Opportunities to Connect

Groundwater Week 2019 brings industry together with 15th largest attendance in 71-year history.

By Mike Price

Many say the best part of the groundwater industry is the people who work in it. Some say it has a close-knit family feel, making it hard for them to imagine working in another industry.

It makes sense then that the industry’s largest annual tradeshow is where catching up and reconnecting or forming new relationships takes place. Whether it’s checking in business-wise, sharing family updates, or solving life’s problems, Groundwater Week allows for this invaluable interaction.

Held in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year, Groundwater Week 2019 drew the 15th largest attendance in its 71-year history with 4673 attendees. Attendees from 32 countries, in addition to the United States, convened December 3-5 in Las Vegas. All sectors of the industry—water well system professionals, manufacturers, suppliers, and scientists and engineers—were represented.

Groundwater Week 2019 colocated with the Irrigation Association’s annual show for the second time in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Irrigation Association attracted 3920 attendees, which meant more than 8500 water professionals from around the globe were part of Groundwater Week. Groundwater Week’s 271 exhibitors (22 first-time exhibitors) occupied 71,500 square feet of exhibit space while the Irrigation Association’s 254 exhibitors occupied 52,700 square feet of exhibit space. Groundwater Week attendees viewed the Irrigation Association’s exhibit hall at no additional cost.

“The energy and excitement throughout the exhibit hall was tremendous. From a packed exhibit hall and topnotch educational programming for all sectors of the groundwater industry to the debuting of new offerings from the Groundwater Foundation, I’d say 2019 ranks among the best,” says NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC.

An attendee successfully ropes Darcy the calf
at the Groundwater Foundation booth. For a
donation, attendees got to test their roping skills and have fun while doing so.

The Groundwater Foundation, which merged with NGWA in May 2018, raised approximately $20,000 to support the future of the groundwater industry. They did so through events such as Roping for a Cause, Scavenger Hunt, Silent Auction, and Pint with a Purpose!
Attendees also texted “groundwater” to 56651 to make donations as well.

“We put in a good effort to spread the word and raise money for the Groundwater Foundation. There is a lot more to be done. We will keep working diligently to make next year even better,” says newly elected 2020 NGWA President Merritt Partridge, CVCLD.

A staple of Groundwater Week is its robust educational offerings, and the 2019 show was no exception with 50-plus hours of expertly led workshops.Since Groundwater Week 2016, workshops have been organized in the following categories: business management,
drilling operations and well construction, groundwater monitoring, safety and compliance, sustainable and available groundwater, water quality, water systems, well maintenance and rehabilitation.

Due to the number of variable frequency drive (VFD) products on the market and unique features of each, a three-hour VFD Symposium was held with presenters from three pump manufacturers. More than 10 workshops covered a range of pump topics, including “Electrical Basics for Pump Installers,” “How to Do Three-Wire Pump Controls Quicker and for Less,” and “Turbines: What, Where, Lineshaft, or Submersible and Options.”

More recap coverage and photo slideshow of Groundwater Week 2019
A pair of attendees get a close look at the
new CS-100 drill rig in the GEFCO Inc. booth.
The hall featured nearly 275 exhibitors.

A common sight in workshops were attendees snapping photos of PowerPoint slides with their smartphones so they can reference them later.

The “Age of Amazon 2.0”—a continuation of the popular panel and audience discussion from Groundwater Week 2018—was presented in 2019 on how the industry addresses end-users having access online to the products that water well system professionals sell and install.

“This was very enlightening in how we can combat that as a service industry and how we stay relevant with our pricing in comparison to what people can do online. That’s a big deal these days, and it’s going to continue to be a big deal (in the future),” says Bret Gardner, owner and operator of Rock Well Water Systems & Pumps in Chelan, Washington.

In addition to workshop learning, 2019 McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer Gary Hix, RG, CWD/PI, presented his second-to-last lecture in 2019, “Drilling Markets Change—So Must We.” Augie Guardino, general manager of Guardino Well Drilling Inc. in Morgan Hill, California, attended Hix’s lecture in October.

