Guest Column | June 16, 2020

WWEMA Window: Expect The Unexpected — COVID-19

By Vince Baldasare

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A year ago, I wrote about “protecting the source,” encouraging all of us to learn more about the source of our drinking water and why its protection is so critical to our health. Today, our focus has shifted from source protection to sanitation as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priorities now are disinfected surfaces, social distancing, employment, and even a sufficient supply of toilet paper. However, in this time of uncertainty, our prioritization of clean water is more important now than ever and taking steps to advocate for its wide availability for millions of Americans is everyone’s public health responsibility. Ignoring this critical need will only place more pressure on our ability to remain free from illness and return to the country to a more economically viable state.  

The many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to tap into our inner resolve and opened our eyes to “expect the unexpected.” Early on, as the virus was making its way across the globe, I believe most of us expected an outcome similar to other illnesses, with little or minimal impact on our daily lives. However, what has occurred was unexpected by all of us. The U.S. is a bastion of progress, motion, and constant innovation of business and technology. We did not expect the brakes to be applied abruptly to our way of life. We watched businesses close, schools send students home, conferences canceled, and the unexpected reality of store shelves void of daily necessities. However, we expected our great nation to respond and that is exactly what happened. Regardless of your political position, our collective government and industry leadership came through in a time of crisis to provide the support to businesses and the unemployed who so desperately needed help. The unexpected job losses left many Americans making difficult decisions to use their financial means for food purchases and defer payment of their water and sewer bills. Now was not the time to limit Americans’ access to safe and clean drinking water as many municipalities complied with orders to suspend “shutoffs.” This is just one example of an expected response from our governmental leaders. 

Another example of an unexpected outcome of COVID-19 included the global crisis of a toilet paper shortage. The shortage had many turning to creative resources for daily personal hygiene. This, along with the increased cleaning of surfaces with “wipes” to rid them of the virus, had many flushing them in an attempt to contain the spread. Unfortunately, this is placing even more pressure on our sewer system infrastructure, which is already being inundated with the global increase of flushing of non-disposables. We cannot take our eye off the ball during a time of unexpected crisis, but must stay focused on technological advances with equipment manufacturing and new product introductions. We have to expect the unexpected in the new normal and keep driving forward.       

The municipal equipment manufacturing space, I am sure, expected to see a negative reaction with the onset of COVID-19. However, that has been contrary to what our businesses have seen early on. Most are enjoying healthy backlogs from in-progress water and wastewater work. However, as municipalities begin feeling the pressure of reduced tax revenue and smaller workforces, a decline in new equipment spending may be on the horizon. There is also concern that we could see a surge of inferior, lower cost equipment purchased as utilities try and maximize limited resources. Now is not the time for this to occur. We must keep the pressure on with our governmental leaders for support of quality water and wastewater equipment products and technologies that will meet short- and long-term needs.      

Health, safety, and protection of our water supply is an ongoing challenge. We need continued education for us, and generations to come. We need continued governmental regulations, including the support of EPA, for the reduction of pollution in the bodies of water that supply our drinking water systems. More needs to happen. We must expect the unexpected and continue marching our great nation forward. Become an advocate for safe drinking water and join or participate with an organization that advocates for clean water. The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) represents the interests of water and wastewater equipment manufacturers regarding regulatory, legislative, and policy issues concerning clean water technologies. For over 110 years, WWEMA has been the “voice of water and wastewater technology providers.” Its mission is to promote the advancement of technology solutions for clean water that ensures a future sustainable environment and to improve its members’ economic viability. Join these efforts today and you will help make tomorrow a better world for water!

Vince Baldasare is Sales Manager, Engineered Systems, for Gorman-Rupp Pumps headquartered in Mansfield, OH. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) and active on the Investment Committee having served as Treasurer of the Association for several years. WWEMA is a non-profit trade association that has been working for water and wastewater technology and service providers since 1908. WWEMA’s members supply the most sophisticated leading-edge technologies and services, offering solutions to every water-related environmental problem and need facing today’s society. For more information about WWEMA, go to