About Us: History


A CENTURY OF SERVICE

For more than a century, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) has been providing a critical link in the evolution of our nation’s water environment. From its early years of managing exhibitions showcasing the latest developments in technology, to its recent work on federal advisory boards providing direction on international trade policy, WWEMA has a proven history of service to the water and wastewater industry and the manufacturers it represents.


The First Fifty Years: It’s All Show Business

In 1908, a group of manufacturers belonging to the American Water Works Association decided to form their own organization for the sole purpose of managing the exhibits at AWWA regional and national conferences. They established the Water Works Manufacturers Association (WWMA).

For the next 30 years, WWMA was responsible for running the exhibition portion of these trade shows and for providing conference attendees transportation to and from these events. The favored mode of transportation was America’s rail system. WWMA would contract with the railways to provide discount pricing for AWWA conferees, a service of particular importance during the time of the Great Depression.

It was not until the 1940s that WWMA changed its name to the Water and Sewage Works Association (WSWA) to reflect its expanded scope of trade show service to the newly formed Federation of Sewerage Works Association – known today as the Water Environment Federation. For the next 20 years, representing a half century of service to this industry, WSWA’s primary focus was to manage and help expand the regional and national exhibitions for these two premier organizations.


1960s: A Decade In Transition

The 1960s witnessed a great deal of change for America, and WSWA was no exception. The member companies of WSWA joined forces to institute a $1 million public relations campaign to educate the general population on the value of water as a life giving “product” to be safeguarded and preserved. This campaign was the advent of the nation’s safe drinking water supply and water pollution abatement programs.

With the change in perception of water as a critical commodity came another – and final – change in WSWA’s name. The organization was renamed the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) in 1964 – a name that has come to be synonymous with the premier producers of technology used by municipal and industrial clients worldwide.


1970s: WWEMA Ascends on the Nation’s Capital

By the early 1970s, with stories of rivers catching on fire and aquatic populations dying off from excessive pollution spills, Congress decided to take action by calling for a new national program to restore the nation’s water resources. WWEMA members responded to the challenge, moved its headquarters from Newark, New Jersey to Washington, D.C., and became directly engaged in the legislative process, offering critical knowledge of its member companies’ technological capabilities for treating municipal and industrial waste. The result was enactment of the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 and the accompanying EPA Wastewater Treatment Construction Grants Program.

No sooner did Congress enact this legislation to restore the physical and biological integrity of the nation’s water resources than it directed its attention to the state of the nation’s deteriorating water supplies. WWEMA members again had a formidable voice in the creation of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. These two landmark statutes were to dictate the future of the water and wastewater industry – and that of the equipment manufacturers - for decades to come.

WWEMA held its first annual Washington Forum in 1972 to provide its members an opportunity to interface with congressional and regulatory policymakers and obtain first-hand knowledge of the laws and regulations that will drive the demand for their products and services by municipal and industrial clients, alike. In 1973, WWEMA held its first of many Industrial Water and Pollution Control Conferences to acquaint industry with the latest technological advancements for treating their water pollution discharges and providing their water purification needs.

It was in the late 1970s that WWEMA decided to relinquish control of the AWWA and WEF exhibits. Its leadership chose to focus the Association’s resources on public policy-related activities, recognizing that the industry had become a regulatory-driven market and that its members’ future welfare depended on WWEMA being actively engaged in the development and implementation of these new national requirements.


1980s: Advocacy Efforts Take Center Stage

Throughout the 1980s, WWEMA championed a number of significant changes in the way water and wastewater treatment plants were to be financed. Through participation on federal advisory committees, WWEMA succeeded in obtaining multi-year funding for innovative and alternative technologies under the EPA Wastewater Treatment Construction Grants Program. Mandatory progress payments, equipment pre-qualification allowances and design/build delivery methods were also advocated by WWEMA and permitted on federally-funded wastewater treatment projects.

By the late 1980s, the Grants Program was phased out and replaced with a state revolving loan program. WWEMA advocated this needed change as a means of ensuring access to a perpetual source of funding for future construction needs. At WWEMA’s urging, a similar program was also established for drinking water utilities in the early 1990s to assist them in complying with new Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. WWEMA served on several federal advisory committees responsible for establishing new drinking water standards and determining best technologies for treating a host of contaminants regulated under this law.

WWEMA’s breadth of influence extended beyond Washington, defending its members’ interests on a number of state initiatives, including defeat of a Wisconsin law which would have imposed standards governing the relationship between a representative and a manufacturer. A Louisiana statute that prohibited equipment manufacturers from limiting liability for consequential damages was also repealed through WWEMA’s state advocacy efforts.

At the industry level, WWEMA prevented a monopoly in the offering of certification services for the Drinking Water Additives Program and ensured that material certifications would be acceptable as a means of streamlining product approvals in a more cost-effective way. Manufacturers also attained significant savings in their products liability insurance costs through participation in WWEMA’s captive insurance company. Attempts by the National Fire Protection Association to prohibit use of fiberglass and plastics in wastewater treatment plants were refuted by WWEMA through its active involvement in this and other standards-making organizations.


1990s: Globalization of an Industry

The 1990s will be remembered as the decade when the U.S. water and wastewater industry went global. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that the global market for environmental goods and services stood at $200 billion in 1990 and would grow to $400 billion by the end of the decade. The OECD also estimated that the market for water and wastewater services and equipment would increase from $60 billion to $83 billion, or by nearly 40 percent during the decade. With the United States only exporting $410 million in water-related equipment in 1990, it became readily apparent that the future viability of the industry depended on its ability to capture a greater share of the burgeoning export market.

WWEMA rose to the occasion and became actively involved in helping shape U.S. policies and programs to facilitate its members’ competitiveness in the world market. WWEMA participated in White House strategy meetings and marched on Capitol Hill in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. WWEMA advocated the lifting of economic sanctions against South Africa in order to promote trade in environmental technology. WWEMA opposed U.S. Department of Commerce export license requirements governing production of biological and chemical weapons, which would have unduly restricted exports of water and wastewater equipment.

To encourage expansion into new markets overseas, WWEMA obtained funding for its members to introduce their products to Asia and the Middle East through financial assistance programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

WWEMA members serve on the prestigious Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee (ETTAC) which provides guidance to 19 federal department and agencies responsible for U.S. trade policy and programs involving the environmental technology industry sector. One such program of particular importance to WWEMA members is the Export Trade Certificate of Review program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, in concurrence with the Justice Department. WWEMA members are able to engage in joint export activities and compete more effectively, knowing that they are immune from federal anti-trust violations through the protections provided by WWEMA’s Export Trade Certificate.


Another Century of Opportunity

WWEMA stands strong and proud of its 100+ years of service to the water and wastewater industry. The Association today represents the industry's leading manufacturers and representatives of environmental technologies used worldwide for treating wastewater and purifying drinking water, in both municipal and industrial applications. Its mission is to inform, educate and provide leadership on the issues that shape the future of the water and wastewater industry. No doubt the century that lies ahead will offer ample opportunity to be engaged in issues of critical importance to the industry we serve, the environment we protect, and the world we live in.