Welcome to this episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. In our first segment, we speak with George McGraw, founder and CEO of Dig Deep. In our policy segment, we speak with Chad Seidel, President at Corona Environmental Consulting LLC, adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a council member with the Water and Health Advisory Council. In our last segment, we speak with Gabe Pinchev, CEO of Field Pulse, talking about trends in the plumbing industry.
To get in touch with DigDeep, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find also find DigDeep on Twitter @digdeepH2O and on Instagram @digdeepwater. You can find research, videos, and information about DigDeep projects all over the US at DigDeep.org.
Chad Seidel and Corona Environmental can be reached on Twitter @ChadSeidel and @CoronaENV, respectively. You can reach the Water and Health Advisory Council at WaterAdvisory.org.
Gabe Pinchev can be reached at Gabriel.Pinchev@fieldpulse.com. If you'd like to learn more about FieldPulse, visit fieldpulse.com.
Christoph Lohr: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. When talking about the built environment, we will do well to remember we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Therefore, on each episode, we'll discuss the latest trends from IAPMO in plumbing and mechanical safety, sustainability, and resiliency.
Join me, your host, Christoph Lohr and together we'll explore the ways we can make our building shape us for the better.
Welcome to this episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. We have a great episode lined up for you today. In our first segment, we speak with George McGraw, founder and CEO of Dig Deep. In our policy segment, we'll be speaking with Chad Seidel, President at Corona Environmental Consulting LLC, adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a council member with the Water and Health Advisory Council. And in our last segment, we'll speak with Gabe Pinchev, CEO of Field Pulse, talking about trends in the plumbing industry.
[00:01:00] Before we get started, I want to extend an invitation to join us for the Water Demand Calculator Summit 2022 hosted by IAPMO. This one-day event will review some of the first steps that were taken this last year and taking the Water Demand Calculator from residential to commercial buildings, review some of the economic and sustainability benefits of the plumbing industry and owners in using the calculator, and get a view from space of the calculator from domestic and international colleagues. Join us as we learn together about the small steps and giant leaps that were made this last year. To learn more, go to www.IAPMOLearn.org.
Let's get at it. In our first segment, I talk with George McGraw, founder and CEO of Dig Deep, where we discuss a groundbreaking new report on the economic impact of America's hidden water crisis and the return on investment for closing the water access gap.
George, welcome to the show.
George McGraw: Thanks for having me Christoph.
Christoph Lohr: Well, we're really excited to have you on, and before we dive into [00:02:00] this really groundbreaking report you all put out there recently, I wanted to ask if you could tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your organization.
George McGraw: Yeah. So I'm George, McGraw the founder and ceo at digdeep.org.
When most people think of places without access to water, they think of Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia. But in fact, right here in the U.S. we have 2.2 million folks who don't have taps or toilets. No one knows better what a huge impact that has on your health and on your life than plumbers and mechanical officials, and welders and all those folks. I'm really happy to be talking to you about it today.
At Dig Deep, we build community led projects that provide people first time access to water and sanitation. We do that work on the Navajo Nation through our Navajo Water Project, in West Virginia and Kentucky through our Appalachia Water Project, and now in Texas through our Colonias Water Project. And we do a number of research and policy advocacy and sector building projects, all aimed at closing that water access gap for good.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Yes. And actually, for our listeners, we actually did a podcast in our first season [00:03:00] entirely on that Navajo nation ongoing project. Also would encourage you all that are listening to go back to that podcast episode. But today we are talking about a really groundbreaking report that Dig Deep, that you all issued that was entitled “Draining: the economic impact of America's hidden water crisis.” I guess, to start out with a question from a very high level, why this report, why now?
George McGraw: Yeah, that's a great question. Absolutely. So, we released in 2019 the first national study on water and sanitation access. It was called “Closing the Water Gap in the United States.”
And I co-authored that report with Radhika Fox, who you know is now the head of water at EPA. At the time, she was at the U.S. Water Alliance. It was the first national study to really look at what is the size of America's water gap and what are the components of that problem? We found race is the strongest indicator of whether you and your family will have a tap or a toilet in 2022.
And we looked at what's driving that problem. Why hasn't it been solved? I mean, in all of that, we were out in communities around the country meeting folks who, you know, were [00:04:00] struggling with this every day and they were telling us, “This is having a massive impact on me and my family. It's impacting our health. It's impacting our ability to keep our job or to go to school." And at the time we couldn't quantify the economic impact that was having on those families or on their communities or on the nation at large. But we knew it must be having an outsized effect. That's real money that people are losing. They're paying it in medical bills or they're losing those wages. And so as soon as we finished that report, we started work about two years ago on this one. Trying to quantify that for the first time and now we have that data in hand.
Christoph Lohr: That data, again, there's an executive summary and a full report that our listeners can download.
George, can you tell them where to find that report?
