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Groundwater Week goes virtual

Online event affirms the annual knowledge-sharing event is essential to industry


January 7, 2021
By Ground Water Canada

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Jeffrey Williams, vice-president of Spafford & Sons Water Wells in Jericho, Vt., spoke about reinvesting in your business. “Unlike a depreciation schedule, which has peaks and valleys, asset replacement should be steady, telling you when you need to replace assets.”

The U.S. National Ground Water Association put on a virtual Groundwater Week and Groundwater Summit 2020 to deliver education and a chance for groundwater professionals to connect.

Although things looked very different, many of the elements attendees have come to anticipate were there: an opening address by the president, an informative general meeting, awards honouring high achievers, an exhibit hall full of information and experts. And people came – more than 2,500 attendees from 59 countries and 76 exhibiting companies.

“We’re very happy with how Groundwater Week has gone,” said Merritt Partridge, outgoing president of the NGWA, when we reached him by phone at his business in Jacksonville. “Participation was high.

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“We’ve never done this before,” he says. “In-person events like Groundwater Week take years to plan. Back in March we were still planning the live event. We made the final decision to commit to going virtual in October. That’s a very short time frame and there was a lot of communication with exhibitors and presenters. I really want to congratulate our staff who have done an amazing job putting this together.”

There are some advantages to a virtual event, namely, the convenience. “You don’t have to travel to attend.” –Merritt Partridge

Partridge was pleased with the attendance numbers for the general membership meeting. “There are hundreds of people attending sessions – when you look down at the bottom of the screen and see 200, 300 people attending, it makes you feel good. We don’t necessarily get those numbers with an in-person meeting. That means people are enjoying it.”

Jeff McCracken, national sales manager for Canada with Franklin Electric, agreed the response was good. “Although the format was very different, we were able to connect with many attendees using chat functions, Zoom meetings, and other digital forums,” McCracken says. “There was still a hunger for information from attendees, so engagement was strong and conversation still flowed!”

There are some advantages to a virtual event, namely, the convenience. “You don’t have to travel to attend,” Partridge says. “And with sessions like the one on profit and loss statements or the update on federal legislation, for example, it’s great that you can sit back and watch it later. It can be a lot to take in all at once.”

McCracken agrees: “We were excited to connect with many of our Canadian partners who were able to participate without making the trip. While we miss interacting with attendees face to face, some told us this was the first time they had attended Groundwater Week because of its virtual accessibility. They hadn’t been able to travel in prior years but still wanted the information. This year presented the opportunity for their participation.”

“The show setup was a new experience for our team at this scale but went relatively smoothly,” he added. “Many thanks to Dave Evener of NGWA for his commendable organization and strong communication in keeping exhibitors updated and comfortable with the process.”

Attendance was strong at the booth and the company extended a $50 donation to the NGWA for each non-exhibiting water well professional who visited, which resulted in a $25,000 donation.

For attendees Groundwater Week had the driving force of daily keynote speakers and consistent booth times each afternoon. But the education sessions were more of a self-serve affair designed for the busy professionals. Dozens of speakers presented scientific, technical and business sessions, with speakers engaging in lively Q-and-A afterward.

Among highlights, Alfonso Rivera, Chief Hydrogeologist of Canada, kicked off Day 1 by focusing on the importance of mapping and understanding transboundary aquifers.

Kevin McGinnis, president of Cotey Chemical Corp., delivered the first presentation of his 2021 McEllhiney Lecture, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Innovative Treatment Options for Established and Emerging Water Quality Challenges.”

In another well-attended session, “Realistic Budgeting to Reinvest in Your Business,” Jeffrey Williams, MGWC, CVCL, vice-president of Spafford & Sons Water Wells in Jericho, Vt., and former NGWA president, went through the factors you should be considering in your financial planning and how to implement a reinvestment strategy for your business operation.

“Much too often business owners focus primarily on meeting monthly expenses and disregard the need for a consistent reinvestment plan for their businesses,” he said. “Every business owner should understand current equipment valuation in relation to its business life and projected replacement time frames and costs.”

He urged operators to identify which equipment in their business will require replacement and create an asset replacement schedule. Unlike a depreciation schedule, which has peaks and valleys, asset replacement should be steady, telling you when you need to replace assets.

Operators should be asking themselves: Can the yearly revenue generated cover expenses, overhead, fund reinvestment and add to the profit margin? “I don’t want to live off my assets,” he said. “I want to replace my assets and grow.”

Condition of equipment is important, Williams said. Equipment declines in value over time and values are driven by the market, life span and condition. “People snap up used equipment quickly. We can get equipment value in real time from several sources. Don’t assume your equipment is valued at asking price.”

Registered attendees will have access to the event platform until June 30, 2021, and sessions will also be made available for purchase at the new NGWA University for those who did not attend in 2020.

Groundwater Week 2021 will return to an in-person event Dec. 14-16 in Nashville, Tenn.