Volume 44 Number 11
Down to the Bone in the Arizona Desert: A Meeting-By-Meeting Report on the WQA Mid-Year Leadership Conference
The Water Quality Association (WQA) Mid-Year Leadership Conference, Sept. 11-13, seemed to cover just as much ground on major issues in its new abridged form than the prior five-day version. Here's a rundown of some of the committee meetings WC&P attended, along with comments of some notable participants and a review of important issues broached in each discussion:
Wednesday, Sept. 11
Strategic Planning Committee
According to Kahn, 2,500 surveys were mailed to WQA members after the New Orleans convention. In turn, 537 respondents were tallied, about 22 percent of the total. Kahn commented that this was typical for a group this size, and enough of a response to accurately represent the views and thoughts of the whole membership. In short, it was reflective of "true" respondents, she said. Her basic message was the results showed WQA was doing a good job overall; but she acknowledged that, since respondents marked most priorities high on importance, there was very little that could be differentiated -- even among different types of member responses -- for direction as to future initiatives. Though most members said the WQA was "effective," many weren't aware of the association's advocacy efforts in the governmental and regulatory arenas, which puzzled Kahn who recommended members be kept better informed. She added the "WQA is fortunate that there are not major differences in member groups."
"Government relations" was considered the WQA's most important activity. Educational and technical services came in second. Other interesting tidbits included -- 28 percent wanted a decrease in international activities (39 percent-the same; 19 percent-increase), 80 percent thought the WQA should remain a single entity and not faction off into separate groups, less than half of all respondents were in favor of contributing to more public relations campaigns (Censky reminded members that a campaign like the American Dairy Association's "Got milk?" onslaught costs about $25 million), and 33 percent said the WQA is a "better source" of information than other organizations while 17 percent rated it the best. On the latter issue, a couple of audience members made it clear that "other organizations" could also include state WQA chapters.
As for the breakdown of respondents, 44 percent were independent water treatment dealers, manufacturers made up 29 percent, 16 percent were franchise dealerships, and the remainder fell into other categories. Eighty percent of all dealers defined themselves as more residential than commercial. Kahn also commented that the industry as a whole was "shifting from softening to drinking water" as the gap has closed between the two -- with a 20 percent drop in softening from three years ago to three years from now where it's projected at 60 percent of the business vs. a rise from 25 percent to 50 percent for drinking water, i.e., undercounter RO systems. The website and "networking opportunities" were considered the least important WQA activities by the respondents. Censky also cited a lack of Internet use within the industry. Troy Ethen, of Spectrum Labs, was ready with a solution and voiced it: "Low priorities should just go. You can't have everything." WQA communications director Jack Ferguson noted that the Web Advisory Task Force, also formed at the WQA New Orleans convention (and which also held a closed meeting on Saturday, Sept. 14), is working to streamline navigation on the website so that information is easier to get.
In other telling survey news, 43 percent of members rely on trade magazines for their business/industry news, far and away the highest of any response. During the presentation headed primarily by Kahn and Censky, only a little feedback was given by a near-packed room. The WQA, said Kahn, has a member retention rate of about 80 percent, which she called a "good number" for any association. But when Kurt Peterson, publisher of WC&P and Agua Latinoamérica, commented that the membership number of 2,500 has remained virtually the same over the last 10 to 15 years, Kahn seemed a little baffled and gave an incomplete answer: "Hasn't there been a lot of consolidation? And… as you have more Generation X-age members looking at what associations to belong to… they're more selective about membership as an investment." Whereas, 20 years ago, if you joined an industry, you belonged to the association -- it was a given. It was not clear whether the views of non-members or those that left the association would be incorporated into the strategic planning process. Ameriwater Inc.'s Jim Baker said their opinions are solicited in WQA exit interviews where possible. But Kahn questioned the value of that, since "they don’t care to belong to your organization anymore."