George McGraw: Oh yeah. This whole thing lives on digdeep.org/draining. And then, like you said, the report executive summary, and there's some really good data just sitting on that webpage ready for you.
Christoph Lohr: That first part of the data that I went through, the cost of living without a tap in toilet, it was staggering. You have five different categories for cost. One was time lost. Another one was physical health. Water purchase costs, [00:05:00] mental health, and then additional GDP impact loss productivity, and those dollar amounts were staggering to see in terms of total costs. Can you give our listeners a little bit, maybe dive into the weeds just a little bit, for them to understand how those numbers were determined?
George McGraw: Yeah, absolutely. So, the real headline number from the report is that every year we let the water access gap stay open — every year we let these 2.2 million, at least, Americans live without taps or toilets — we're losing $8.5 / $8 billion that we could otherwise put back into the economy every year. And that's just in the cost that we were able to calculate.
You mentioned those five. Another one is death. Every year we lose hundreds of people who die from say waterborne illnesses or things like diabetes inside the water access gap. We tried to quantify what we could. Put those costs together into a model and understand this loss. That's almost $16,000 per family per year, in many cases more than those families make every year.
And you mentioned a lot of them were estimating what the proportion of some of these impacts are related to water in sanitation. So, we found that [00:06:00] every year. There are 71,000 new cases of mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression, because people can't get access to water and sanitation, and it causes so much stress.
We found hundreds of thousands of new cases of waterborne illness. There's so many illnesses that these folks are contracting from unsafe water sources that they're forced to use because they don't have packs at home. I think one of the most surprising impacts that we found was 36,400 cases of type two diabetes, because a lot of people who don't have access to clean water at home, they go to the store to buy bottled water. And when they're there, they often buy soda instead. It's more aggressively marketed. It seems more valuable for the dollar and that's causing higher intake of sugar and diabetes and hypertension, heart disease, and all these issues and put that all together. And like I said, we're looking at $8.5 / $8 billion that we're just bleeding out of the economy every year. And the fact is that this gap is growing.
Christoph Lohr: You bring up some really good anecdotes that make the story real. I think we had, as we were preparing for this podcast, you had mentioned that you [00:07:00] had some personal stories in terms of the cost of living without a tap and toilets. Is there one that maybe you can share with our listeners to help them understand maybe the impact on an individual or group of individuals.
George McGraw: Oh, gladly. I'm really proud of that about this report, about all of the research we published at Dig Deep. And so its got a very human face. So this report is full of photography and personal stories from real people around the country that are facing this issue.
One of the ones I talk about at the beginning of the report was this encounter that I had years ago on the Navajo nation with a woman named Brenda. I was on a water truck that was visiting her house. She didn't have a water system at the time. And so the truck came and she, and her daughter and granddaughter, nieces and nephews flooded out of the house and filled everything they could with water — pickle jars, and cups and mugs and barrels or buckets. And, you know, we were placing these around the house and she herself filled a big cooking pot, like a stock. And went into the kitchen and started making tamales. After we were finished, I was sitting with Brenda in her kitchen and I said, oh, this is so nice, you're gonna make tamales. Or you're gonna have some family over for dinner.
And she said, oh [00:08:00] no. I'm gonna make these tamales and I'm gonna sell them. This is a source of income for me. I'm gonna put on this little license and I'm going to put these in a cooler and I'm gonna walk down the hill and I'm gonna sell them. And that's the money that I use for gas and to pay our electrical bill.
She explained to me that her husband, who wasn't there, works in a factory and he had been injured. His foot was injured and without water at home to keep the wound clean, it had become infected and gangrenous. And he had been sent to a hospital about 50 miles from their house in Gallup, but that was weeks before I got there. He'd been treated and discharged and was sleeping on the streets because no water meant no tamales, and no tamales meant no gas money, and no gas money meant Brenda couldn't go pick up her husband. And without her husband, there they lost their main source of household income. And you can see how not having reliable running water at home impacted every part of their life. It really put them in this precarious situation and threatened them with financial ruin. And they're not alone. This is a really common story.
Christoph Lohr: That's a really powerful story. And I think it's something that a lot of, [00:09:00] as you mentioned, it's something that a lot of people just don't realize. So, I think the awareness is definitely important. And I think, you know, reporting those stories does go a long way. Now, one of the things that the report also does, it doesn't just point out the problems. It actually talks about solutions, and it talks about not only the solutions, but the benefits of investing in this. There's a line in the report that was very memorable for me, which is the five to one ROI. For our listeners, can you maybe expand on that a little?
George McGraw: Oh happily. Yeah, the report is definitely not all bad news. I think it's really important to show what we're missing and what we're losing. But really, I think the exciting thing about the report is it shows what we have to gain by solving this problem. For every dollar we invest in providing access to taps and toilets for these Americans that don't have them, not only do we improve their lives — so many ways in some cases save their lives — but we also generate $5 in economic return for every $1 we invest. And that's a couple dollars in eliminating disease, reducing healthcare bills, improving mental health, and giving people more time at work or at [00:10:00] school and increasing their likelihood of getting a good job and creating wealth for their family.
