By Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
As we inch toward yet another Water Quality Association (WQA) extravaganza, this time in Baltimore, WC&P is inclined to once again visit some regional as well as national associations that will undoubtedly be represented in Maryland in March. As you may recall, we reviewed a few websites in our May 2002 issue (“Checking Out the Affairs of States—Sizing Up WQA Regional Associations”). To be fair, we didn’t want to slight any organization in that review so we decided to cover some other associations this time. Even better, we found enough sites to scatter them over the next two issues. So, in this issue, we will look at the following: Colorado WQA, Indiana WQA and British Water (United Kingdom’s equivalent of the WQA/AWWA). Meanwhile, next month’s Part 2 will look at Ohio WQA, Minnesota WQA and Canadian WQA.
Superimposed on a baby blue background, Colorado WQA’s website is full of bold text that makes the home page very easy to read. It also doesn’t hurt that the font size is generally close to 18-point in size. So, get ready to scroll down to cover the whole page. The best part is that certain key words and phrases are highlighted in red (hot links) such as “members,” “public” and “professional certification program.”
To the home page’s left, one finds the main buttons including Consumers, Members, News, Forms and Applications and Links, among others. A unique part of this website, which isn’t present with all state association sites, is that it has a section like Consumers that’s devoted to the general public as opposed to only members. It works well in this case. Before selecting a water treatment dealer, visitors are advised on several points on what the business should have: an office address, a certified water specialist, a valid business license, CWQA or WQA membership, etc. There’s also an “interesting facts” link that throws out snippets of information for the average Joe.
The News format is unconventional in that standard news items aren’t listed (chronologically or otherwise) but instead a few links as well as search hints are given to make finding a certain topic easier. Those who haven’t visited the site in over a year may want to visit “most recent additions” to catch up with its June revamp. In addition, reports on the past two CWQA conferences as well as 2003’s is also located here. A newsletter review is also offered.
You may guess Illinois or Iowa, but this is actually Indiana WQA’s home base. Considering the announcement of the “upcoming” state conference in September is still up on the home page in late November, it’s obvious the site isn’t updated often. Aside from the omnipresent mission statement and contact information, there’s not much to speak about regarding the placid home page.
Contact information provides a physical address (P.O. Box, at least), phone and fax numbers, and even an email address. It has been my experience that getting hold of a live person at state WQAs using either approach can be a tricky proposition. This is not solely an Indiana issue, but can be traced across the board to almost all state associations. (The Texas WQA may be the best in response time).
Inexplicably, four of the five main buttons are redundant in that they already appear on the home page. The exception is Member Directory, which is clearly the best feature of the site. In it, I found various links to the Indiana WQA’s 2003 officers, directors and members. Plus, not to be outdone, the site also lists certified specialists, certified installers and certified sales representatives (with each one having its own link). This serves a two-fold purpose–one, it allows consumers to find the ideal fit for their peace of mind and two, it puts peer pressure on members, or perspective members, to get their employees certified for whichever job capacity they fill.
Before you ask what’s wrong with this picture and why couldn’t WC&P find another United State association… we did, but you’ll have to come back next month for it. The water community is very much an international one and we would be remiss to overlook British Water which, being a nationwide site with presumably more resources, has a site that reflects its wide coverage.
Before we begin, it’s only fair that visitors realize that British Water not only represents the country’s residential water treatment but its wastewater community too. With that in mind, we will try to relegate our review to the residential components of the site. As is common with such an expansive site, rarely is there ever a shortage of main buttons. In all, I count 15 at this particular site. To skip some of the incidentals, we will focus on the more pertinent ones to the drinking water industry.
Let’s start with the main buttons that run left to right at the home page’s top. Under the last button, Consumer, I see a few sub-topics that pique my interest including “Softened Water,” “Private Water Supplies” and “Drinking Water.” As expected, I have opened Pandora’s Box as a Q&A session the size of one of my college papers takes center stage. Not to be outdone, the presentation comes complete with tables and schematics.
Meanwhile, “Private Water Supplies” features 10 fact sheets with topics such as hard water treatment, drinking water treatment methods, types of water softeners, and water hardness. Each fact sheet runs about two screens worth of text and, for the most part, proves to be quite informative. “Drinking Water” is set up basically the same way but rather than a Q&A, specific technologies are discussed. These include filters (activated carbon, sediment, nitrate, etc.), reverse osmosis and ultraviolet. One last main button not to be overlooked is on the left side of the home page: Useful Links. Here, one can visit various websites such as Water UK, International Water Association and British Soft Drinks Association.
Each site reviewed here has its strong points and, naturally, the British Water version had the most content. But as we have seen here before, the most doesn’t necessarily mean the best. Besides, states cover their own delegations and cannot be expected to compare to sites that cover a wider area. Now, comparing the WQA’s site and British Water’s would be a truer test. Nevertheless, this group sets a good standard for the sites to be reviewed next month.
From the states to abroad…
The Consumers button is the third one listed from the top. This only serves to qualify the importance the Colorado WQA places on public awareness and consequently importance of state associations. It works! The large font may catch some off guard, but it’s a small price to pay for an otherwise effective visit.
Simple and to the point. Perhaps a little too drab. Also, a monthly update would probably help the “freshness” of this site. On the positive side, iwqa.org does take care of its own in that its members are given prime mention and consumers are given names of certified professionals. What better way to say, “Hit the books!” How about a logo, guys.
Home of the bottled water cooler phenomenon, the United Kingdom is home to a vastly different way of looking at drinking water issues. But stateside water treatment dealers will recognize and appreciate the effort and space given to more familiar technologies. Head’s up, however, as much of the “news” on the home page is devoted to wastewater.