Kurt C. Peterson, Publisher

Across the country this summer, record-high temperatures, heat waves and extreme weather conditions have prevailed. Add to this the number of broken water mains that have resulted in Boiled Water Alerts and you have a recipe for disaster—or success, depending on the business you’re in!

Humans can’t live without water, and in many locations, what is available is hardly potable. To meet the needs of these areas, bottled water is a mainstay, while efforts to create infrastructure grind slowly forward. It’s a valuable and convenient product that many rely on when there is nothing else available. Considering safety and health issues, Mike Marovksy of Haws Corporation presents an interesting article on hydration that should be read by industry employees and managers alike.

In the US and some European markets, the price for bottled water’s success has been an increasingly hostile environmental challenge, legislative action, bans, taxation and who knows what else. That may be changing, as some of those bans (and potential bans) have either been nullified or are on hold pending reassessment. Local government entities are rethinking the logistics of water availability if they remove the bottled water option at many public venues and government-sponsored events. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) has been in the trenches, literally, fending off challenge after challenge, in a tireless effort to protect their members’ ability to do business and promote a healthy alternative to the sugar-laced, soft-drink industry.

While IBWA’s efforts have paid off, another shift has taken place. Bottled water of the five-gallon variety has regained some market share, while newer, bottle-less water coolers have steadily ascended as must-have equipment in a larger number of businesses and offices. To meet some of this new demand and create additional revenue streams, traditional water treatment dealers have added bottled water delivery or water cooler service to their offerings. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, as Chester Paul’s Scott Bailey notes in his primer on how to successfully take advantage of the opportunities in the water cooler business. There’s more to it than meets the eye.

Rick Andrew goes over a few facts for getting systems certified in this month’s Water Matters column, while Ted Fay of Culligan, International offers insights for manufacturers marketing systems to dealerships. Gene Rabinski, Ph.D. covers biological safety in drinking water that makes its way into bottled water and water coolers. Susan McKee of Advance Chemicals presents an article on cooler disinfection, and Aquafine Corporation’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Ismail Gobulukoglu and colleagues, give an in-depth presentation on UV disinfection for the beverage industry. On a lighter note, Kelly Thompson examines how big-box stores can actually be a positive influence on the industry. Thompson’s years of industry experience are re-channeled into a creative and motivational consultancy for dealers and manufacturers. His travels take him everywhere, including the recent Michigan WQA event, which Thompson recounts with wry humor.

A noteworthy event that could have far-reaching implications for all water markets is the July 29 United Nations non-binding resolution that asserts water is a human right. This is a symbolic gesture designed to motivate governments to act in the best interest of their populations by providing infrastructure for adequate water and sanitation. But is it feasible to call a dwindling resource a right? Much debate will take place without a clear-cut determination; one person’s right becomes another’s market. One lament of activists and environmentalists who tried to derail the bottled water industry with the right-to-water argument is that marketing water is wrong. These same proponents will have to come to grips with the very real financial equation that funds pipes and valves and tanks and meters and whatever else goes into producing readily available, potable water to the masses. As author Robert A. Heinlein was fond of saying, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

The UN’s proclamation will no doubt foster a sense of social responsibility in some larger organizations that have remained on the edge of commitment to long-term projects in underdeveloped regions. It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds, as industrialized nations determine that pricing water as a commodity to preserve it for current and future generations becomes the norm. This could be a bellwether discussion for the water treatment industry as a whole, as the expansion of production requires more than symbolic pronouncements. Quality is every bit as important as quantity, and at all levels.

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