California Issues Task Force
WQA Society Steering Committee
Consumer Data Task Force
Thursday, Sept. 12
Censky admitted that WQA's 2002 convention in New Orleans resulted in "not a huge turnout." He said Las Vegas next year will see a new format in how the show is presented. Committee meetings will not interfere so much with trade show hours, which was frequently mentioned and complained about after the New Orleans convention. Censky has received some feedback from other associations and organizations regarding Las Vegas as host for an annual convention. He added, "I talked to some who said, 'People won't go (to the show); they'll gamble.' On the other side, some said their best shows are in Vegas." Censky said the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) had one of its best show in Las Vegas a few years ago.
For conventions after Las Vegas next year, Censky said the WQA will take the "go north" strategy. As a result, Baltimore is the choice for host city in 2004. He cited a "cluster of members" in the northeast of the United States who are within a 3-to-4 hour drive of the Maryland city. In 2005, the WQA is looking at the Midwest for a possible site. Indianapolis -- which drew the largest crowd for the WQA show in 1996 -- has been mentioned, and the approach is to select a large enough city that's near Chicago.
Echoing what has been speculated for some time, Censky didn't rule out the possibility that the WQA may co-sponsor with the IBWA on some type of "co-op" trade show. Since the IBWA schedules its shows in October every year and the WQA's conventions are in March, there may be some room for compromise on when to hold the potential combined trade show, if that were the case. Referring to recent IBWA convention locations, Censky commented, "Miami and Seattle are not drive-in capable." If the IBWA continues its relationship with the Worldwide Food Expo beyond 2003 (see Newsreel in October 2002), the preliminary discussions between the WQA and the IBWA may be all for naught.
On another topic, Censky discussed WQA's "pavilion" strategy as the association has pavilions planned for this year's National Ground Water Association (NGWA) Show, Kitchen/Bath Industry Show 2003, and Housewares Show 2003 as well as Aquatech 2002 (held in September). Regarding NGWA, he allowed, "Well drillers are looking at the WQA membership because three months out of the year, their equipment sits and a water treatment component could balance that out." Queried by an audience member, Censky said there are no plans to seek a pavilion at a trade show outside the United States after Aquatech.
Recently, WQA membership has increased talk of having its annual trade show every two years. Censky chimed in: "There is a split in people who prefer annual shows over every other year. For now, there are enough exhibitors to make it every year. It is under review though." As for the show's timing, he added, "Members like the spring show. It comes before the home shows in summer."
In regards to possible expansion of pavilions in other types of trade shows, Bob Hague, of Hague Water Quality Systems, said even though he does work with "big box" retailers, he doesn't recommend that the WQA pitch to these shows. WQA president Bob Ruhstorfer, of Rainsoft/Aquion Partners, added: "We exhibited at Aquatech for 15 years. The pavilion there concentrates all similar products in one place. It allows us to leverage our energies. Plus, the industry gets exposure." According to Andy Warnes, World Assembly Division director, the WQA expected 53 booths at Aquatech.
Censky introduced an approved re-structuring of the committee dues structure based on the honor system. Any company with annual sales of $100 million or more are now asked to contribute $65,000 in dues. On the bottom of the scale, companies with annual sales figures of $2 million or less chip in a minimum $1,800.
Warnes gave a presentation on the group's membership. Out of 435 WAD members, 98 come from the United States. Forty-three percent are from Asia and 12 percent in Latin America. In addition, 68 percent of WAD funding comes from outside the United States. Next, Harrison gave a review of the HPC Conference held in Geneva in April. He termed it a "tremendous success." During Harrison's recap, Ethen warned that efforts for water equipment "bans" in general (i.e., California) "will not go away."
Board of Regents/State Association Task Force
Ozone Task Force
Small Systems Committee
Microbial Issues Task Force
Science Advisory Committee
Harrison added that there's a big difference between "nominal" and "absolute." He went on to say, "Do not remove 'absolute' from the glossary. It's a powerful word and some (water treatment dealers) would like to use it." Finally, a motion was made to take the issue to a joint committee.
Later, Ed Fierko, of Osmonics, asked about the possibility of a study funded by manufacturers and a previously-raised $30,000. Duane "Doc" Nowlin, of The Marmon Group, replied that the manufacturers haven't decided on the study's specifics. Section reports on ion exchange, reverse osmosis and microbiological controls were subsequently presented at the meeting.
