“I really feel there’s a lack of a central voice… I don’t know how it would work, but I’d like to see the entire industry pull together in one association and be able to speak with a unified voice in D.C. about the importance of water quality and its supporting infrastructure.”
—Debra Coy, Schwab Washington Research Group

“Water prices will go up two to three times in the next three to five years… Utilities will add point-of-use and bottled water… Ultimately, the channel is going through water utilities. With $12-15 billion spent a year on bottled water and drinking water treatment devices, people are voting with their pocketbook.”
—Neil Berlant, The Seidler Companies

 By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

Hopes a site more central to a high concentration of Water Quality Association members would draw more drive-in traffic was central to WQA’s choice of Baltimore for its 30th Annual Convention & Exhibition. After all, the last time the event was this far north was the record-setting Indianapolis show in 1996, which drew more than 4,000 people.

Turnout in Baltimore, though, wasn’t even on par with that in New Orleans two years earlier, which managed only 3,007 attendees six months after 9/11. At the WQA Board meeting, convention director Jeannine Collins said there were 2,600 registrants the first day of the trade show and she was hoping for 600 more on Friday. That fell short with a final tally of 2,850. The slippage was attributed to a winter storm in Pennsylvania and New York that swept through during the event. By contrast, the 2003 show in Las Vegas, which will host the WQA again in March 2005, drew 3,717 attendees.

Regardless, the tenor remained upbeat at the streamlined event, which seemed to function much better in terms of moving issues through the new committee structure and “task control document” system developed with the evolving strategic plan begun in New Orleans and unveiled a year earlier in Las Vegas. While both were fewer, educational sessions outnumbered committee meetings, it seemed, for the first time in years. All were generally well attended, with a number at standing-room-only.

Making headlines
The Baltimore show boasted a number of issues worthy of headlines. Included among those were:

WQA-RAI announce trade show alliance
The biggest news of the week came with the announcement March 19 that the WQA and RAI, which owns the venue for the huge Aquatech Amsterdam biennial exhibition and has coordinated similar events in Brazil and Thailand, signed an agreement to form a joint venture company to transform next year’s WQA show into the first WQA Aquatech USA conference (For details and member response, see “NewsFlash: RAI & WQA Go for Broke with Aquatech USA,” at www.wcponline.com). This proposal met with general support of dealers and manufacturers alike, but not necessarily organizers of potential competing events such as the Ultrapure Water show and Industrial Water Conference.

Timm Dower, water group publisher for PennWell, which coordinates the Industrial Water Conference (Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2004, in Orlando, Fla.), seemed taken aback at the news, saying PennWell submitted a proposal to WQA executive director Pete Censky for an alliance with the WQA and heard no response. “The more the merrier,” Dower said, regarding the likely competition for attendees. Frank Slejko, editor and owner of Ultrapure Water journal and ULTRAPURE WATER expos, was less enthused. He claimed industrial water customers that go to his shows have no interest in attending one such as the WQA event.

Still, the WQA was resolute in its decision and noted that commercial/industrial interest at the trade show has grown since it absorbed the Industrial Water Conditioning Institute in 1997. Censky said it was only natural for those who might lose attendance at competing events to be less than happy, but competition and sliding attendance today at small and large shows alike underscores the need for consolidation to keep events vital and growing. He noted positive response from organizations like the Waste Water Equipment Manufacturers (WWEM), adding that wastewater and chemical water treatment attendees were likely the first areas where WQA and RAI would focus for next year. It will take time, support of all WQA members and a coordinated effort to grow the show, Censky stressed.

WQA wins standards liaison status in EU
The other big news was the successful balloting within the European Union to grant WQA liaison status within the European Committee for Standardization (CEN, for its initials in French; see: www.cenorm.be) and Task Committee 164 and Working Group 13, which are in charge of harmonization of water supply standards. Balloting was completed March 12 and WQA found out March 19 it made it through on a vote of 8-7, with Slovakia putting it over the top (see “Viewpoint,” WC&P, April 2004).

Danny Taragan, the first international representative on the WQA Board, congratulated WQA international director Andrew Warnes outside the networking event at Camden Yards (home of the Baltimore Orioles) for success in the two-year effort. Taragan, of Israel’s Tana Industries, also touted the role of the International Committee in the strategic restructuring of the association, since it was prompted in large part by letters to the WQA Board from Taragan and Kinetico co-founder Bill Prior in the summer of 2001.

