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July 2002: Volume 44, Number 7

Storing Water for the Present -- A Quenching Look at an Overlooked Market
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor

I guess one could argue that all water treatment dealers could be technically called “water stores.” Of course, we know better. In this industry, water stores carry a very expansive connotation that continues to evolve. One specific variation is discussed in Sam Karge’s piece in this issue. Since many dealers don’t necessarily go gaga over the idea of water stores, we thought it might be a good idea to revisit a few water store sites in an attempt to better familiarize you with how this broad segment of the market has changed.

We also need to make a couple of things clear from the outset -- this is not an attempt to persuade dealers to jump on the idea of water stores. Nor is the review a not-so-subtle way of providing free publicity to these predominantly commercial websites. So, you’re probably thinking, how did I select the four sites here out of literally thousands of choices? Easy. I chose three search engines and typed “water stores” in the search button space and… voila! Which three search engines? Millions of people use them every day; I really don’t think they need the free plug (see EXTRA for a few more sites that may deserve a closer look.)

Straight out of Campbell, Calif., comes this site detailing the products and services of a family-owned business. Relatively new to the water treatment industry (two years and counting), Pure Water Stores (PWS) has a site that comes off as a definite hit. Under the “About PWS” page, the water filtration process used is explained as “a multi-stage process” too detailed to explain here.

Beginning at the upper left corner of the home page, we have the Shopping Cart button. Further down we have Filtration Systems, which includes “Distillers,” “Reverse Osmosis,” “Cartridge Filters” and “Katadyn Pocket Filters.” For each category, anywhere between one and six products are listed along with their specifications and prices. The next category is Dispensers. This encompasses “Crocks,” “Mini-Crocks,” “Chiller-Crocks,” (I think I saw them perform in college), “Coolers & Pumps” and “Pet Bowls.” Pet bowls? Intrigued, I go to the latter button. The offerings displayed look like upside down water bottles on an ordinary food dish. I was looking for something out of “Attack of the Clones.” Oh well, PETA would be proud.

Accessories is the following main button and contains “Camelbak Packs” and “Bottles & Bota-Bags.” So, what exactly is a “Camelbak pack?” As defined on the site, “They come in shoulder mounted and hip mounted models, or strap onto or tuck into your existing pack.” Simple enough. I just love the names for some of these packs -- H.A.W.G., M.U.L.E., The Rogue and ZOID. The marketing folks should be proud of themselves. Better yet, all packs are under $100. Just in time for summer.

The final main button is Information, covered briefly in the introduction to this site. “Water Facts” is packed with solid stuff including newspaper reports and government studies and a good deal about distillers. A few “myths” are also dispelled further down on the page. Links provides only four -- three of them derived from the U.S. Geological Survey, and California Department of Water Resources Reports.

Changing coasts, we shift over to Westminster, Md., where another family-owned business was very astute in snagging this domain name. Diversification is also taken to a new level with the announcement that, at this site, “you can shop for a water filtration system, an above ground swimming pool, or a portable hot tub.” Further indication of this diversity comes in the form of the main buttons on the home page. In descending order, they are About Us, Reverse Osmosis, Other Systems, Unique Systems (not to be confused with the previous one), Cleaners & Treatments, Acid Neutralizers, Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs, Gas Grills, Saunas and Email Us.

Obviously, how can one skip the inclusion of “gas grills” here. I click on it and up pops a grill that belongs in every barbecue lover’s backyard. This thing looks like it could start your car, and it may have cost more than your first car. Back to the top, About Us shows a few interior shots of the business. Reverse Osmosis consists of a couple of units for sale. Other Systems highlights Fleck and Aqua UV equipment. Rainshowr’s home page is neatly disguised here as Unique Systems or so it seems. Cleaners & Treatments are dedicated to maintaining water softeners. Acid neutralizers are featured at the following button. Next, Swimming Pools offers several above-the-ground varieties. The space devoted to Hot Tubs makes me think that this represents a majority of The Water Store’s business. Saunas caps off the list with three models.

