WQA's Leadership Conference tackles industry issues

Lead regulation, water softeners, and product efficiency were among the issues tackled by the Water Quality Association at its Mid-Year Leadership Conference held in this Chicago suburb in mid-September.

BLOOMINGDALE, ILL. — Lead regulation, water softeners, and product efficiency were among the issues tackled by the Water Quality Association at its Mid-Year Leadership Conference held in this Chicago suburb in mid-September. WQA members discussed the possibility of a green seal program, research studies regarding product efficiency and softened water, the upcoming Aquatech trade show, and other challenges facing the water treatment industry.

“We are being challenged as an industry to reinvent what we do,” said Peter J. Censky, WQA executive director. “All these regulations are arriving now because these trends are what brought Obama into power. This is an opportunity for the industry to be part of the solution. Right now, the industry is at its lowest ebb compared to where it will be in 10 years.”

Vincent M. Kent, WQA 2009/10 president, and Censky spoke to WQA members about the state of the water treatment industry during a luncheon.

Censky told WQA members that there are many challenges facing the industry, including lead regulation in California and soft water issues in Iowa, Arizona and California, plus other issues industry professionals are facing.

Also, during the state of the industry report, Kent presented a Water Quality Research Foundation study being conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit international science and technology enterprise. The study's objective is to show that residential water softeners can save energy. Products being tested for efficiency include gas-fired storage water heaters, electric storage water heaters and tankless water heaters.

According to Kent, results show that soft water is the best energy saver in a home, and the study has been extended into November to research water heater maintenance and repair differences when using hard water vs. soft water, operations, and the longevity and maintenance of fixtures, including low-flow showerheads and faucets, and appliances.

Once the Battelle study is completed, it will be given to WQA members, legislatures and consumers. Kent also mentioned that the research on water heaters could possibly lead to water softeners obtaining Energy Star ratings in the future.

Green seal

During the Water Sciences Committee and Government Relations Committee meeting, the possibility of a WQA green seal was discussed. A WQA green seal would be specifically for water treatment equipment. Members had different opinions and questions about this concept, including what equipment should qualify for such a label, what type of documentation would be used if a product were to receive such a rating, and what type of labeling parameters would be needed.

The green seal concept was formalized in the past six months by Thomas Palkon, WQA's director of product certification, and Sam Karge, global director of marketing of Pentair Residential Filtration.

“Overall the response was that people like it conceptually, but like anything with these industry organizations, most people get scared about how to implement and sustain programs,” said Karge. “I'm trying to propose that this is something voluntary and eventually maybe some states will pick it up, and maybe it would be required more in the near future. We could probably get a coalition of manufactures to participate up front and as we talk with states like California, Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, we could effectively push the program, and have states use this as a bare minimum standard, and then it would eventually get picked up more widely and be used more.”

At the WQA Board of Director's Meeting the following day, there was a formal vote to form a green seal task force to take the concept to the next level. The task force is made up of eight industry professionals and a few manufacturers.

“I'm optimistic that people like the idea and concept, but disappointed that people will get caught in the weeds, regarding implementation, before they decide if they even want to do it,” said Karge.

Speed networking

WQA's Industrial Section met to discuss the Industrial Water Speed Networking event and the new Industrial Gallery that will be at the upcoming Aquatech show in 2010. The Speed Networking event, formerly called Speed Dating, will be conducted on the tradeshow floor in the Industrial Gallery.

Participants of the event will be able to chat with each other at a leisurely pace without a time limit and can display posters of their company's products and services for all to browse. The cost for WQA Aquatech 2010 exhibitors to participate in the Speed Networking event is free, and tradeshow attendees not exhibiting, but wishing to participate, can display a poster in the Industrial Gallery or just simply attend the event for a minimal cost.

Other issues discussed during the Mid-Year Leadership Conference were California's new no-lead-in-plumbing requirement and how it may affect manufacturers of unique and custom equipment designs, water softener regulations, and the future of the Aquatech tradeshow.

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