“It all started then,” Taragan said, clapping Warnes on the back (For additional details, see “EXTRA: Liaison Status Underscores Positive Shift of WQA Position in Europe,” at www.wcponline.com).

DC lead issue prompts WQA attention
Whether it was Wednesday’s “State of the Industry Report” or the final Friday seminar: “Strategic & Future Planning for Water Businesses,” the problem of lead in drinking water in Washington, D.C., attracted a lot of attention. Both sessions drew a crowd.

In a special report during the first, WQA technical director Joe Harrison said the lead problem was linked to increased municipal use of chloramine—a chlorine/ammonia compound—as a disinfectant in warmer months to reduce disinfection by-products as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Disinfectant/Disinfection By-Products Rule (see: www.epa.gov/safewater/mdbp/mdbp.html). He referred to a conversation with the agency’s Michael Schock, of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, wherein it was pointed out chloramine not only affects the scale buildup and lead of some older piping—but it helps keep many contaminants in solution, making them more difficult to remove. In addition, as the chlorine dissipates, it leaves ammonia, which nitrifies into nitrate. His explanation of the far-reaching effects yet to be exposed on this problem were peppered with numerous jokes making the rounds inside the “beltway,” i.e., you can order your water leaded or unleaded at restaurants, that explains the caliber of leadership at the White House/Congress, etc.

The strategic planning session was more a review of Wall Street interest in the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) industry and recent M&A—mergers and acquisitions—activity by a expert panel—Neil Berlant, of L.A.’s The Seidler Cos., Debra Coy, of DC’s Schwab Washington Research Group, and Jonathan Hall of Virginia’s Hall Water Report. Each made pointed predictions, with Berlant and Coy—both of who contribute to WC&P’s “Drinking Water Dollars” column—needling each other amiably.

Hall highlighted the butterfly, Wal-Mart and tipping effects as issues impacting industry growth. The butterfly effect, as he defined it, points to small events—such as individual water main breaks across the country, community water restrictions due to shortages in the West, and Consumer Confidence Reports—creating a gradual shift in consumer consciousness. The Wal-Mart effect reflects pressure at retail to drive prices and wages down, force out smaller competitors and keep productivity up. The tipping effect is the cumulative impact of specific events triggering an “explosive epidemic spread of a trend”—citing recent news articles on perchlorate, arsenic and lead contamination, etc.

Berlant was the most bullish, making bold predictions for growth. Coy was more cautious, noting his projections would require significant regulatory action. She also lamented a fragmented industry and lack of cooperative leadership as part of what’s held the water industry back—apart from it not necessarily being viewed as “sexy” on Wall Street. All three noted recent buys by Pentair, GE Water Technologies recent ad campaign and Culligan’s impending sale as raising the industry’s allure—mentioning CUNO and Pall as progressive players as well. They also said smaller entrepreneurs such as those in the POU/POE industry were likely to provide the innovation to drive the larger market.

While both presentations were applauded, no general news media were there to cover these sessions—which was unfortunate considering the timing with respect to the DC lead problem and broader implications nationally and globally.

Hammering it home
WQA 2003-04 president Jim Baker, of Dayton, Ohio’s AmeriWater, got an extra day holding the presidential gavel. That’s because incoming 2004-05 president Greg Norgaard, executive vice president and general manager of Culligan International, couldn’t be present due to bid presentations in Northbrook, Ill., in Veolia Environnement’s sale of the company, acknowledged WQA Executive Director Peter Censky.

Censky also pointed out, with the addition of Israel’s Taragan as international representative and Brita’s Jim Mitchell as retail representative to the board of directors, the WQA had accomplished another of the goals in its ongoing strategic restructuring.

Both the International and Commercial/Industrial Sections were concerned about making sure the educational sessions for next year’s first WQA Aquatech USA reflected greater emphasis on international, industrial and wastewater topics to offer any first-time attendees a reason to return.

