Nov 12, 2021

Q&A With NGWA President-Elect Brian Snelten

Learn about Ground Water Week and the future of the National Ground Water Association

National Ground Water Association hosts Groundwater Week in Nashville, Tennesee Dec. 14 to 16 at the Music City Center.
The National Ground Water Association hosts Groundwater Week in Nashville, Tennesee Dec. 14 to 16 at the Music City Center.

The National Ground Water Association Groundwater Week will return to a live venue Dec. 14 to 16, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee at the Music City Center. WWD Senior Managing Editor Bob Crossen spoke with NGWA President-elect Brian Snelten about the event and what to expect. For one, he is delighted to see friends and colleagues together, and secondly, he sees it as a critical opportunity to answer the most pressing industry questions on everybody’s mind.

NGWA President-elect Brian Snelten
NGWA President-elect Brian Snelten

What Makes Groundwater Week Special This Year? 

Bob Crossen: Tell me about Groundwater Week. I've read about it multiple years in a row, but tell me about Groundwater Week. What makes it special this year?

Brian Snelten: So Groundwater Week is kind of our big event every year. That's where we kind of all gathered together as an association with all of our different sections. We have manufacturers, suppliers, contractor science and engineers. So this is the big event where we all get in the room together and we're excited that this year, we actually get to get in the room together.

We're more excited about that than anything, but this event includes our continuing education for both our contractor members, and our scientists, and engineers. And then for our manufacturers and suppliers, we have a big exhibit So they get a chance to show off their new products, reconnect with people that they haven't seen in a year and talk about what's coming up in the industry.

And again, just get back together and talk to a friend or a colleague, like “Hey, I had a trouble on this project,” and “Hey, you should try that.” So it's a great event, everyone looks forward to it each year and then we’ll be back in Nashville where we haven't been in a few years. It's just a good town to have fun in. What better place than to get together in Nashville? 


What Can People Expect from GroundWater Week?

Crossen: So what can people expect from the event? You mentioned the exhibit space. It sounds like there's some educational stuff and obviously the networking aspect, and actually networking in person for the first time in forever. But what can people expect from the event? What do you hope that people take away from it?

Snelten: As you mentioned, yes, the big things are that we have a lot of continuing education going on and the exhibit hall with the new products; just getting to put your hands on things again. Those are some of the big key features that everyone does. What I'm looking to take away from it, is that sense of normalcy again with the pandemic that we've had.

So getting to see each other again and talking to colleagues, finding out that some of the problems that everyone is going through. With supply chain issues, right now, everyone's kind of going through it and it kind of in a way makes you feel like you're not on an island anymore.

Like “Oh you're having the same problem I am? Okay, well, that's good to know.” So I think we're gonna get a good sense of where we are as an industry by talking to each other again, and come out of that. And hopefully come up with some good ideas and suggestions.

Register for Groundwater Week online.

Discuss Labor & Workforce Challenges & Solutions

Crossen: I hear about this issue of the supply chains. I was just at the WWEMA meeting last week and so it's all water and wastewater equipment manufacturers who were there, and not a single person wasn't dealing with this. And then the other thing is the workforce, too.

Because there's been this whole exodus of working folk, and it's been really challenging, not only to hire, but to also retain. So they're really struggling with that element too. So again to your point, maybe you don't feel like you're on an island anymore. 

Snelten: I’m glad you brought up the labor issue, too. I have been talking with a lot of our contractor members, and even suppliers. And it's just trying to find people to hire and it's been a problem. I know my company, we've got a lot of openings and trying to just get people to apply is just so hard.

Crossen: Yeah, yeah. Getting people to apply. And then when they do apply, actually showing up for the interview, and then if you hire them, actually showing up for the job, then when they show up the job, actually staying for longer than three months. It's like each one is a battle for everybody right now.

Snelten: And we would love to be able to solve the whole problem as an industry, but it just has so many facets to it that you find out that you're just a small little cog and wheel. There's a lot that needs to happen for everything to kind of run smoothly again.

What Makes Groundwater Week Different from Other Events?

Crossen: Getting back to this to the event. How is that? How is this particular event different from other ones throughout the year? Obviously, you have your WEFTECs and you have your AWWA shows, but what makes Groundwater Week different from those? 

Snelten: Those are a little bit more pointed, a little bit more focused. This is more of a broader event that kind of just brings everyone under the same tent. You know, interacting because we all really rely on each other. Especially, you know, scientists and engineers rely on our contractor members to do some of the drilling work for them.