Reverse Osmosis Task Force
A protocol, with minimal comments, from the committee on ANSI/NSF Standard 58 has been emailed to Rick Andrew, of NSF. The main point made here was the fact that there would be no data transfer on nitrate/nitrite. Paulson made a motion to not exclude costs from the proposal. A second on the motion was provided by Cartwright. The idea here was to keep only the nitrate/nitrite component in the proposal. Jenke was scheduled to present it to the joint committee on Oct. 29. Among some of the committee members, there was concern over the joint committee's understanding of reverse osmosis. For this reason, Regunathan reasoned that the gathering should "get what you can now." Efficiency/ recovery ratings as an addendum to Standard 58 carry no timeline for literature change and implementation. One member said 18 months is a typical time frame.
Plumbing Code/State Regulatory Issues Task Force
John Rickert, of Lil' John's Water Treatment, headed up the plumbing code task force with other members including Jeff Hellenbrand, of Hellenbrand Water Conditioners Inc.; John Packard, of Culligan; Schlafler, and Steve VerStrat, of Access Business Group LLC (Amway). Much of the meeting was dedicated to a PowerPoint screen presentation, developed by WQA education director Mark Rowzee and tweaked by Rickert, that's for use with regulators, primarily building code inspectors, in an attempt to educate them about water softeners and water treatment equipment. During his demonstration, he encouraged feedback and suggestions from the committee as well as the audience by distributing a "comments" sheet on how the presentation could be improved. He also asked for others' participation in speaking to plumbing officials.
Some of the main headings of the program, in order, were the inspector's role in water treatment; contaminant reduction (aesthetic and health-based); altering harmful conditions; aesthetic improvements; RO unit operation (along with a schematic); inspecting RO units; water softeners (used with ion exchange); softener components; softening and regeneration; water hardness; softener and inlet sizing; inspecting softeners (at this point, Rickert was given much feedback, particularly on the need to replace the word "removal" with "reduction" and an improvement in graphics and images); cartridge filters; filters; inspecting cartridge filters; distillation units; distillation unit inspection; neutralizers; inspecting neutralizers; other specialized equipment (ultraviolet and ozone); final considerations (drainage connections); tubing and connections; final inspection checklist; WQA information, and questions. In all, there were about 40 slides.
Meyer said the target is for presentations to begin in January. Rickert made it a point to thank Mark Rowzee, WQA's education director, for helping to formulate the PowerPoint program. In conclusion, a motion was passed to continue combining the committees.
Friday, Sept. 13
World Assembly Division Standards & Regulations Committee
Warnes was asked to give a WAD update. He spoke about how Aqua Europa and CEN (the two major standards organizations in Europe) are confused over who is the Working Group (WG) 13, which oversees the standards for water conditioning in buildings. As the convenor is unknown, an October meeting may be delayed until that issue has been decided. Posed by an audience member on WQA's possible involvement, Warnes said the association could only be involved indirectly. There's a mechanism under CEN protocol that allows for groups like the WQA to gain "observer status," Warnes said. When VerStrat asks if this means WQA can vote, Warnes offers an immediate "no." Schlafler said that CEN electrical standards committees can respond to observer questions, but aren't obligated to do so.
Looking around the room, Regunathan wondered aloud why there weren't more carbon companies represented at the meeting since they have much to gain or lose in standards discussions abroad. Later, Mike Baird, of Sta-Rite, suggested if NSF might be considered for "observer status." Overall, Baird said he was disappointed in the process and openly questioned the cohesion of the companies represented in the committee. "We are not doing enough. There are a lot of future costs here," he added. Warnes seemed to back him up: "There hasn't been a focus. Separate agendas exist." He also mentioned the fact that the WQA had backed Tony Frost for re-election as Aqua Europa director before he bowed out of the race.
Another issue is the often apathetic view of water treatment companies in Europe, Regunathan said. "Companies in Europe aren't taking an active role," he remarked. Jaglowski warned, "There have been discussions on this for five to six years with a notable lack of focus. We have to do a better job of it or we're going to get what we deserve." Warnes said that many companies are "forced" to be at these standards meetings by their parent entities in the United States. This pressure needs to continue, he added. FitzGerald suggested that "each member writes to the committee (in Europe) and express confusion over the standards." He admits to being "derelict" in his own efforts to do the same.