At the International Section, Kinetico’s Prior expressed concern also that WQA international director Andy Warnes planned to rejoin the private sector, saying the section needed strong leadership like his with the coming transition. The WQA has been compiling an “International Standards and Regulations Guide” and, toward that end, it was suggested country liaison’s be reestablished to expand sharing of information on regulatory and other issues. Brazilian representative Dácio Múcio de Souza, of Grupo Europa/Brasfilter, passed out a copy of the premier issue of a newsletter for his country’s WQA-equivalent, ABRAFIPA. Several Philippine WQA members were also represented.

In the Science Committee meeting, KX Industries Evan Koslow pointed out there’s been a dramatic rise in arsenic levels of offshore raw carbon resources and he filed a notification with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that offers the industry some protection, but that action should be pushed to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

The theme of the Government Relations Committee meeting was “Salinity Issue Here to Stay!” It offered a review of both softener salt efficiency and brine discharge issues as well as septic tank restrictions, and underscored these were national issues that needed to be tracked state by state and community by community. A primer was distributed for how dealers should address them in their areas.

The Dealer Section meeting drew a packed house with 19 states and two more countries (Canada and Spain) represented. A state-by-state report of current regulatory and other issues was discussed before a special report on valuing a business for sale or passing on to future generations that featured accountant Randy Gross, Culligan dealer John Packard, of Minnesota, and Wisconsin independent dealer Curt Abendroth. With his down-to-earth sense of humor, Packard had them rolling in the aisles.

EXTRA: Liaison Status Underscores Positive Shift for WQA in Europe
Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

As far as the Water Quality Association (WQA) is aware, its winning liaison status within CEN—the European Committee for Standardization, an organ of the European Union—makes it the first non-European association to achieve this.

“In any one of a number of industries,” Warnes said, “no association has achieved this. Telecommunications hasn’t. Transportation hasn’t. Aerospace hasn’t. Water treatment has. And we’re unique being a trade association with strong European interests in achieving liaison status for our product. Right now, it’s an ex-officio seat. We can observe and make technical comments. We can’t vote. But it’s important because today’s voluntary standards look set to become tomorrow’s regulation. It’s a critical time for our industry to be involved.”

The new WQA status is also beneficial to CEN, he added.

“It opens them up to the wide technical expertise of our industry in this standards development process,” said Warnes. “Still, we’re very sensitive to the fact that many Europeans view us as an American association, despite the fact that our members come from more than 60 countries. And, in Europe, WQA members form more than 65 percent of the POU/POE industry. In some countries— the United Kingdom and Italy, for instance—there are more WQA members than members of their national association.”

Those national water associations form the nucleus of Aqua Europa, a federation of associations the WQA helped found in 1978 that doesn’t accept corporate memberships. Rather, it’s national representatives serve as the unofficial secretariat for water standards harmonization within CEN through Task Committee (TC) 164 and Working Group (WG) 13, both of which focus on water supply issues—the last with a focus inside buildings. It is here where the WQA will be able to finally have a seat at the table. By contrast, even a number of European organizations, such as the European Point-of-Use Drinking Water Association (EPDWA), International Water Association (IWA) or European Desalination Society (EDSOC), don’t have a direct voice within CEN (see: CEN Liaisons).

“Now, we’re out to show that we’re a good partner and understand we have to work cooperatively,” Warnes said. “What’s interesting is TC 164, which covers water supply, not only has groups that develop standards for POU/POE equipment, they also have responsibility for far-reaching segments like municipal supply, piping systems, etc. POU/POE is just a small part of its purview. So, WQA members—current or future—with interests in those areas can become involved in development of standards those other areas through the WQA as well.”

This implies potentially greater influence for the WQA—and potential new members—as it joins forces with Aquatech RAI to promote an expanded trade show, WQA Aquatech USA, and attract additional participation from industrial water and wastewater companies, etc., that may want an ear at the door of European harmonization talks.

NewsFlash: RAI & WQA Go for Broke with Aquatech USA
Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

After 30 years, the Water Quality Association Convention & Exhibition—as you know it—has changed forever.

That was WQA executive director Peter Censky’s message in signing an agreement to form a joint venture with Amsterdam RAI to co-own a new event, WQA Aquatech USA that would take the place of the WQA exhibition and run concurrently with the convention. The first outing would be in March 2005 at the Las Vegas Hilton (see: www.aquatechtrade.com/USA).

