Kurt C. Peterson, Publisher

As we edge closer to WQA Aquatech in San Antonio, the enthusiasm for new products, business prospects and clients is more evident than last year. For many, moving through the disastrous economic limitations of the ‘Great Recession’ is proving more difficult for the rosy reports from Uncle Sam initially led us to believe. No doubt the rather odd weather patterns have had significant impact on the water treatment industry as well. But there’s hope, and there’s optimism. Without those two factors, we’d still be stuck in reverse.

We’ve seen in previous articles that proper maintenance of water treatment equipment includes consideration of weather. A serious reminder of that requirement visited Tucson with a vengeance. Much of the southwest endured historically record low temperatures and extended periods of sub-freezing weather that brought with it a wide range of problems. The City of Tucson ended up declaring a state of emergency because of water and gas outages. Of the several different possible outcomes, three were most evident: no water due to Tucson Water’s frozen pumps and controls, burst pipes and an extended wait for repairs and parts. In one example, (a duplex environment), one resident suffered no outage while the other didn’t have water service because of an abandoned water softener that a previous resident (and the management company) failed to have removed. No frozen pipes, no broken lines, just a piece of equipment that stopped the flow of water. How many specialists have warned against just such a problem?

Many may ask why the southwest didn’t use the age-old tricks of leaving the taps open at night, wrapping the pipes, or even having pipes underground. Quite simply, the weather anomalies of February will probably not result in a policy-setting or changing mindset. After several days without water due to problems with the water company’s pumps and electronic controls, frozen and burst pipes and the big one, NO replacement parts, more emphasis on prevention may become the norm. Snowbirds from the upper tier states know how to avoid these problems but aboveground piping doesn’t make it any easier to offset the difficulties.

Some residents were without water until the frozen pumps and controls thawed, with no resultant pipe damage. The most disastrous problems occurred when plumbing suppliers were unable to fill the thousands of requests for valves, pipes, fitting, etc., resulting in outages that lasted up to eight days or more. Homes and businesses alike are now reconsidering the what-ifs of self-preservation during a weather emergency. The word to the wise is prevention and protection, something that most water treatment specialists will readily present to their customers. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. So who has the ultimate responsibility to preserve water safety and water quality, the customer or the provider? Both! These examples highlight the vagaries of our water distribution system and how failures can have catastrophic consequences in real dollars.

The uptick in business for the plumbing industry, also decimated by the housing crash, may be short-lived but the companies that relieved the distress of Tucson’s citizenry may have the best calling card in the state. They were there to meet the needs of people in dire straits and willing to work 18-hour days to help them. That’s the kind of customer service model that increases the bottom line through return business and referrals. Don’t wait for a natural disaster to put the customers first. Without them, you don’t really have a business.

This month, Andrew Warnes presents another of his insightful articles that tackles the issue of hiring the best employees while Don Akers tells us how to focus on the customer’s needs, not what the company wants to sell. David Martin offers advice on how to keep your business uppermost in consumers’ minds with gift cards. C. F. ‘Chubb’ Michaud gives a well-articulated primer on ion exchange while Gary Hatch details use of catalytic carbon. Pauli Undesser of WQA presents the results of the long-awaited detergent study and we have a re-certification quiz as well. It will be a busy month and hopefully, we’ll see all of you in San Antone!


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