One idea from Wyckoff was to set up an international conference much like the one on HPC in Geneva earlier this year to clarify the standards issue in Europe. Regunathan doubted the logistics of such an idea. FitzGerald summed it up this way: "I've seen the emails from Luciano (Coocagna, convenor of WG 13) and I need help understanding them." Bruursema reminded the room that the formal submittal must be from inside, and not originated from the United States via a company or organization. Finally, VerStrat said a conference call is necessary and almost all members agreed to be a part of it.
Next, VerStrat provided an international update dealing strictly with Asia. In China, the ministry of health has revised the Regulation of Related Hygienic Safety Products for Drinking Water. A draft of the regulation has been issued and the committee is attempting to obtain copies. Japan has revised "water quality" related to lead from 0.05 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to 0.01 mg/L. This standard will go into effect April 1, 2003. The committee obtained a copy of the JWPA standard for shower filters. A copy is available from the WQA. VerStrat said this standard should be reviewed against NSF's Draft Standard 173. The Korea Drinking Water Management Law removed malathion from the books. Last, Taiwan's BSMI continues to work on its drafting of the new standard based upon ANSI/NSF Standard 42. After VerStrat's update, Bruursema said China will test for Cryptosporidium in April (see Water Matters column in September 2002).
Nothing new was reported from Latin America, VerStrat said. This was confirmed by both Bruursema and Wyckoff. This led FitzGerald to ask about a laboratory in Mexico. VerStrat said "harmonization in Mexico fell on deaf ears." On a final note, he calls for a conference call of committee members in early October.
WQA Board of Directors
Water Quality Research Council chairman Bill Fritzsche asked the board to change the bylaws to allow WQRC members in attendance to recommend and elect its officers. The group is made up of current and former WQA presidents and the move is seen as one that would entice better attendance.
Warnes gave an update on the World Assembly, HPC Conference in Geneva in April, EU harmonization issues and Aqua Europa board elections. Spatz questioned the accuracy of water softener sales data from Germany in one of the reports, suggesting it be checked before "we look foolish." After attending the HPC conference in Geneva, he received a different impression of those figures than was presented by Warnes, who in turn said it was important to make the distinction between law and standard, i.e., what official bodies report may not include do-it-yourself installations, etc. Warnes pointed out that the EU group that coordinates standards harmonization, Technical Committee 164, has extended an offer to the WQA to apply for "liaison" status which would give the association a direct ear, if not a voice, at the table in such discussions which have been fairly volatile in recent years. Warnes also stressed a "unified voice" among U.S. manufacturers in its fight against possible damaging legislation in Europe.
Censky then moved on to the manufacturers dues structure, a chart for which was presented ranging from $1,800 to $65,000. The chart was developed to eliminate ambiguity and allow the association to press for fairer payment of dues based upon a company's revenues. Dalee asked if dues were based on manufacturers' sales in the United States only or global sales, to which Censky replied that it always has been based on U.S. sales only. Equipped with the worksheet breaking down the numbers, Hellenbrand saw that 200 manufacturers pay the minimum. He asked, "How do we get them to pay their fair share? How do we enforce it?" Censky suggested that the WQA could run a Dun & Bradstreet report on each company as well as form a peer group to oversee pressing for compliance on the honor system. Ruhstorfer said one of the points of the re-structuring was to "raise the bottom of the dues structure and top off the largest dues amount." According to WQA's Margit Kronthaler, dealers pay a minimum of $385 in dues. There were no plans to alter that.
The board also agreed to renominate Regunathan for membership on the USEPA's National Drinking Water Advisory Committee.
The keynote speaker for the Las Vegas convention likely will be Kelly Schwedland, author of The Entrepreneurial Myth. The association chose not to hire a band for the annual banquet and awards presentation -- an expense that can cost up to $65,000 -- since the city offers so many alternative entertainment options. "Who needs to watch a bunch of geriatrics jumping around on stage?" Censky said, referring to the often '60s rock icons that wind up being booked such as Paul Revere & the Raiders and Three Dog Night.