“We really began talking with RAI about this nearly two years ago,” Censky said. “We started having more serious conversations about it two months ago. The concept evolved into what I’ve referred to as uniting niches. This industry is not really an industry. It’s a niche, just as the AWT (Association of Water Technologies) and other events represent a niche. Niches tend to shrink. These niche shows will never reach critical mass needed today to survive… But together we can represent more than just one or two markets, we can be the place to go for a total water solution.”

Censky suggested the WQA may have to dip into its reserves to push the effort, but he expects the size of the trade show to quadruple within three years as a result. Regarding the International Bottled Water Association, he said it had chosen to go another route with its alliance with the World Wide Food Expo and BevExpo in alternating years, but other cooperative ventures weren’t ruled out.

The Netherland’s RAI was represented at the March 19 signing ceremony by Ids Boersma, international exhibitions director; Jan van der Molen, RAI Exhibitions USA general manager; and Heleen van der Meer, Aquatech product manager. Boersma pointed out its flagship event in Amsterdam is the largest water treatment industry expo in the world, with over 700 exhibitors from 42 countries and over 23,000 visitors from 100 countries. The event, which started out as an annual show in 1972, celebrates its 20th edition Sept. 28-Oct. 1. WQA has hosted the USA Pavilion, one of 11 national pavilions, at Aquatech Amsterdam for the past decade. Other shows RAI has put on include the EWW Expo, Aquatech Asia and Aquatech Brasil, the last of which RAI announced earlier this year that it would discontinue. Other than Aquatech Brasil, all the events are held every other year. However, the USA show will be an annual affair, moving among a select group of cities—less than 10—to draw the best turnout, said van der Meer.

Everyone acknowledged the hard work and focused marketing and promotion needed to build the WQA Aquatech event into the premier show in North America for all segments of the water treatment industry, which is the goal. Boersma noted differences with the European market, which “is the sum of a number of small markets that make up a big market and the niches that are in every area would not make a big show as is the case in the United States, where you have a big market.” All also acknowledged relationships with existing competing events in the United States would be tricky, considering the strength of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Water Environment Federation (WEF)—which have been battling fiercely for exhibitors and attendees for several years now—and some might feel threatened. Still, numbers for most events have been dropping in recent years as industry competition and consolidation have reduced the number of players. This has affected moreso the medium- and smaller-sized shows and the organizations that depend on them for revenue. Thus, Boersma and Censky pointed out it’s a crucial time to move to create an alliance to build critical mass to support the WQA—whose Baltimore expo attendance fell below 3,000 people and booth space dropped 20 percent—as well as any partner associations that join it. Initial markets targeted, Censky said, would be wastewater and chemical water treatment, and the Waste Water Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) already voiced tentative support. Boersma mentioned the International Sanitation Supply Association (ISSA) as well.

Response in Baltimore was largely positive:

  • Dennis Rupert, a Culligan dealer from Michigan, said many dealerships already are dabbling in or deeply involved in commercial/industrial water projects, not to mention small system and related wastewater applications. And, if it helps the WQA show—and, by extension, the WQA—become stronger, then that’s better for all members.
  • “I think it’s great,” said Jamie Wakem, Atlantic Filter president and a past WQA president. “It exposes our members to a different side of the industry. There are so many opportunities we don’t see on an everyday basis. I don’t really see any downside. It’ll be an eye opener—just when you thought you knew everything. This is very exciting.”
  • Mike Baird, president of California’s TST Water LLC, said he attended the last Aquatech in 2002 when still with Sta-Rite and told Censky it was the most significant show he’d ever been to and he encouraged him to make the alliance.
  • Good Water Warehouse’s Pat Dalee, another past WQA president, expressed concern about the risk, since the only time previously WQA dipped into its reserves was to fund lawsuits in the fight over softener bans in California.
  • Mel Mraz, of Czechoslovakia’s Earth Resources, said to be careful on how the deal was structured because there’s a reason for the phrase “Dutch treat.”
  • “If we came anywhere close to that show in Amsterdam, then our membership will double in real short order at least,” said Rainsoft president Bob Ruhstorfer, also a past WQA president who’s attended Aquatech Amsterdam for the past 10 years.
  • Kinetico founder Bill Prior, said, “I believe this will be a very good thing. It would be an irreversible step to internationalize the WQA. If we can do it right, then it would forever change this association.”
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