Toby Thomas is president/CEO of Kinetico Inc. Thomas also serves as the Water Quality Association (WQA) 2021 president. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].
Mar 04, 2022

WQP Previews the 2022 WQA Convention & Exposition

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of WQP as "2022 WQA Convention & Exposition Preview"

2022 WQA Convention & Exposition

In 2021, the annual Water Quality Association (WQA) Convention & Exposition, normally held in March, was delayed a few months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the association’s annual event is back on track and scheduled to be held April 6 to 8, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. The past few years have brought unique challenges to industry events, but the upcoming convention is moving forward with a focus on hot topics like emerging contaminants, research updates, business best practices and more. The theme of “Impact” promises for an eventful week.

WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello asked Toby Thomas, WQA president, what the association has in store for the upcoming event, as well as memorable moments from the 2021 convention and Thomas’ key priorities under his tenure as WQA president.

Lauren Del Ciello: The 2021 WQA Convention was one of the first in-person events following COVID-related event closures. What were some of the memorable moments, challenges and joys of that event?

Toby Thomas: The best part of the 2021 Convention was finally being able to gather with our colleagues in person, nearly two years after our previous in-person gathering. Just seeing everyone’s faces — even though they were often masked — and hearing their voices live rather than over a computer mic was wonderful. And we had learned so much about video-conferencing technology in the previous 15 months that we were able to link in people who couldn’t travel.

I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to present two years’ worth of leadership awards, too. What a joy it was to hear from some of our industry’s giants.

The challenges were there, too, of course.Many international members or exhibitors could not attend, and Nevada’s masking regulations changed right in the middle of our convention. But our members pulled together, submitting to daily health checks, observing COVID protocols and just generally being kind to each other. Our exhibitors reported that although the crowd was smaller than usual, those who visited were decision-makers ready to do business. So, overall, we considered it a very successful convention.

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Toby Thomas
Toby Thomas

Goals & Action Items From Thomas’ Term as WQA President

Del Ciello: What have been some of your goals and action items in your tenure as WQA president?

Thomas: I set three goals at the beginning of my presidency: 1) Successfully driving WQA through the post-pandemic recovery; 2) Advancing awareness of water quality and WQA’s preparedness for a broader, more public stage and 3) Broadening membership and deepening our member engagement.

Despite still being very much in the pandemic instead of past it, WQA made great strides this year by opening our new international headquarters and laboratory, maintaining and furthering the financial gains we’ve made the last five years and re-establishing our important face-to-face engagement at in industry events like the convention.

Under the committed leadership of A.O. Smith’s Josh Greene — and with the assistance of our Washington lobbyists, Gephardt Government Group — WQA developed legislative advocates for its Clean Water for All initiative, a grant program that would empower Americans to significantly reduce or remove unwanted contaminants from their home drinking water. We have contributed to national conversations about PFAS, lead pipes and contaminants of growing concern. And we have hired a new Governmental Affairs Director, Jeremy Pollack, who is pledging to lead members in becoming more effective voices with local, state and federal regulators.

This year brought a new Leadership Engagement and Development program (LEAD), which is acting as an umbrella group for our special advisory councils, now renamed RISE, THRIVE and WIN. Together the councils act to recruit and engage a new set of leaders and bring new members into the fold.

Del Ciello: What is the theme of the 2022 WQA Convention?

Thomas: The theme is “Impact.” How can you, individually, make an impact in your community, in our industry, or with WQA? How can our members, banded together, have an impact on our association, on the world? How can WQA impact regulations, standards or policies? What kind of impact can we have on our members or consumers?

Hot Topics at the 2022 WQA Convention & Exposition

Del Ciello: What do you anticipate will be some of the hot topics this year?

Thomas: As always, we’ll have sessions on common or emerging contaminants and ways to reduce them in drinking water — look for education sessions on lead and PFAS for sure. We’ll share some exciting new WQRF research on removal efficiencies of POU RO membranes and activated carbon filters. We’ll talk about chloride discharge and brine recovery; water treatment for different applications, such as agriculture or beverage making; and business operations topics such as digital marketing and management essentials.

We’re also bringing back two of our most popular pre-convention events: The Commercial/Industrial RO Sizing Workshop and WQA Business Boot Camp.

Del Ciello: What safety protocols should attendees expect?

Thomas: Attendees should expect that we will follow latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Florida regulations, to host the safest event possible for attendees and exhibitors. At this time, that means that we’ll observe social distancing protocols and that attendees or exhibitors who are exhibiting signs of COVID-19 or who know they were exposed recently will not be in attendance. Policies are subject to change as CDC recommendations or local policies change, however, so potential attendees should check out the convention website for the latest information. Major policy changes will be communicated to registrants as soon as practical.

Del Ciello: What are you personally looking forward to the 2022 WQA Convention?

Thomas: I am looking forward to building on the momentum of last year’s Convention and Mid-Year Leadership Conference with even more attendees, exhibitors, sessions and engaging dialog. WQA, members and the industry overall are really coming on strong with Clean Water for All, new Professional Certification pathways, more engagement by allied partners interested in providing water treatment, and new consumer awareness programs. The convention in Orlando will be one of the broadest and deepest we have ever had, and I can’t wait to see how the energy, new initiatives, and multitude of voices propel our members and the industry to new and ever more impactful heights. And most of all, I look forward to seeing each and every one of you there all ready to go.

About the author

Lauren Del Ciello is managing editor for WQP. Del Ciello can be reached at [email protected].

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