By Nate F. Searing

The Water Quality Association’s 2004 Mid-Year Leadership Conference rolled into Lincolnshire, Ill. in September, bringing industry leaders together to talk shop, play golf and raise money for the association’s Water Quality Research Foundation.

One of the hottest topics at this year’s event was the ongoing debate about the formation of an Industrial Water Specialist certification similar to the association’s Water Quality Specialist certifications. The goal of the certification is to provide ongoing education for members specifically involved in ultrapure water purification required for industrial uses. However, it remains to be seen how the certification will take into account past industrial water experience, educational requirements and testing.

Another topic of interest was WQA Aquatech USA 2005. Executive Director Peter Censky attended nearly every meeting to highlight the features of the premiere on March 30, as well as to solicit ideas for continuing education programs at the event, market booths to ancillary companies that have historically passed on similar trade shows, and highlight the differences between the new show and those hosted by the American Water Works Association and other groups.

This Mid-Year Leadership Conference marks the first meeting for the WQA under its retooled committee and section structure. Over the past 16 months, committees have been condensed or eliminated outright, leaving only four committee meetings and five section meetings throughout the conference. The four committees met as follows:

  • Government Relations Committee—In conjunction with the Water Sciences Committee, the committee discussed the creation of a task force to examine the potential impact of a recent World Health Organization report on the effects of manganese in drinking water. While Health Sciences will actually create the task force and develop a white paper for the removal of iron, manganese and sulfides, this committee brain-stormed ways to distribute the white paper to government agencies that may be influenced by the WHO report.
  • Market Development Committee—Unveiling its latest promotional mailings and a new targeted marketing folder, the committee discussed ways to increase WQA membership within retail outlets, ancillary industry companies (specifically refrigerator manufacturers) and international recruitment. The committee also discussed ways to enhance their lead generation programs, including a redesign of the WQA membership website that would make it easier for viewers to identify specific water related resources and businesses in their area and provide members with more specific information about those viewing the WQA site.
  • Member Services Committee—Members reviewed the structure and cost/payback estimates for the proposed Industrial Water Specialist program and adopted a plan to study and create the program based upon reaction from the C&I Section meeting (see below). The meeting was also dominated by discussion of Compensation Survey, a 200-page report commissioned by the committee.
  • Water Sciences Committee—In addition to discussing the WHO report at length, the Water Sciences Committee heard updates on reports regarding the safety and reliability of potable water treatment products containing activated carbon and harmonization of materials safety between NSF/ANSI 61 and DWTU standards. In new business, the committee explored the possibility of NSF Standard 62 revisions and of developing an Ozone Generator Performance Testing Standard.

Additionally, five sections held meetings at the conference, 17 fewer than in previous years. The meetings included:

  • Dealer Section—All eyes at the Dealer Section were on WQA Aquatech USA 2005, specifically the educational sessions to be held at the premier trade show and conference. The WQA is planning on soliciting dealers and manufacturers to provide 20 minute educational presentations at their booths, for which WQA members can receive credit toward specific certifications.
  • Manufacturer/Supplier Section—Members heard a presentation from Peter Censky regarding the importance of the WQA-RAI partnership for the trade show in March, as well as highlights from the recently completed Consumer Attitude Survey. The WQA is offering the survey to dealers, manufactures and ancillary companies in an effort to help members focus their individual marketing efforts. The section also discussed the WQA’s new agreement with the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, as well as a planned agreement with the International Bottled Water Association.
  • Commercial/Industrial Section—Here, members discussed a hot topic at many meetings throughout the week-long event, the development of an Industrial Water Specialist Certification. Members debated what type of pre-qualifications should be required for the IWS and Certified IWS programs, and whether or not individuals should be certified in technologies, such as ion exchange, or in procedures.
  • International Section—New approaches to the WQA’s interaction with similar associations in countries around the world were the focus here. Currently, the association maintains ties, through either formal memorandums of understanding or more informal agreements, with groups such as the Canadian Water Quality Association, the France-based UAE, and others. Because the WQA is by far the largest association of its kind in the world and while the growing association relationships have proved beneficial in many ways for both sides, the section and the WQA on the whole have been leery of establishing formal local chapters for the WQA throughout the world.
  • Retail Channel Section—This section spent much of its time discussing ways to promote growth in the WQA through ancillary industry members. The key focus is on refrigerator and water dispenser manufacturers and retailers. Combined with a more aggressive retail outreach program, the section hopes to see the WQA’s profile increase among end-users, reinforcing the association as the umbrella organization for all drinking water related companies.

The meetings culminated with a recap from section chairpersons at the annual State of the Industry address to a packed crowd of members on the final afternoon of the conference prior to the Board of Directors meeting. Censky kicked off the presentation by highlighting the growing opportunities provided by the WQA to its members, as well as additional resources that will be available in the near future.

But not all of Mid-Year was committee and section meetings. The association’s annual Water Quality Research Foundation Benefit Reception and Dinner drew about 100 members and raised much needed money for POU/POE research. While the new format of the meeting, on the whole, limited turnout for the benefit golf and tennis tournaments, both were wildly successful with many of the victorious players donating their winning checks back to the foundation during the dinner.

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