Staying Connected Virtually

NGWA’s first all virtual Groundwater Week 2020 allowed industry professionals to participate in the 72nd annual trade show.

By Mike Price

Flomatic Valves’ Daniel Hidalgo prepares his company’s virtual booth at its office before the start of Groundwater Week 2020.

With restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, nearly 2500 industry professionals attended NGWA’s first all virtual Groundwater Week 2020.

The 72nd annual Groundwater Week, held December 8-11, saw 2490 professionals from 58 countries across the globe, in addition to the United States, take in four days of educational sessions, product demonstrations, and opportunities to visit 76 exhibitors in the virtual exhibit hall. All sectors of the industry—water well system professionals, manufacturers, suppliers, and scientists and engineers—were represented.

Originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the third consecutive year, Groundwater Week 2020 was moved to a virtual format due to constraints on gatherings in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tom Stephan, a training manager for Goulds Water Technology, speaks during his workshop titled “Motor Mysteries Solved.”

“While the format was different in 2020, the event still provided many of the great experiences our industry expects from Groundwater Week,” says NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC. “I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish and look forward to getting started on planning our in-person event in 2021 in Nashville.”

The event featured Kevin McGinnis’ Keynote Presentation, “Establishing Social Distancing Between Contamination and Drinking Water Systems,” and the 2020 NGWA Industry Awards Ceremony.

NGWA Board of Directors President-Elect Brian Snelten, PG, takes a break in between viewing sessions.

McGinnis, president of Cotey Chemical Corp., is also The Groundwater Foundation’s 2021 McEllhiney Lecturer and delivered the kickoff presentation of that talk, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Innovative Treatment Options for Established and Emerging Water Quality Challenges.”

“We are so grateful to all the exhibitors/sponsors, members, and especially NGWA staff who stepped up to make the event the best it could be,” says NGWA President Merritt Partridge, vice president of Partridge Well Drilling Co. Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida.

Team members from Franklin Electric interact with attendees who are visiting the company’s booth in the virtual exhibit hall.

“Attendance and participation greatly exceeded our expectations. The quality of the classes and material provided was top notch.

“It was great seeing everyone at the virtual booths. The year 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty, but you can be certain our industry remains strong. Groundwater Week was a great example of just that.”

There were nine hours of exhibit time over three days for attendees to interact with the 76 exhibitors—including three first-time exhibitors (Texas Pipe Works Inc., Ketos Inc., and HydroMetrics Inc.). Attendees watched product demonstrations in the exhibitor’s virtual booths and had the option to talk directly with the exhibitor in a private virtual meeting.

Franklin Electric, the Diamond Partner of Groundwater Week 2020, donated $50 to NGWA for every non-exhibiting attendee who visited its booth during Groundwater Week and raised $25,000 in total donations. NGWA also gave away different swag items courtesy of Franklin Electric during each day of the event.

“Groundwater Week 2020 was uncharted territory, but everything went very well,” says Franklin Electric Director of Sales Travis Bradley.

“From educational sessions to private meetings, we were able to connect with professionals in the industry and have meaningful conversations. While we missed seeing everyone in person, we were able to connect with some attendees who had not participated in prior years due to the required travel.”

Companies traditionally debut new products to attendees at Groundwater Week, and Flomatic Valves was among the ones to do just that. The company in Glens Falls, New York, released its new Model 48 1-inch drain-back valve for submersible pump water well installations.

NGWA randomly awarded $500 in prize money ($2000 total) to two attendees who visited exhibitors in the virtual exhibit hall during each of the two days in the middle of Groundwater Week 2020.

In addition, attendees earned points and won prizes throughout Groundwater Week 2020 when performing certain actions during the live show—such as visiting an exhibitor, scheduling a meeting, adding their profile photo, and other items. Attendees tracked their score and watched the leaderboard to see how many points they needed to be entered into several drawings on the Groundwater Week virtual platform.

During breaks in learning, attendees stopped by “The Playground” on the virtual platform and watched NGWA’s on-demand videos that included a special song written for NGWA by Gary Jenkins, a performance by Nashville singer/songwriter Celeste Kellogg (who happens to be a water well driller’s daughter), a biscuit cooking class from Biscuit Love in Nashville, and more.

The event also gave attendees the opportunity to watch memorable Keynote Presentations from previous years in segments titled “Keynote Flashback.”

The workshop “Large Wells/Small Spaces: The Challenges of Urban Drilling” was one of the best attended of the week.

Sponsored by Goulds Water Technology, a Xylem brand, attendees were able to connect with one another throughout Groundwater Week 2020 in public chat forums.

Attendees and exhibitors alike navigated the virtual platform and could contact NGWA’s Help Desk if any technical issues arose.

“You have compassion for what we are all dealing with,” one exhibitor told NGWA. “We are all learning and adapting and you clearly embrace that and are guiding us through the journey. Your frequent emails about new learnings are very much welcomed and appreciated and put technical professionals and vendors at ease.”


Melissa Dunkle, CPA, gave a presentation on changes to federal business income taxation in response to the pandemic.

Attendees had more than 50 hours of educational offerings to choose from to learn how to increase job performance and earn continuing education credits.