“Part of his presentation was ‘there are riches in niches,’” says Guardino, who served on the NGWA Board of Directors from 2011-2014 and was president of the California Groundwater Association in 2019. “I saw this after we made the purchase of our new equipment, so I’m confident in my business decisions.

“My opinion of 2020 is simple: Know your niche market and lead it, not follow it.”

The booth for Flomatic Corp. drew in several
attendees wanting more information about its selection of valves.

Guardino reconnected with several past presidents of NGWA who wear the signature maroon suit jackets along with Partridge and newly elected NGWA Board Director Chauncey H. Leggett, CWD/PI.

“I love the direction our Association is headed,” Guardino says.


Optimism seemed contagious inside the exhibit hall in how 2019 concluded business-wise considering the slow start to the year. A large part of the sluggish start was due to heavy rainfall in regions of the country.

Another common sight at Groundwater Week 2019: water well system professionals taking delivery of newly purchased equipment or exhibitors taking purchase orders. It seemed most drill rigs and pump hoists were delivered to customers at the show.

Guardino took delivery of GEFCO Inc.’s CS-100, the third rig in his fleet that is being dedicated to domestic mud rotary ground source heat pump drilling and small water wells. His company also took delivery of Mudslayer Mfg.’s Limited Access M350, a new track-mounted
shaker unit with remote control and LED lighting.

Thomas Ulm at Multi-Power Products Ltd., a geotechnical and environmental drilling and support equipment manufacturer in British Columbia, Canada, educated Guardino’s crew on its new centrifuge mud cleaning system at the company’s booth.

“The oil and gas industry has used them for years but on a larger scale,” Guardino says. “We are hoping that we will be able to use their unit to clean up the drilling mud during our projects which will cut back on our off-haul and water usage during a project.”

Versa-Drill/Laibe Corp. was busy fielding questions about its new V-12 water well and geothermal drilling rig.

“We got a lot of good feedback and came home with many leads and quote requests,” says Marcus X. Laibe, president of Versa-Drill/Laibe in Indianapolis, Indiana. “Customers were most interested in the capability of this rig since the size of the rig is much smaller than our other models and all were pleasantly surprised at the power and capabilities of the rig all while maintaining underweight of the gross vehicle
weight rating of the truck.”

Jim “The Rookie” Morris gave an inspirational
keynote presentation as he detailed his meteoric rise from high school teacher to major league baseball pitcher.

Versa-Drill/Laibe had a display stand set up at its booth with the new style driller control console in a powered demo mode, which elicited valuable feedback from attendees, Laibe says.

“Customers are welcoming the new technology and liked hearing about our ability to troubleshoot and quickly fix field issues or customize the controls to a customer’s needs.”

One of the 22 first-time exhibitors, Cascadian Water, a designer and manufacturer of water treatment systems in Cle Elum, Washington, explained its new PolyHalt ion bond salt-free softener technology to attendees.

“So many good leads as customers are looking for a better way to soft water. So many good opportunities to work from across the United States and Canada,” says Gabe Ergler, business development manager.

“We’re looking forward to our future partnering with the groundwater industry to solve water problems simply and effectively with environmentally friendly solutions.”

For the second consecutive year, Grundfos hosted its Guts and Glory WaterPRO Championship to see who could record the fastest pump assembly time. Michael Raines of Beaver Lake Pump Svc. in Garfield, Arkansas, a walk-on semifinalist, won the event and earned $10,000.

Gary Hix, RG, CWD/PI, receives a plaque commemorating his year as the 2019 McEllhiney Lecturer from Jeffrey Williams, MGWC, CVCLD, the 2020 lecturer.

Demos are a common sight inside the exhibit hall, and TDH Mfg. of Haslet, Texas, demoed its 4×3 pump hoist to a crowd of attendees.

