Groundwater Week 2022 returned to Las Vegas for the first time since the pandemic and drew its second largest show ever.
By Mike Price
A busy year for many in the groundwater industry was punctuated by attending one of the largest Groundwater Week events in the history of the National Ground Water Association.
Groundwater Week 2022, which was held December 6-8 in Las Vegas, Nevada, saw 6464 attendees take part, making it the second largest show in Association history. The 74th annual show drew attendees from 36 countries and all 50 states. It was the first time the event was in Las Vegas since 2019.
The largest convention took place in 2006 when there were 6612 attendees.
“Groundwater Week 2022 will go down as one of the most successful shows in NGWA history and we could not have done it without the support of the entire industry,” says NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC.
“From exhibitors to presenters, attendees, and staff, everyone put in a tremendous effort to make this show successful and I cannot thank them enough. It’s a great reminder of what we can accomplish as an industry when we’re all working together, and we can’t wait to see everyone in 2023.”
Attendees took in more than 50 hours of educational offerings and visited 282 exhibitors—including 40 first-time companies—on a packed Exhibit Hall floor. There was a total of 78,100 square feet of exhibit space, the second most in NGWA convention history.
Groundwater Week collocated with the Irrigation Association for the third time and the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association had a pavilion for the second consecutive year in the Exhibit Hall, meaning there were more than 10,000 water professionals in Las Vegas throughout the week.
“In 23 years of attending and exhibiting at NGWA, this is the best show we have had by far,” says Nicolas Steverlynck of Hose Solutions Inc. “We had an amazing show, and the Speedy Pump Puller was a great hit and really had a lot of heads turning.”
The Exhibit Hall has long been known for showcasing the groundwater industry’s newest head-turning technology, and 2022 didn’t disappoint.
Many exhibitors introduced new products to the market for the first time, including Mudslayer Manufacturing. The company debuted its new track-mounted drill rig, the Odin 200, which can be a one-man operation rig if it is necessary.
“My whole philosophy behind this is to make it where one or two men can go out with one water truck and the drilling system and mud system on one trailer and do most any job you want to do—200 feet or 300 feet deep,” says Jim LaPorte, owner of Mudslayer in Guthrie Center, Iowa.
TDH Manufacturing debuted its Aqua Flows Rig Tender. The new design allows for more storage while offering three models to choose from: 1500-gallon, 2000-gallon, and 2500-gallon tank options.
TDH President Scott Moser and his team in Rhome, Texas, worked on the Aqua Flows Rig Tender for more than a year. He was pleased with the feedback and is motivated to continue developing designs or technological upgrades that he believes will help water well contractors be more successful.
Flomatic Valves featured various valve products and answered a variety of questions, including ones about break-off plugs to Spanish-speaking attendees.
“Our water well experts were honored to connect with so many individuals and industry leaders within the industry,” says Nick Farrara, president of Flomatic Valves in Glens Falls, New York. “Our partnership runs deep with NGWA, and we are proud to share our ongoing support for groundwater professionals.”
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Top-notch industry experts presented workshops on timely subjects affecting the water well industry, like “Air Drilling Best Practices,” “Energy-Based Hazard Identification,” and “Water Well Decommissioning/Sealing” just to name a few.
For the first time, attendees earned their continuing education units (CEUs) by having the QR code on their badge scanned by a staff member before entering the workshop.
“We definitely experienced increased foot traffic after our classes,” says LaTisha Shipman of Drilling Equipment Resources in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who presented the “All Things Hammers and Bits” workshop. “There were people who made a point to stop by to discuss issues they were having, and I would say primarily that was the topic—troubleshooting—discussing some bit failures and what could be the cause, bit identification, and hammer part identification.
“I had many inquiries on some of the products I mentioned in my slides about prolonging bit and hammer life, such as the inline oiler, bit sharpening systems, and DTH shock absorbers, as well as bit retrieval systems.
“I’m very excited about the future of our industry even though we all know there are struggles to overcome, such as finding new help, succession planning, etc., but I believe overall the industry is strong and united. I’ve been working in this industry for over 20 years
and it’s encouraging to see the drillers come together to form friendships and help each other. I think various social media groups have played a huge part in building morale within the industry and among drilling professionals.”
The popular Water Well Guys Facebook group had its own exhibit space where contractors who previously only interacted online with each other were able to meet in-person for the first time. A banner hung over their exhibit space that read “Building the Next Generation of Water Well Professionals.”
“The networking opportunity and camaraderie at the show—favorite part about Vegas,” says Jacob Singley, a fourth-generation owner/operator of Singley Drilling Inc. in Lewiston, Montana, who represented the company at the show for the first time since the late 1970s, early 80s.
“As far as we are aware, we are the oldest water well company in Montana. Our company will celebrate 112 years in April. The workshops that I attended were all great. I especially enjoyed the workshop about protecting profits and upgrading equipment. That is currently the phase our business is in and focusing on. It was good to hear things that we are currently doing along with other ideas and practices to implement in the business.”
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The Groundwater Foundation’s 2023 McEllhiney Lecture Series in Water Well Technology kicked off with Fred Rothauge, CWD, presenting “Are We Creating Long-Term Groundwater Assets or Just Installing Wells?”
“Groundwater Week 2022 proved to be full of optimism and excitement as attendance was not only up with overall attendance, but the class sizes showed that attendees were there to learn,” Rothauge says. “That gave me encouragement looking forward to what’s to come for 2023. I believe that if we continue to grow educational opportunities at Groundwater Week and through NGWA University, we can instill pride
and the desire for better choices to those entering the groundwater industry as well as those who are more seasoned and who desire to be better at their job.
“My favorite part was running into all the friends and colleagues I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from over the past 40 years and seeing how this industry has served them and sharing my journey with them.”
Arthur Robinson, program manager for the Montana Board of Water Well Contractors in Helena, Montana, sat in on the lecture and believed younger drillers could stand to benefit from it too. Rothauge was scheduled to present the lecture to the Montana Water Well Drillers Association in February.
“I hope it makes an impact and impression on the newer drillers,” Robinson says. “I want to use younger drillers. They seem to be more of a challenge.”
Some new events debuted at Groundwater Week, including two designed to aid young and early-career groundwater professionals. There was a tour of the Exhibit Hall led by seasoned groundwater veterans 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 John Boyette Jr., CVCLD, of Boyette Well & Septic in Wilson, North Carolina, Buddy Sebastian of Sebastian & Sons Well Drilling Inc. in Springport, Michigan, and Rothauge of Hydro Resources Inc. in Fort Lupton, Colorado, elected to the NGWA Board of Directors.
Keynote speaker Rocky Bleier, a former Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers who is also a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the audience at the Keynote Presentation and NGWA Awards of Excellence Ceremony of his life story and how perseverance and teamwork
helped him achieve against all odds.
Long-time NGWA member David Henrich, CWD/PI, CVCLD, received the Ross L. Oliver Award amid a standing ovation. Henrich reminded attendees not to forget the value they bring and encouraged them to continue forward in these busy times. He also challenged them to make diverse friends so decisions can be more well founded.
Jason House, LG, PG, of Woodard & Curran Inc. in Portland, Maine, became the NGWA president, marking just the second time someone from the NGWA Scientists and Engineers Section has served as president.
House, who received the gavel from Past President Brian Snelten, PG, spoke of teamwork as well in his acceptance speech at the NGWA Delegates Meeting.
“Whatever we face in 2023—the economy, finding qualified employees, or regulatory challenges—our members are resilient, and I look forward to working with them and our board members,” House says. “Working together with all our membership sections, there is no problem we can’t solve.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.