Working With Municipalities. . .Not Against Them
By Larry Woodcock
“Of those water systems in the United States which serve between 25 and 500 people, there are 38,000 community water systems, 20,000 serving non-transient, non-community systems, and another 180,000 serving non-community systems. Out of the 58,000 community and non-transient small water systems, we expect that 52,000 will violate drinking water regulations and require the addition of treatment in order to comply.”
What opportunities are presented by the statement above? If you’re a water treatment dealer, you may be quite surprised. Dealing with municipalities may not be easy for some people. Perceptions held by municipal operators and water treatment dealers of each other have not been that favorable in the past. Each one often blames the other for the water quality … when it is poor.
It’s Time To Work Together For Water Quality
Now is the time to leave the past behind and move toward the future while working together to solve a major issue – water quality. Whether a solution to the entire problem of water quality is found or whether solutions are found on an individual consumer basis, both the water operator and water treatment dealer must pool their knowledge of water quality, state regulations and the treatments available.
In today’s world of television and newspapers, all we ever hear is the negative. This can be damaging to the water treatment profession as a whole, whether it is directly involved in the news or not.
How can this negative systems; call and request literature on new products. Keep all the information in a file in an organized manner. Someday, you may have an opportunity to use that particular type of treatment.
Becoming familiar with a certified laboratory facility is also a good idea. A certified lab must meet stringent state requirements. Having a third-party testing facility available will provide the unbiased test results your image be overcome? There are many things that you, as a water treatment dealer, can do to improve your credibility and let the world know that you believe in what you are doing.
Reputable Dealers Survive Good And Bad Times
One, of course, is to build a good reputation. The length of time you have been in business or the history you have established in dealing with water quality problems will be to your advantage. Many people see water treatment as a way to make a quick buck and then get out of the industry. On the other hand, reputable dealers who have been in business for a number of years survive the good times and the bad.
Joining a national trade organization, such as the Water Quality Association, or a local association can also add to your credibility. The American Water Works Association (AWWA), 6666 W. Quincy Ave., Denver, CO 80235, (303) 794-7711; the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), P.O. Box 1428, Duncan, OK 73534, (405) 252-0629; and the National Water Well Association (NWWA), 6375 Riverside Dr., Dublin, OH 43017 (614) 761-1711 are excellent organizations to join.
Trade organizations deal with municipalities on different levels and have national and state shows as well as state chapters. The AWWA and the NRWA also have publications available on the national and state levels. They all provide educational seminars and recognize the people who are willing to put forth the effort to gain more knowledge as professionals. Upon completion of the technical sessions, you can proudly display the certificates of membership, recognition and achievement that you have earned.
As a professional, you must also stay on top of all the new regulations regarding primary and secondary drinking water standards. Corrosion control, disinfection, volatile organic chemicals and radionuclides are just a few areas where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposes standards.
Knowledge of regulated limits could be your greatest asset, and this is another area where the different trade organizations would be of great help. By attending the shows and reading the publications, you can keep track of the changing regulations in your state. Many people in the community who are indirectly responsible for water quality may not be aware of all that is involved. Keep abreast of problems or complaints that are being lodged, and establish yourself as the authority to call when a problem arises.
Where Do You Begin?
The main hindrance to approaching a municipality is not knowing where to begin. Whom should you contact first? A great place to start is with the water operator. The operator is the person in charge of the day-to-day operations of the water plant. Call to introduce yourself and arrange an appointment. When contacting the operator, be careful to not appear to be questioning his ability to provide good water to consumers.
When consumers experience problems with their water, a water treatment dealer may be the first person they contact. Keep a log of people who call and voice a concern. Be sure to get their name, address, and phone number and document the complaint. You may discover that these complaints are coming from a certain area of town. Tell the water operator that you have been receiving complaints, and check to see if he has been receiving the same types of complaints.
Another good place to start is with your local health department. This office may be receiving complaints as well and will also give you more contacts. When working with community water supplies, you need to be involved with a variety of people. Water operators, local health officials, city engineers, and city council members are just a few of the people who are involved in water quality issues.
Mutual trust between water treatment dealers and municipal water system managers does not happen overnight. It could take months, even years, to develop a “working relationship.” Be prepared to dedicate a good part of your time and energy to this venture. At the same time, don’t forget your previously established clients.