In this Q&A, the Water Technology staff talked with David Westman, executive director of the Water Quality Association (WQA), about the association’s goals and the upcoming WQA Convention & Exposition.
Why did WQA and Aquatech decide not to partner in 2016?
WQA and the Amsterdam RAI have had a relationship for approximately 10 years. Originally, the relationship goal was to build a "megashow," which would have involved the RAI playing a heavily administrative role. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, that concept was never able to get off the ground. After a considerable amount of time, WQA decided to return to hosting the annual show on its own. We continue to have productive dialogue with the RAI. If the time comes where the megashow or other mutually beneficial option becomes a reality, we are open to joining in on such an endeavor with the RAI.
About which new initiatives is WQA most excited?
On the federal advocacy side, we have embarked on a relatively new relationship with the Gephardt Group, a government affairs consultant. We anticipate this relationship is going to all the more increase WQA’s presence and influence within the federal government — both in the legislative and executive branches. Dick Gephardt, the firm’s president and CEO, is a former Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives with 28 years of experience in public service.
The Modular Education Program (MEP) has been fleshed out during the last year to include all the training for the Core certifications: Certified Water Specialist; Certified Water Treatment Representative; Certified Installer; and the new Certified Service Technician, which focuses on troubleshooting. We continue to convey the strong value it has. The program has already proven to be extremely valuable in certain states like Colorado. Colorado has accepted the MEP training program with WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Installer (CI) titles as an alternatives to having a master plumber on staff.
Water Wise Blog: Looking ahead to the WQA Convention
Within the last year, we launched the members-only Regulatory Info Search tool. This online informational tool was designed to provide industry professionals access to regulatory information by establishing a network of current laws, regulations and codes that affect the membership of the association.
WQA will begin offering NSF/ANSI 401 testing services later this year. NSF/ANSI 401 is a standard regarding pharmaceutical reduction that was recently published by NSF International. This testing verifies the ability of a water treatment device to reduce up to 15 of the emerging contaminants, including some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, new types of herbicides and pesticides, chemicals used as flame retardants, and detergents that have been found at trace levels in drinking water. The demand for emerging contaminant testing is anticipated to increase [because] consumers are concerned about contaminants in tap water.
What are some goals for WQA throughout 2016 that you are looking forward to seeing accomplished?
Our key goals are contained with the 2016-2018 strategic plan, which was approved by WQA’s board of governors in late 2015. These include: (1) to seek input and consideration by regulatory agencies relative to all critical water quality and product decisions; (2) to be recognized as the leading water treatment certifying body, focused on best-in-class customer experience and sustainability, with an international presence; (3) to prompt the water treatment industry to participate at a significantly greater extent in training and certification, measured by an increased adoption of the MEP and certification program; and (4) to serve as the key resource in helping our members and other key audiences by providing user-friendly tools and information. We have 20 initiatives and 51 milestones associated with those goals.
In terms of my own goals, I have a passion for getting to know our members better — understanding the differentiated needs of the segments of the companies we serve. I am looking forward to making sure we have the right value packages to serve them.
Describe the new training options offered by WQA. What type of response have they received?
The training in the MEP includes increased emphasis in several areas that have been on the radar with dealers, consumers, state environmental protection agencies and licensing boards, which are drinking water quality standards, plumbing sizing and business ethics. Our Professional Certification & Training Program helps industry professionals address growing consumer drinking water concerns, position themselves with state drinking water regulators as knowledgeable partners and demonstrate plumbing design knowledge to the licensing boards.
Recently, the program has been improved to take into account field experience for more seasoned personnel preparing for certification by providing an accelerated pathway through the program for those who are eligible.
More information on eligibility is available at wqa.org/MEP.
Reception for the MEP has been positive. There has been a lot of interest from business owners and managers to provide the opportunity to enhance the expertise across all their staff — not just sales or service — and to get more of their employees certified.
The MEP was built so that learners can progress every day. Of course, training is an investment, and not surprisingly, we’re seeing that employees whose managers set aside company time for training are able to make the best progress through the program.
What changes have been made with WQA since you took on the executive director role in 2014?
During my time at WQA, there has been a complete redesign of the organizational structure. We have focused on solidifying the foundation upon which WQA can better serving the members and delivering the value the members have come to expect from the organization. A tremendous amount of work has gone into enhancing the governance of WQA with a strong focus on board orientation, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and articulating governance policies. Additionally, the whole committee structure has been revised. There’s been a rollout of the strategic plan, as well as a strengthening and building up of the infrastructure at WQA’s headquarters.
Looking ahead to the 2016 WQA Convention & Exhibition, what are you most excited about? What trends do you expect to see?
Personally, I always enjoy the show. It is a great opportunity to interact face-to-face with industry professionals. I like to hear it from the horse’s mouth how we’re being perceived, what we’re doing well and what we need to improve upon.
At this year’s show, we are going to be rolling out a new member service. We view the new service as a value-added service that the members will appreciate and will also serve as a revenue stream for the organization.
We’ve rebranded the show and are looking to improve the overall participant experience. I’m looking forward to hearing the reactions from the people at the show and using it as a starting point for ongoing discussions toward improving future shows.