The NGWA Activity Areas located in the exhibit hall returned for the sixth year as well. They are designed so attendees can learn skills applicable to their job in a close setting ideal for interaction.

Attendees also brushed up on their welding skills at the Lincoln Electric VRTEX® 360 virtual reality welding simulator, which replicated welding setup and usage, engaged young professionals, and increased hand-eye coordination and muscle memory for welders.

Mitchell Lewis & Staver Co., an integrator of pumps, controls, motors, booster stations, and engineered solutions in Wilsonville, Oregon, received a boost in foot traffic from Groundwater Week 2019 colocating with the Irrigation Association.

“The show was fantastic with a lot of good traffic on the first day, providing us the opportunity to connect with existing customers as well as potential new customers in the industry,” says David De Rego, vice president of marketing. “Definitely a great event to keep our
fingers on the pulse of the market.

Seth Kellogg, PG, speaks to attendees at the NGWA Delegates Meeting. Kellogg was elected as the Scientists and Engineers Section Board vice-chair at the meeting.

“We featured our control panels in our booth which optimize the supply of water and conserve energy while protecting pumps in water systems to reduce downtime and water loss. There was a high level of interest in the panels with people wanting to know more about our capabilities and the geographies we service.”


Newly elected NGWA President Merritt Partridge, CVCLD, became one of the youngest—if not the youngest—presidents to lead the Association at the Delegates Meeting. Partridge spoke of his hopes and plans for NGWA in 2020 in being efficient and effective as an

Outgoing NGWA President Scott King, PG, P.Geo., LHG, who became the Association’s first president to come from the Scientists and Engineers Section, shared insightful comments with attendees on what 2019 was like at the helm.

Jeremy Bach, Robert C. Keyes, and Chauncey H. Leggett, CWD/PI, were elected to the NGWA Board of Directors. Keyes, of the NGWA Contractors Section Board of Directors, was elected to his second term and will serve as vice president of the section. This marks Bach and Leggett’s first terms on the Contractors Section Board of Directors.

Chris Charland of Pentair led a workshop titled “Understanding Friction Loss Calculations” that drew a standing-room-only crowd of attendees.

Seth Kellogg, PG, was elected as the Scientists and Engineers Section Board vice-chair and will also serve as an NGWA director. There were 242 delegates who voted at the meeting.

At the Keynote Presentation and Awards of Excellence Ceremony, Jim “The Rookie” Morris, a motivational speaker, shared his meteoric rise to major league baseball pitcher.

Todd Hunter, CWD/PI, the 2017 NGWA president, received the Robert Storm Intersectional Cooperation Award for promoting collaboration, enhancing cooperation, and fostering community among all groundwater professionals.

Jeffrey Williams, MGWC, CVCLD, the 2016 NGWA president, received the Standard Bearer Award for outstanding volunteer involvement in the legislative process on behalf of NGWA and its initiatives. Williams is also the 2020 McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer.

Two award winners received standing ovations: Lee Orton and Curtis King, CWD/PI.

Attendees grab some brats at the Beer and Brats Fest that wrapped up the final day in the exhibit hall. The fest was sponsored by first-time exhibitor Blackadar Insurance Agency Inc.

Orton, the first executive director of the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, received the Ross L. Oliver Award—NGWA’s most prestigious
award presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to the groundwater industry. Along with his decades of work with the NWDA, Orton helped organize the first NGWA Fly-In in Washington, D.C.

Orton encouraged those in attendance to be the local experts on groundwater in their respective region, educate the current and future government leaders, and get involved with the Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Guardian program.

King received both the NGWA Special Recognition and the Life Member Award.

King, of Healing Hands International in Centralia, Washington, helped the organization start a water well drilling program in the Port-au-Prince area following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. King’s career spanned 40 years in which he drilled more than 2000 wells that provided water to more than 3 million people in various countries.

“I’m so privileged that NGWA recognizes the well driller. That means a lot,” King says in the January “Catching Up” video interview.

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 (614) 898-7791,
ext. 1541.