By Ronald Y. Pérez,WC&P Managing Editor
As you recall, we began the New Year with a review last month of three water quality associations—the Colorado WQA, Indiana WQA and British Water. This month’s review will serve as the second (and final) installment of the association review. Here, we’ll tackle the Ohio WQA, Minnesota WQA and Canadian WQA with an eye on some of the more glaring (both positive and not-so-positive) features of each.
As soon as I type in the URL and the home page pops up, I get a good feeling about this site. First, its presentation is clean and all the information fits on one screen. As a result, the ease of navigation is greatly increased. On the right side of the home page, the site devotes this space to the Ohio WQA’s mission statement.
Nothing out of the ordinary here until you get to the bottom and a “Diagnosing Your Drinking Water!” button appears. Of course, the tagline makes it obvious the button is directed at consumers. Once you click on it, a separate window pops up that allows you to type in your country of residence and email in order to receive periodic updates from the national WQA on waterborne contaminants. After closing that window, you are taken to another screen with links to “Diagnose your Water,” “Contaminant Researcher” (to be used only if you know what contaminants currently exist in the water), “Contaminant Tables,” “Print Report” and “Clear Location.”
As I drift back to the home page, I look over the main buttons on the left side, which are split up in two categories—Contents and WQA Links. Contents contains such main buttons as What’s New, OWQA Code of Ethics, Member Locator, Events & Conventions, Join OWQA, Water Treatment Links and Contact Us. What’s New has exactly one news item and it involves our own “Creative Marketing” columnist David Martin (you owe me one, Dave) and his upcoming seminar at an OWQA convention (see Pipelines). Member Locator allows visitors to search by dealer or supplier. Finally, Water Treatment Links has a good assortment of links to associations and agencies serving the water treatment industry. Only two publications are listed and they both happen to be WC&P and its sister publication, Agua Latinoamérica. (Note to Editor: This had no bearing on me reviewing the OWQA website…really!) Membership, by the way, starts at $120.
Once again, we see a site that devotes the majority of its home page to a mission statement, which is nothing out of the ordinary. But whereas the OWQA main buttons spanned a wider variety of topics, the Minnesota WQA (MWQA) chooses to go bare bones.
There are five main buttons—Consumers, Members, Membership Forms, News and Contact Us. The Consumers button provides a note that says: “The MWQA assists consumers by providing information about water quality alternatives. Consumer questions are answered by the MWQA office daily.” That’s fine and good, but there is no contact information. Are visitors supposed to assume to go to the Contact Us page for the proper phone, fax or email? And does the MWQA office have enough resources to research and answer each question thoroughly, and on a daily basis? Let’s give the home office the benefit of the doubt for now. Perhaps the better question is: Do they get enough feedback to matter? Only their webmaster knows for sure. In addition, links are provided to the national WQA, USEPA, Better Business Bureau (kudos to MWQA for this last inclusion) and a glossary of terms.
Under Members, you can search for a dealer in Minnesota as well as link to the Wisconsin WQA and, surprise, surprise, WC&P Magazine. Established in 1956, the MWQA’s annual dues start at $130. The News button basically consists of certification requirements, membership benefits, literature from MWQA, and Department of Health bonding requirements. Perhaps the button’s title is a bit misleading.
Easily the most complex of the three sites, the Canadian WQA is logically bigger since it covers a greater territory. Plus, you add the fact that the country has had its share of water-related issues to last them for quite some time. (After all, Consumer Alert is a rather ominous title to have as a main button, eh?)
The home page contains the obligatory mission statement along with some contact information. To the page’s left, a real What’s New section exists where news items are listed with appropriate links (no dates, which I found odd) and a condensed archive with past developments in the association. And no matter what main button you select, the left strip is always dedicated to What’s New—the most up-to-date section.
At the top of the home page (conveniently near a search button), the main buttons are listed—What is CWQA? Related Links, Industry Issues, Certification Program, Publications, Message Board, Consumer Alert, Members List, Water Treatment and Apply for Membership. “Home” may as well serve as What is CWQA? At Related Links, we get a nice Canadian flavor with links to such organizations as CSA International, Health Canada, Environment Canada and Canadian Ground Water Association, to name just a few. As an added bonus, four types of water treatment products are explained in detail—water filters, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection, distillers and disinfection.
Industry Issues gives the position of the CWQA on 25 topics that range from product standards and validation to questions and answers on bottled water. The latter topic is, for some reason, presented in all capital letters. Each issue raised is very informative and discussed in great detail. For navigation-sensitive visitors, most of the buttons are accessed through separate pop-up windows. Message Board allows CWQA members to interact with each other regarding water treatment issues or situations. Not what I thought it would be, Consumer Alert raises certain concerns that should be brought to the attention of water equipment consumers. At this particular visit, some of them included soft water, catalytic bars and national legislation (Bill C-14, to be exact–which was an issue in 1999). Serving as an extension of Consumer Alert, Water Treatment serves to dispel some myths about water treatment in general.
The last two months’ worth of reviews, combined with our May 2002 issue where we reviewed a few other state associations, should serve as a good primer for those seeking news on their local and state WQA chapters. Throw in a couple of international sites and perhaps this will encourage others to support their local association or—as evidenced by this month’s “Dealer Profile” subject—restart a stagnant group. Regardless, we invite you to submit your ideas for a future website review.