The drilling contractors rely on the scientists and engineers to do the studies to design the wells. And then the manufacturers and suppliers depend on everyone. So it's like we have this nice symbiotic relationship, and to put all those pieces in the room and get everyone to talk with the common goal is a great thing.

Crossen: Yeah, it's kind of like a mind-meld or think tank in a way. Like, we were just talking, how do we solve this labor issue? How do we solve these supply chain issues? And now also, how are we gonna address this Buy America stuff that's in this infrastructure built too? Because that's all the next level where we're going to run into some challenges there for sure. 


How Industry Professionals Can Get Involved with Ground Water Week?

Crossen: How can industry professionals get involved? Obviously, they can show up and take part in these conversations. But are there other ways that they can get involved with Groundwater Week and the association?

Snelten: Obviously, like you said, showing up to the event is the biggest thing they can do to get involved. We have a lot of different committees and subcommittees that people can volunteer for where we rely on each one of our sections to be experts in their fields and provide either training or continuing education to another section.

So there's a lot of opportunities to get involved with us and that was something that kind of brought me into the industry or into this association was volunteering. I started out on a small committee and then I said, well, that was pretty fun. I'd like to get involved some more and then I got involved more and more and then next thing, you know, here I am, taking over as president.

So there's lots of opportunities for everybody to get involved in the association. And sometimes it's just a matter of putting the foot forward and saying, hey, I'd like to help out. Or is there anything I can do or even just be an asked by somebody to say, hey, you seem like you have a very good trait, in this particular area and we could use someone like you would like to help us out. Sometimes people just need to be asked and they'd be more than happy to volunteer, but they just don't know how to go about doing that.

Crossen: Yeah. Engage your people, right? 

Snelten: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of people with a lot of talent that sometimes will just sit on the sidelines because they don't know how to get involved or they're afraid to speak up. And if you notice somebody doing that and you ask them and invite them in, the next thing you know, they're you're shining stars of your association. So yeah, lots of ways for people to get involved. 

Crossen: Well, and like you said some people might be interested, but are scared of the commitment or scared of the outcome. There’s just that one hurdle they haven't cleared yet. Just get them over the hurdle and they'll be in forever. 

Snelten: For some, they’re like, “I don't have the time to do that,” and then you find out it's an hour once a month or an hour, once a quarter, and it's really not that much. But you get that sense of giving back to the industry because you work so hard in the industry. That's all of our members in our association. They're very hardworking people. They love the industry, and it's just that little bit of giving back, it makes the industry so much better. 

What did 2021 Hold for National Ground Water Association?

Crossen: II wanted to talk just a little bit more broadly about the National Groundwater Association as a whole, too, kind of like reflecting on 2021. How was the year for you guys? And then looking forward to 2022, what are you expecting and what are you excited about? 

Snelten: 2021 was difficult as it was for most organizations how we navigated into an arena that no one has been before. It started out with our Groundwater Week last year.

We had to go virtual, and how do we do that? What’s that gonna look like? How do we engage with people?

Some of the other parts of our industry especially for our contractors, we're very public. We're very out in customers homes. We're out in the field, so how do you do that and do it safely in the middle of a pandemic? So our members had come together, we had put out some good suggestions to keep your employees safe like: here's how you can isolate crews, so if somebody does get sick, you don't take your whole business down with you.

So the association was really good about jumping on that early and getting that information out to our members, which helped them keep their businesses open and stay afloat. 

The next part was the PPP loans. A lot of small business owners didn't know how to navigate those waters, because they were such a new thing. And we had some past presidents and some association members kind of get together and put an outline out there to say, “Hey, this is what you should do and here's where you should look to do that.” So, another good thing is that being part of an association like that helps you in these new waters that you're trying to navigate.

So, we had a lot of that last year of just trying to fly the plane as you're building it type of thing. I was really proud to be part of this association in how we responded as quickly as we did for our members, which says a lot about the strength of the association.

What Does the National Ground Water Association Foresee in 2022?

Snelten: We're looking forward to just kind of finding some normalcy again; hoping that we navigate now these new supply chain issues. 

How do we keep cash flow moving for some of our businesses? How do we hire new people? How do we navigate this new world that we’re living in as we're coming out of [the pandemic] and trying to get back to what we used to know? So there's a lot of challenges that are still there that we're trying to also find new ways to help our members.

So with that comes a lot of discussion again, which is another good reason why we get together at Groundwater Week. We share ideas, just in casual conversation. Sometimes something comes up that's a great idea and you're like, “Wow, why I didn't think about that!” And then you start talking about it, and you build upon it. So those are, those are some things that we're looking forward to next year. 

About the author

Bob Crossen is senior managing editor for Water & Wastes Digest. Crossen can be reached at