than the impact of various regulations in California, Wisconsin and Connecticut, among others. Some are familiar with WQA’s site but, in the process, a number of state/regional sites were often ignored. Until now. (It should be pointed out that, in a recent survey of approximately 940 WQA members, 37.4 percent said they had never been to the association’s website. Unbelievable.)
A disclaimer before beginning—we narrowed our review to four sites among nine choices. The remaining five will be listed in EXTRA—More Virtual WQA Associations, and are potential candidates for inclusion in future reviews.
The site’s letters stand for the WQA of Wisconsin. To the left of the graphics-pleasing home page is instruction to “navigate here.” Under the link are six headings—Links, Articles, About Us, News & Events, Contact Us, and Locate a Dealer Near You. We’ll take them in order here.
Articles is somewhat misleading in that the five listings are no longer than a few paragraphs each. Still, the items are important enough to be mentioned. Topics include the arsenic standard, the association’s convention, a flow rate study, and a potentially important ergonomics ruling. After some of the items, members are invited to call a noted contact for more information. For example, on the federal ergonomics ruling that apparently has been shelved, the name of a lobbyist is given.
Some of the Links are rather predictable: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NSF International, the International Bottled Water Association and the national WQA, but also included are the Wisconsin departments of commerce and natural resources. It’s a nice division between local and national interests. News & Events is relegated to a blurb about WQAW’s national convention in September.
In most instances, the Contact Us page consists of a physical address and phone and fax numbers. Here, the board of directors is listed along with their address, phone/fax numbers as well as email. Simple and an effective, personal touch. Locate a Dealer Near You contains a map allowing you to click on a county name for one dealer representative from that designated area.
Here’s a site that takes a different approach on their home page. Unlike Wisconsin’s page, Missouri’s posts their mission-like statement at the top. We discover that Missouri WQA was formed in 1970. Other than that, it’s pretty standard fare. The main buttons are located at both the top and bottom of the page and include Members/Directors, Application, News/Minutes, Meeting Schedule and Find a Dealer.
With a list of nearly 30 names, Members/Directors contains its membership, some listings with email, website and “description” entries. Application, you might have guessed, allows other Missouri-based water treatment dealers to become members. The fee is $50 and they meet twice a year. Only registered members can access News/Minutes, which presumably gives a rundown of the activities of the most recent meeting. Meeting Schedule informs members of the next association gathering.
Perhaps the weakest part of the site is the Find a Dealer button. Counties with hyperlinks are listed alphabetically. No map but that’s OK. After clicking on Adair County (first listed), I get only “Culligan-Hannibal.” I’m not sure if they’re the only game in town. It would be better to direct them to the particular listing under Member/Directors, which actually includes addresses, phone numbers and emails.
One of the busier home pages, Texas comes with all the bells and whistles on its home page. Hyperlinks are found everywhere. There are links for schedules, calendar, news, related contacts, members, suppliers, training, networking and even pictures. Whew! All these links are neatly interspersed throughout TWQA’s mission statement. It makes me wonder why they need more buttons, but there they are to the left of the home page.
Only four buttons appear, but that seems the right number judging from the mission statement’s links. You have Member Benefits, Calendar, Texas Water Quality and TWQA News. Under Member Benefits, the subheads are Training & Education, Legislative Representation & Status Updates, Conventions & Seminars, Networking Opportunities and the all-important Fishing Trips. I try the Legislative button and a couple of hot-button issues pop up — the Plumbing License Law and the TNRCC Residential Water Treatment Operator certificates.
In Calendar, training sessions are listed, according to date. More than 10 are here and provide a good opportunity for dealers around the state to stay abreast of these opportunities. Very dealer-friendly. Texas Water Quality gives an overview of water issues in the state as they pertain to dealers. This looks like it’s intended more for outsiders than anyone else. Finally, at TWQA News, we learn that the site has been updated recently (December 2001) and things are still being revamped. Otherwise, not much to report from here.
Whereas Texas was busy, the Pacific WQA (embodying mainly California dealers) gives its members a bare minimum home page. It’s laid out simply by having all the main buttons smack dab in the middle of the page. They are Member Directory, Consumer Information, Product Information, Membership Information, News & Calendar of Events, Board of Directors and Links.
Member Directory allows you to search companies alphabetically, manufacturers/suppliers by area code, and retail/dealer sites by area code. It’s nice to have that breakdown, especially considering the size of this association, which has been interested in merging with the Arizona WQA (which will host the PWQA convention in 2003 in Tucson). A nice feature is the Consumer Information button where people looking to find more tips on their water or to improve its quality are given some helpful hints to consider. The only site of the bunch that dedicates this much space to the individual consumer.
Again, a well-presented component is the Product Information button. Four categories are listed—Activated Carbon Filtration, Deionized Water, Reverse Osmosis and The Water Softening Process. Could more headings be included (what of ultraviolet, ozonation, distillation, aeration, etc.?)? Sure, but the site does well to expound on these four areas. One thing that stood out for me in Membership Information is the $300 annual fee. Then again, everything is more expensive in California, right? Board of Directors will give you the typical listing with contact information. Links takes on a more proactive and legislative role as among those listed are the California Department of Health Services, the California State Assembly and the California Senate. PWQA’s lobbyist must be a busy person.
As evidenced here, several states are doing their part to not only keep their members better informed but their potential customers as well. Many dealers may find being a part of regional associations more imperative as legislation and new standards become more visible while their businesses become affected by such laws and guidelines. A better listing of links for each state’s relevant regulatory agencies, government offices and plumbing code bodies would be a nice uniform touch.
SYNOPSIS: Around the USA with WQA
Whoever designed this site had a keen sense for imagery. Underneath it all, Wisconsin puts on a pretty good show. As expected, a good amount of attention is given to the legislative side of things. The map is a nice visual.
This site is hit or miss. A few buttons work well and others seem incomplete. In a state like Missouri, it would be better to “show me” a little more in terms of the newsletter and consumer direction. Still, it works well enough to attract new members.
Yes, we all know Texas is big. And the site follows suit. Home page is devoid of graphics and the excess of links makes up for that. The calendar is a nice addendum and provides pertinent dates and places for training sessions. Little direction for customers, though.
Like white bread, pretty plain in its presentation. Yes, there are lots of listings but not much else by way of consumer information or legislation issues. In California? With all that’s going on there, you would think there would be at least one news item.
EXTRA — More Virtual WQA Associations
Some other associations of note with websites:
While at the WQA show, I met a Canadian water treatment dealer who had never heard of the Canadian WQA? I hope he and the CWQA are reading this.
Not to be confused with the previous site. This looks at Colorado’s state of water quality affairs.
If you have 10,000 lakes, why wouldn’t you have a water site? This sneaks a peek into Minnesota, where a multitude of water treatment companies call home.
Hoosier alert! In addition to basketball, Indiana also knows its water quality. Plus, they made sure Illinois, Iowa and Idaho would never get the iwqa.org domain name.
With a few more buttons than the others, this site hailing from Ohio — the Buckeye State — invites visitors to have their water diagnosed. Good number of links, too.