A Record Setter

NGWA’s Groundwater Week 2023 in Las Vegas celebrates Association’s 75th anniversary with largest attendance ever.

By Mike Price

Groundwater Week 2023 drew its largest attendance in the history of the National Ground Water Association.

Attendees visited with 303 exhibitors at Groundwater Week 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The event, which was held December 5-7 in Las Vegas, Nevada, saw 6,642 groundwater professionals take part, making it the biggest show in Association history. Attendees came from 40 countries and all 50 states.

The second largest show took place in 2006 with 6,612 attendees.

“We’re proud to have celebrated our 75th anniversary with the largest ever show attendance and thank everyone for making this historical milestone possible,” says NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC. “The groundwater industry is essential and, as such, extremely busy. We appreciate everyone taking time out of their busy schedules to be at Groundwater Week 2023.”

NGWA celebrated 75 years of serving groundwater professionals with a booth on the Exhibit Hall floor. NGWA past presidents and former staff members who helped the Association reach the milestone were in attendance to celebrate the occasion. A closing party, “Popcorn and Pilsners,” wrapped up Groundwater Week 2023 in the Exhibit Hall.

Attendees took in nearly 40 water well contractor workshops and visited 303 exhibitors on a crowded Exhibit Hall floor. Dozens of educational sessions in the Science & Engineering Forum took place concurrently. There was a total of 81,600 square feet of exhibit space, the most in NGWA history.

The groundwater industry’s top concern—workforce development—was covered in a variety of workshops, including a roundtable discussion on passing knowledge to the next generation (see sidebar). Two certified industry veterans and one younger professional shared what has worked for them over the years in recruiting, hiring, and maintaining their employees.

David Traut, MGWC, CVCLD (left), receives the NGWA president’s gavel from Jason House, LG, PG, the Association’s 2023 president, at the Delegates Meeting.

Geothermal technology was showcased again as the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association featured a pavilion for the third consecutive year in the Exhibit Hall along with its track of workshops. A workshop on NGWA’s ongoing geothermal retrofit detailed the design of the closed loop system (see sidebar). Morse and industry partners discussed different parts of the system and products that will help the Association generate more than $250,000 in energy savings and a reduction of 640-plus tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years, according to design estimates.

For the second consecutive year, two events took place to aid young and early-career groundwater professionals. A tour of the Exhibit Hall led by seasoned groundwater veterans took place explaining how the tools and machinery seen on the floor are used daily in the industry. There was also a coffee and continental breakfast where young people had a chance to meet and network with each other.

The NGWA Delegates Meeting saw three incumbents get reelected to the NGWA Board of Directors:

  • Jeremy Bach of Bach Drilling Co. in Ellensburg, Washington
  • Robert Keyes, CWD, of Associated Environmental Industries Corp. in Norman, Oklahoma
  • Chauncey Leggett, CWD/PI, CVCLD, of Lake Valley Well Co. in Tarboro, North Carolina.

Kathy Butcher, (NGWA’s former director of education) (center), talks with attendees in the NGWA booth in the Exhibit Hall. Butcher retired in 2022 after 49 years with the Association.

Chip Nelson of GEFCO/BAUER Equipment America Inc. in Conroe, Texas, was elected to the secretary position on the Manufacturers Section Board and will also serve as a director on the NGWA Board of Directors.

Jeffrey Davis, PE, CGWP, was elected to the vice chair position on the Scientists and Engineers Section Board and will also serve as a director on the NGWA Board of Directors.

David Traut, MGWC, CVCLD, of Traut Companies in St. Joseph, Minnesota, became the NGWA president.

For the first time, NGWA elected someone from the Manufacturers Section as president-elect—Eric Macias of LORENTZ U.S. Corp. in Slaton, Texas.

Traut, who was featured in the November 2023 issue of Water Well Journal, spoke of his 2024 goals:

Keynote speaker Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a former University of Notre Dame football player whose life story was immortalized in the 1993 film Rudy, motivated attendees during the Keynote Presentation and Awards of Excellence Ceremony.

NGWA is returning to Las Vegas with Groundwater Week 2024 taking place December 10-12.

Workshop Spotlights Workforce Development, Passing on Knowledge to Next Generation
Decades of experience working in the groundwater industry was shared with attendees on the final day of Groundwater Week 2023.