Not to be outdone by The Water Store, this site hailing from the Santa Cruz, Calif., business decided its name needed a qualifier. Clearly, this site offers the most comprehensive home page reviewed here. The main buttons run across the top. They are Products, Water Problems, Technical, Company Info and Help. Down and to the left of the page, visitors can browse everything from “Acid Neutralizers” to “Water Softeners.” In addition, there’s more information on travel/emergency filters, well water treatment, drinking water systems and whole house filter systems for city water. A search button is conveniently located at the top, left corner.

Back to the main buttons, Products allows visitors to search for items by category (10 are listed to the left) or water problem. Moreover, features including the water testing department and the technical online request form are available. Water Problems provides a list of the more common contaminants that may appear in customers’ water. A well-rounded roster goes from things like “hard water” and “iron & manganese” to “acid water” and “arsenic.” After clicking on a few links, an informative response is given and even a few suggestions on what to do next. Technical serves as the straightforward button with minimal text but links to helpful areas such as “Manuals and Guides,” “Calculations and Tables” and a “Glossary.” One interesting tidbit, the glossary only goes to the letter “T.” Nevertheless, for 20 letters, it’s a very inclusive list. Company Info is your typical “About us” page. Finally, Help caps off the main buttons.

OK, perhaps one or two of you have already decided that water stores are the wave of the future and you want in on it…right now! Well, you may want to start at this site that promises to “create a world of opportunity* for entrepreneurs with the introduction of the ‘one stop water shop.’” Why the asterisk? Just a reminder to let you know that this is not a franchise business. Fair enough.

Pure Water Inc., of Lincoln, Neb., runs the site and offers “turnkey water stores.” It asks, why a water store? As expected, it answers the question with this -- ”Everybody needs clean safe drinking water. Demand for bottled water continues to sky-rocket as the public is educated about water contamination.” Other than that, the site offers little more than three main buttons -- More, Contact Us and Links. More briefly documents the popularity of bottled water and how this would benefit anyone getting into a water store venture. A contact information form needs to be filled out so the company can respond to your request. In general, the majority of the Links are tied to the Pure Water Inc. business.

If nothing else, we have learned from this review that the concept of “water stores” can take on many different variations. Still, the one constant is the emphasis on water quality. Some are content to keep the idea of water stores to drinking water and others desire to push the notion beyond previous limitations. Either way, one thing is clear -- water stores, in one form or another, are here to stay.

EXTRA: Three more to ‘pour’ over

Before you ask, yes, this stands for “bring your own bottle,” as in bottled water. Some of us just experienced college flashbacks. Pretty simple site that touts its predominantly Texas locations. Consulting services may be the most effective feature.

A little more peripheral here. For best results, scroll down to the search button on the home page and enter “water stores.” Forty-six matches came up on one occasion. Overall, WaterHealth International Inc. takes a more global look at water solutions.

Who doesn’t know someone who will be hopping on an RV sometime this summer to visit family members or maybe a national park somewhere? Well, they will need good traveling water, right? This site can go a long way to see that those needs are met.

For earlier columns in this category, click on the link below or hit the 'List All' button.
The Cells are Alive with the Image of Bacteria -- Waterborne Topics Go Under the Microscope
Checking Out the Affairs of States -- Sizing Up WQA Regional Associations
Airing It Out in Public, Stripping the Facts Bare on the Web -- Aeration & Air Stripping Online
Safety First -- Putting Drinking Water at the Top of the List
From the Floor to the Podium -- Getting Inside the Trade Show
Taking the Hardline with Endocrine -- Disrupting Hormones and Other Truths
Words that Make You Laugh -- Uncovering Humor on the Net
Traveling in Bottles or Through Pipes -- Water Comes Clean Over the Net
The World is a Stage and Water is All the Rage
Dealers Needn’t Fear Additional Market Niches; They May have the Appropriate Software In-House to Manage IT
Net Fun in the Summertime -- Something for Everybody
When You Want Something Done Right -- Do-It-Yourself with the Help of the Net