The virtual platform allowed for questions for the presenter after each workshop, just like in an in-person session. Attendees entered their questions in a chat box following the pre-recorded presentation and the presenter then answered them live for all attendees to hear.

“I was one of the skeptics of how the virtual convention would come together,” says David Kill, a Goulds Water Technology training consultant who presented “Proper Pump Selection Minimizes Operation and Maintenance Costs.”

A popular workshop was Steve Wilson’s “Helping Well Owners Understand Their Risks and Well Vulnerability.”

“It was great. You put one of the best education programs together for this entire week. The pre-recording of the presentations worked like clockwork.”

Business was clearly top of mind for many attendees as a popular workshop was “State and Local Tax—Updates, Pitfalls, and Opportunities” by Joe Popp
of Rea and Associates Inc. More than 420 attendees listened to it.

Jeff Williams, MGWC, CVCLD, gave two business-related workshops: “Realistic Budgeting to Reinvest in Your Business” with Gary Hix, CWD/ PI, and The Groundwater Foundation’s 2020 McEllhiney Lecture farewell presentation, “Running a Business or Doing a Job: Combining Professional Expertise with Business Savvy.”

“If we can’t buy new rigs, nobody’s going to buy new rigs. That’s the simple truth,” Williams says in his lecture.

For those who have scant accounting knowledge and wanted to hone their skills, NGWA Director of Finance Becca Calkins, CPA, presented “How to Read a Profit and Loss Statement: More Than Just Numbers.” Calkins also presented “Five Ways to Build a Workplace Employees Love.”

Charles Kile presented “Marketing Your Business for the Future,” a workshop that explored how contractors can be more proactive in their market approach to exert greater control of their individual and their company’s future without solely relying on referrals and good luck. Hint: Having a company presence online is key.

Groundwater Week 2021 Will Be in Nashville
Groundwater Week 2021 will take place December 14-16 in Nashville, Tennessee. Registration will open in early 2021 at

The Call for Abstracts will be posted by January 31 at Deadline for submissions is May 1.

For more information about the Groundwater Week 2021 Call for Abstracts, contact NGWA Director of Learning and Knowledge Kathy Butcher, CMP, at

For more information about the exhibition and sponsorship opportunities, contact Kelli Nilsson at

“As business owners, we have to adapt to our clientele because they aren’t going to go out of their way to find us. They want what they want now and to find it easily wherever they look. For most people in 2020, that’s their phone or computer,” Kile said in the October 2020 Water Well Journal Q&A.

Beyond business workshops, industry topics ranged from proper drill site assessment, preparation, and execution to water well cleaning and maintenance to the challenges of urban drilling to many others that were covered by industry experts.

In “Hey Hey PFAS Go Away!—The Forever Chemical That’s Finite,” Franklin Electric Director of Sales–Water Treatment Stephen Hamilton addressed the business opportunities of profit, professional duties, selling practices, and installation, and remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for the installer.

John Fowler, CSP, CMSP, presented an important safety workshop, “Pressure Hazards in the Groundwater Industry.” Attendees learned how to properly inspect fluid and air hoses, and hydraulic hoses, as well as compressors in accordance with the regulations governing them. The impact of high-pressure systems on cast vs. forged fittings was addressed in addition to the hazards of hydraulic oil injection.

In Case You Missed It:
Registered attendees will have access to the virtual Groundwater Week and Groundwater Summit platform until June 30. During the first half of 2021, sessions will be made available for purchase on NGWA University for those who didn’t attend Groundwater Week and Groundwater Summit.

Steve Wilson of the Illinois State Water Survey covered a timeless topic in the industry, “Helping Well Owners understand Their Risks and Well Vulnerability.” Wilson referenced the Private Well Class program guide that was developed to help well owners who aren’t as knowledgeable about subjects such as backflow devices and septic systems.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, everything changed for the modern workplace. WWJ Editor Thad Plumley co-presented the workshop, “Managing Remote Employees.” Plumley and others answered the question: How is it possible to bridge the communication and empathy gap between managers working from home with service-oriented employees who must still be in the field under challenging conditions?

Plumley shared his seven rules for managing remote employees and provided statistics from a recent survey on the subject.

A continuing education unit (CEU) certificate of attendance was emailed to attendees for each workshop they attended. Registered attendees will have access to the virtual Groundwater Week and Groundwater Summit platform until June 30.

During the first half of 2021, sessions will be made available for purchase on NGWA University for those who didn’t attend Groundwater Week and Groundwater Summit.

“I was impressed with Terry and NGWA staff on how quickly they were able to put this event together and the quality of the classes,” says NGWA President-Elect Brian Snelten, PG, project manager for Layne Christensen, A Granite Company, in Aurora, Illinois.

“The event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our manufacturers and suppliers and their dedication to this event. It was great to see them even if virtually and I was able to connect with vendors in a multitude of ways to seek out the information I needed—just like I was there in person.

“I was extremely proud of our Association for being able to put this event on virtually with limited time. I can’t wait to see everyone in Nashville in 2021 and make it a record-breaking non-Vegas show!”

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, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.

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