In the workshop, “Passing on Knowledge to the Next Generation Roundtable,” NGWA Past President David Henrich, CWD/PI, CVCLD, moderated a panel on workforce development that was free flowing with input also provided by attendees. Workforce development is the industry’s top concern. The panel featured:

  • Industry veterans Art Becker, MGWC, CPG, NGWAF, also a NGWA past president,

    Chance Coats addresses session attendees.

    and NGWA Board Director Fred Rothauge, CWD

  • A young perspective in 39-year-old Chance Coats, a third-generation pump installer and first-generation driller who serves as president of the New Mexico Ground Water Association.

As president/hydrogeologist of Coats Pump & Supply Inc. in Dexter, New Mexico, Coats has seen his company triple in size with 20 on staff. He said being dynamic and creative is needed in solving workforce issues while stressing patience is also key. His company has had greater success with in-person applicants than online applicants.

Coats, who wants to earn NGWA contractor certifications with an ultimate goal of becoming a Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC), shared what has worked for his company thus far:

  • New hires are on a 60-day probationary period to see if they like the work and can handle it. He likes applicants who played team sports because they know how to work as a unit. He also knows applicants who have children will be motivated to work.“You have to earn the spot,” Coats says. “They’re not owed the job. They gotta earn it.
  • Once the 60-day probationary period concludes, Coats purchases uniforms for his employees and business cards with their title. This matters significantly to some staff members. The younger generation wants to know that what they do matters, and all this helps the cause.
  • To combat the misconception of the industry and image of his company, Coats cleaned up and organized the yard and rebuilt one shop and built a new one. New service vehicles replaced old ones. He wants his staff to have pride in the work they do.

    Chance Coats

  • Sensing his company can meet the drilling needs in his area, Coats recently purchased a new drilling rig and has leaned on nearby industry veterans to help him get up to speed on running it.

Becker, president of MB Drilling LLC in West Creek, New Jersey, and Rothauge, technical advisor for Hydro Resources Inc. in Fort Lupton, Colorado, shared valuable insights including:

  • In the past, some drilling companies pushed for speed and footage. Today, more attention is being paid to health and safety. The earnings of 10 wells drilled in a month can be wiped out with one injury.
  • View staff members not as equipment. They have lives too. Similarly, they’re not “employees” who work for you, they’re “coworkers” who work with you.
  • Ask applicants if they’re looking for a job or a career. If it’s not a career, the applicant might not be the right person to hire.
  • Paid time off (PTO) is the number-one benefit to offer to employees.
  • To further the pride in their work and retain them, send staff to state association events to further their education.
  • NGWA University online training powered by Oklahoma State University to meet the industry’s pressing workforce development challenges.

______________________

All recordings of Groundwater Week 2023 workshops are on the NGWA Learning Center. Attendees will receive a coupon code between February 1-15 to access the workshop recordings for free to gain lifetime access to them. Workshop recordings are also available for purchase for non-attendees in the NGWA Learning Center.

Panel Discussion Gives Overview of NGWA’s Geothermal Retrofit Project
A panel discussion at Groundwater Week 2023 provided an overview of NGWA’s ongoing geothermal retrofit project at its headquarters in Westerville, Ohio.

David Henrich, CWD/PI, CVCLD discusses NGWA’s geothermal project.

In “Case Study: NGWA Building Geothermal Retrofit,” NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC, and industry stakeholders for the project gave attendees a better idea of how retrofit applications can work well and be good business for water well and geothermal contractors, engineering firms, and building owners.

David Henrich, CWD/PI, CVCLD, moderated the discussion that included International Ground Source Heat Pump Association Executive Director Jeff Hammond and Jim Bradburn, PE, BEMP, LEED-AP, CQxP. The retrofit project is unique in bringing various industry stakeholders—including NGWA and IGSHPA members—together to meet the needs of the conversion.

Eighteen units (nine furnaces and nine air conditioners) are being replaced by nine geothermal units in the 15,970-square-foot building. The drilling and loop installation phase for the 20-borehole vertical closed loop system was completed in the fall 2023 by Jackson Geothermal of Mansfield, Ohio. The internal conversion by Federal Elite Heating & Cooling Inc. of Pataskala, Ohio, began in late 2023 and is expected to take 120 days.

“We’re excited to showcase our building as the model home for geothermal to industry members, public policy officials, legislators, and the general public,” Morse says.

