Executive series: Interview with PWQA’s John Foley

Sept. 6, 2014

The association’s president offers insight into the 57th annual Convention and Trade Show.

Regional shows and associations play an important role in providing localized expertise to water treatment professionals. The Pacific Water Quality Association’s (PWQA) 57th annual Convention and Trade Show will be held September 30 to October 3, at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.

This month, we catch up with PWQA’s current President John Foley, CWS VI. Foley, who is also the vice president of Rayne Water Systems (RWS) Corp.; he shares some of the association’s goals, challenges and plans for this year’s event.

Water Technology: Please provide a background on PWQA as well as the association’s goals and projects since last year’s convention and trade show.

John Foley: The Pacific Water Quality Association is a group of water quality trade professionals representing companies in the manufacturing, retail dealer and supplier segments of the water treatment equipment industry. We have been representing the interests of the industry for 57 years and we currently have over 200 members.

The association is engaged in legislative matters at the state capitol to promote a positive image of the water quality industry and also to influence legislation that could impact our membership. We intend to remain vigilant and engaged in the legislative process to benefit all of our members.

This year, through our legislative outreach efforts, the association was instrumental in the passage of a third-party certification bill (AB119) that got the state out of the water treatment equipment approval business. For the first time the state will now accept third-party certification, like NSF, as opposed to requiring a separate and often redundant certification by the state itself before systems can be sold here for which health claims are made.

WT: What trends and significant water issues are occurring in your region and how are they unique compared to the rest of the country?

JF: We are in the midst of the worst drought in the state’s history. In fact, the entire Southwest is drier than normal. This presents unique challenges for both the state and for the industry. If it continues, we are going to see just how bad things can get. Agriculture in California is already projecting losses in the billions.

Industry wise, the dealers and manufacturers are finding this to be a time to adjust and to improvise to make some necessary changes to their business models. Many have now began to incorporate water efficiency and water management techniques and also alternative products into their service offerings. This has already proven to be a prudent move for them from a business standpoint. If drought conditions persist as predicted then it will be that much more so.

These drier than normal conditions have also illustrated that in a larger sense the time has come for all of us to begin to consider water’s true worth. Even when water seems abundant we must understand that it is an illusion, at least in the West it is an illusion. We have a duty to protect, preserve and conserve it. The upside is that there will also be additional opportunity in this area of the business. There is a silver lining to everything I suppose.

Combine the added pressure of a decreasing, over stressed water supply with the ongoing salinity issues and the sometimes unreasonable environmental climate we have in California, and it is obvious that these are very interesting times for us out here in the West.

WT: In what specific ways do your members benefit from PWQA membership throughout the year?

JF: The PWQA is an excellent resource for information and for help with hard to solve issues that dealers and manufacturers face. We are available to help research issues related to the industry, particularly where regulation is concerned, and if necessary act or advise parties on how they themselves can act and support them in doing so. We give them resources to make sure that they are represented and that their businesses are better protected.

We host four major events each year and one or two smaller events or meetings. Each year we host two BBQ lunches that feature a variety of interesting information. In addition to a sumptuous Sheboygan bratwurst luncheon, we always have at least one informative guest speaker who has a relevant and timely message for our group. We have had representatives from the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, The Water Education Foundation, The Regional Water Quality Control Board and for our August 14th BBQ we have Maria Mariscal, who is a senior water resources specialist with the San Diego County Water Authority.

We organize an annual legislative awareness trip to Sacramento that we call Legislative Days. This year we had 17 PWQA volunteer participants and we were able to get meetings with over 80 state assembly and senate members. We were even able to get a meeting with members of the California EPA.

This is a great event and is where I personally think that we make the most impact. Ironically, many members have no idea how much thought and preparation goes into this effort and how it benefits them in a real sense. Successfully defeating a bad bill or getting a good bill passed can easily go unnoticed because we never got to see what would have happened if the bill had gone the other way.

We finish each year’s official PWQA event calendar with the best regional water quality convention in the country, usually in September or early October. This is a fun time to network, check out new stuff and see old friends. Members tell me all the time that they would never miss a PWQA convention.

WT: Please explain the details and what is planned for this year’s 57th annual PWQA convention and trade show.

JF: We have a reputation for putting on the best, most informative and bang for the buck convention in the industry, at least for a regional or state association. This is a big draw for us from several points of view. It of course is a major fundraiser, so there are always auctions, raffles and things to buy. But, it is so much more than that to us.

We offer educational seminars, technical discussions and a fantastic trade show, as well as WQA certification testing, an exciting and entertaining banquet, a fantastic golf tournament and many other creative and fun activities.

Did I mention that it was a fundraiser? If a guy dressed like a mob boss walks up and bumps into you and “suggests” that you buy a raffle ticket from him, you may say no, but you probably should just play it safe and buy one.

This year’s convention is planned at the beautiful San Diego Town and Country Inn. Details, speaker lists and topics will be sent out. This year’s theme is sustainability, so topics will tend toward water efficiency, water reuse and energy savings.

WT: In your opinion, what makes this event and other regional shows so important for our industry?

JF: Events like our convention and similar regional shows are important for anyone involved in the water treatment industry that wants to remain informed and current. It is also a chance for interested outsiders to see us at our best. We have had members of the state Senate and the Assembly attend our convention to see the innovations that are being made for themselves. These events also offer us a chance to catch up with old friends and to see what the industry’s best minds are doing to help preserve and in some cases even expand opportunities in the water quality industry.

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