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50 years young!

B.C. Ground Water Association marks milestone with fast-paced, packed virtual program

June 21, 2021  By Colleen Cross

The theme of the convention was celebrating the past while focusing on the future. The BCGWA plans to have celebrate its 50th anniversary in person as soon as gatherings are safe. Sights are set on spring 2022. PHOTO COURTESY BRITISH COLUMBIA GROUND WATER ASSOCIATION

It wasn’t the 50th anniversary shindig they had planned, but the British Columbia Ground Water Association staged a successful virtual day of educational seminars and networking.

The unconventional convention was held using a platform called Airmeet that allowed attendees to join tables and mingle between presentations – much like at an in-person convention and with the same excitement of “seeing who’s in the room.”

A rolling average of about 60 members attended a full and fast-moving slate of seminars on the latest groundwater research, opportunities for working in oil, demonstrations and government guidance.


Here are just a few highlights from the day’s presentations:

Equipment orientation as hazard mitigation: Marta Green, senior hydrogeologist at Associated Environmental Consultants in Vernon, opened with a safety talk about equipment orientation on the business or work site as part of hazard mitigation. Green donned alternating consultant and contractor hats, or helmets – literally – to show opportunities to educate from each point of view. To consultants taking a tour, she recommended asking questions of the contractor: What kind of PPE equipment is important and why do you wear these? Where are the “no-go” zones? Ask them how they like to do things? In an emergency, where are the buttons and can they test the buttons. If the contractor experiences an emergency, what do they want you to do (for example, look up first). Where is the emergency equipment?

To contractors: do you know where the consultant is at any given moment? Stop and think about this – how can you get their attention? Are they where you want them to be. Are they wearing the right clothing (might talk to them ahead of time)? Do you know how to help them if something happens? Is there something the consultant knows or can suggest to help you? For example, potential contaminants of concern or artesian conditions? Trust and getting to know each other is an important part of this industry. Equipment orientations are a great way to get together and help build trust.

Building a profitable trades business: Tony Malyk, certified professional business coach and author of Empowered Business Coaching, went over the magic profit formula and left the convention with a takeaway: Small adjustments can have great impact.

Look at contacts from new customers, contacts from past customers and contacts from existing customers to increase your customer base. Are staff asking customers the right questions? Pricing strategies such as bundling services, add-on services or cross-selling can potentially increase sales by 30 per cent, Malyk said. 

The lowest hanging fruit, he suggsted, is to increase your gross margins: two ways to do this are increasing your price and lower your supply costs. Lowering your fixed costs is another effective strategy. What can you do to lower your fixed costs by 10 per cent? Making little tweaks can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Finally, Malyk warned against undervaluing and underselling your service. Drillers and all businesses need to benchmark what their service is worth to the customer, he said. “You are commoditizing your service without commoditizing the end product for the user and what it means to them. Don’t just market what service you do, but market the end result you bring to your client, he said, then back it up with some facts and details about what you do. What you do is your commodity; what you bring the customer is your value.” 

Mapping and Mitigating Risk of Flowing Artesian Wells:
Okanagan Basin and Lower Fraser Valley:
Diana Allen, professor of hydrogeology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University, and graduate student Brynje Johnson presented research providing insight into the hydrogeological factors that control the occurrence of flowing artesian wells.

Under Allen’s supervision, Johnson studied flowing artesian conditions in the Fraser and Okanagan valleys. She examined models for artesian wells in mountainous setting and in a low-relief setting like the valley.

The team used Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) to map the likelihood of flowing conditions. This method considers weighted factors such as elevation, slope, curvature and fractures to try to predict what is most likely to happen. The research was done within a GIS system working with maps. 

One result is a map showing likelihood of flowing artesian wells, which they then validated using a statistical test to determine which factors are statistically significant for predicting occurrence. Their analysis determined 85 per cent confidence in the results. 

The maps can be used for identifying areas that should be more closely examined or monitored, as well as for issuing Flowing Artesian Conditions Advisories. The project is intended to support regulatory requirements for controlling artesian flow by providing better understanding of where such conditions occur, and how B.C. and other jurisdictions are managing the problem through policy and regulation. The approach and findings will described in a BC Water Science Series report. GIS maps will be provided to the government and Allen and Johnson will work with the ministry to create area-specific advisories for landowners and water-well drillers.

Hopefully this will provide a tool for drillers, homeowners and others to make decisions, Allen said.

Although he would like to have seen more participation by contractors, general manager Dave Mercer was pleased by the level of engagement from the convention attendees. “We worked hard to provide a broad range of topics and I think we truly did have something for everyone,” says general manager Dave Mercer. “The birthday videos were a hit,” referring to short video messages from member businesses in the field.

Twenty-five people attended a pump installer course held the next day. “Eight hours is a long slog for an online course with a single instructor, but they all stuck with it and feedback was good,” Mercer says. “Ron Nelson [Precision Service & Pumps in Abbotsford] put in many, many hours prepping and was a great instructor.”

Mercer summed up what the BCGWA has meant to contractors and the B.C. groundwater industry over the last half-century. “The BCGWA has accomplished a lot and it’s a long list, but I think the most important aspect is that the BCGWA has provided a voice for those who work in the industry, particularly drillers and pump installers, who otherwise aren’t heard. We plan to celebrate the long list of achievements, and those who helped make it all happen, at our next convention when we can all be together.”

The association has lots on its plate for 2021, including its May Membership Drive, putting in place its Respectful Workplace Policy and Code of Ethics, developing training courses for advanced learning, working as always with the Industry Training Authority (ITA) to vet applications for certification of drillers and pump installers in the province, and continually working with the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources on behalf of its members and groundwater.

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