NGWA’s geothermal retrofit is expected to generate more than $250,000 in energy savings and a reduction of 640-plus tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years, according to design estimates.

Using an existing energy audit, a new building energy model, and site-specific thermal conductivity data, Salas O’Brien designed the geothermal system. The geothermal heat pumps from ClimateMaster Inc., Enertech Global LLC, and WaterFurnace International Inc.—coupled with a loop field that has a generous amount of capacity—will yield extremely high average coefficient of performances (COPs) and energy efficiency ratios (EERs) for the closed loop system.

Prior to drilling, the thermal conductivity was tested at 1.36 BTU/h*ft*°F and the thermal diffusivity was estimated to be 1.05 ft^2/day. These values were inserted into the model to ensure the loop field will serve the building’s energy needs.

The vertical closed loop system will replace the Association’s outdated HVAC system that it has used since moving to its current location in September 1996.

NGWA’s geothermal retrofit is made possible by these industry partners:

  • AMTROL Inc.
  • Bergerson-Caswell Inc.
  • ClimateMaster Inc.
  • Enertech Global LLC (GeoComfort)
  • Federal Elite Heating & Cooling Inc.
  • Grundfos
  • Jackson Geothermal
  • Preferred Pump & Equipment
  • Salas O’Brien
  • WaterFurnace International Inc.
  • Xylem.

Click here to read all articles about NGWA’s geothermal retrofit project.

Board Member Celebrates NGWA’s 75th Anniversary in Delegates Speech
Robert Keyes, CWD, an incumbent NGWA Board Director who was reelected during the Delegates Meeting, woke up in the middle of the night thinking about his speech to give and finished it the next morning. Keyes’ speech celebrated NGWA’s 75th anniversary:

Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, and members of the National Ground Water Association,

Robert Keyes, CWD

Seventy-five years ago, our nation witnessed the birth of an organization dedicated to the lifeblood beneath our feet—the National Ground Water Association. Today, we gather not merely to celebrate an anniversary but to reflect upon our enduring commitment to safeguarding a vital resource.

In these 75 years, we’ve traversed the depths, much like the groundwater that sustains our communities. As members and delegates, you are the custodians of an unseen force, shaping the very foundations of our existence. Just as the Gettysburg Address spoke of a nation conceived in liberty, so too has the NGWA championed the cause of a nation sustained by the unseen currents that flow beneath us.

In times of drought and plenty, the NGWA has stood as a stalwart guardian, ensuring that the well of life never runs dry. As we stand here on this historic milestone, let us honor not just the years that have passed, but the legacy of responsibility and stewardship that the NGWA has woven into the fabric of our nation.

Just as President Lincoln implored us to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” let us pledge to safeguard the purity and accessibility of our groundwater—a commonwealth beneath us all.

Happy 75th anniversary to the National Ground Water Association, a beacon of wisdom and a guardian of our nation’s lifeblood!

Groundwater Week 2023 By the Numbers
  • 6,642 attendees (largest)
  • 303 exhibiting companies, including 21 exhibitors in the third International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) Geothermal Pavilion
  • 40 first-time exhibiting companies (most)
  • 3,647 water well system professionals and their spouses (largest)
  • 1,702 manufacturers (2nd largest)
  • 657 suppliers (8th largest)
  • 469 scientists and engineers (10th largest)
  • 40 countries represented and all 50 states
  • 81,600 square feet of exhibit space (largest)
  • 231 delegates voted at the NGWA Delegates Meeting
  • $33,500 raised by the Groundwater Foundation through the Sapphire Club
  • 859 attendees from Texas, most of any state
  • 25th time Groundwater Week was held in Las Vegas.
Groundwater Week 2024 Will Again Be in Las Vegas
Groundwater Week 2024 will take place December 10-12 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Registration is now open at GroundaterWeek.com.

Workshop submissions can be submitted beginning on March 1 at GroundwaterWeek.com. The deadline to submit a workshop is May 15.

For more information about the Groundwater Week 2024 workshop submissions, contact NGWA Education Program Manager Sue Tenney at stenney@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1568.

For more information about the exhibition and sponsorship opportunities, contact Mark Mohanna at mkmohanna@ngwa.org.


Mike Price is the senior editor of Water Well Journal. In addition to his WWJ responsibilities, Price contributes to the Association’s scientific publications. He can be reached at mprice@ngwa.org, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.

Read the Current Issue