It's also $3 that we get back just by preserving people's lives. And every time someone dies in the water access gap, that's a huge hit to the economic health of their family and their community and the nation. I think the real magic of this work is that it feels good. Like that moment when someone turns on the tap for the first time. It's magic and no one knows that better than a plumber. But the real magic is like, after that moment, all of the good that sort of ripples out from that. Now we can really measure that and we know that by closing the U.S. Water Gap, we could generate $220 billion in economic value over the next 50 years. And I don't know about you, but at a time when gas prices are insane and we're threatened with a recession and we're looking at ways to create value in the economy, like, what more valuable thing could we do than invest in this basic infrastructure?
Christoph Lohr: Well, and I think the investment on the infrastructure and developing partnerships is a real key point. Obviously, Dig Deep and IAPMO have had a really good [00:11:00] partnership on a lot of these. And yeah, I think the awareness that has brought in terms of this report and other things I think is, I would imagine, you would you see the benefit there as well in terms of that education and awareness side of things.
George McGraw: I started Dig Deep about 10 years ago in my apartment bedroom, and as we got started, I think one of the first groups that ever asked me to come speak was IAPMO, having their big national codes conference in Albuquerque. And I've never been mobbed the way I was after that speech. Like, you know, plumbers and union folks coming up to me afterward and being like, we see this, we want to help, we're so glad someone's doing something about this. Let's work together. And since then, we've done work like Community Plumbing Challenges, for instance, that have brought tens and hundreds of plumbers in – master plumbers from the U.S. and other countries to places like the Navajo Nation to build bathrooms and install septic systems and provide first time access to taps and toilets and those kind of partnerships that work on the ground. The work that we've been able to do together to educate lawmakers on this to work on things like the bipartisan infrastructure law. [00:12:00] Now that's being rolled out and advising folks on how best to make sure those dollars meet community needs . That really is invaluable and I'm really excited to see where that goes.
Christoph Lohr: Likewise, likewise. The next time we have you on, what will we be talking about?
George McGraw: So, you warned me that you'd asked me this question and it was sort of a tie in my mind. I'm really excited that we just launched work into Texas Colonias as 550,000 people living in colonias, which are irregular communities along the U.S. / Mexico border. Many of them without basic services like water, electricity, roads, and we've developed a new model for public private partnership, with the help of people in the plumbing industry, to bring running water and wastewater for the first time to some of these communities in places like El Paso county. I'm really excited to talk about that, or at least to send the people running that project to talk to you like we did with Navajo. I also think the other thing that's gonna be a big topic for us as an industry and as a community is really gonna be the rollout of this bipartisan infrastructure law.
That law was really never aimed at closing the water access gap for good. It's gonna result in first [00:13:00] time access for a lot of folks, including indigenous people through big investments in the Indian health service, for instance, and in other places. It's not gonna close the gap on its own and that gap is widening and it's really only gonna be successful for some of those folks if we can get the dollars to the right places quick enough. And so, I think talking about that, bringing other experts on to talk about that, even if they're not me, is gonna be really important going forward. Because that's a massive historical investment. We need to have a lot more of it, but we need to keep our eyes as a community on that investment and hold government's feet to the fire and make sure that they do good by us, that they keep their promises.
Christoph Lohr: That sounds like a lot to do, but also a lot of great opportunity there too.
George McGraw: Yeah. Tremendous. There's never been a better time to be working in its field or a more important time.
Christoph Lohr: Definitely. Definitely. As we wrap up here, if our listeners want to get in touch with you or your organization, what's the best way for them to do that.
George McGraw: Oh, we are super available. You can always send us an email. If you have a specific question or want to reach out with a resource or to help, you can get us at email@example.com. You can find us on [00:14:00] Twitter @digdeepH2O or on Instagram @digdeepwater. And we just love interacting with folks online. You can find all sorts of resources — our research, great videos, information about our projects all over the us — at DigDeep.org, and then we hope folks will reach.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. And one more time for our listeners that reports at digdeep.org/draining, correct?
George McGraw: That's right.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Excellent. Well, George. On behalf of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, just wanna say thank you again for your time today and for sharing this really important information.
George McGraw: Thank you, Christoph. Water is life.
Christoph Lohr: In our middle segment, here's my conversation with Chad Seidel, where we discuss making sure everyone has access to clean drinking water, using science to inform decisions and prioritize resources, and making effective public health protection provisions.
Chad, welcome to the show.
Chad Seidel: Thanks so much for having me. Pleasure to connect with you and talk about what's important in drinking water.
Christoph Lohr: Definitely. Well, we're really excited to have you on. That last affiliation that you had, a council member with the Water and Health Advisory Council — I think [00:15:00] our listeners would love to have you spend just a moment here and tell them who you are, how you got involved with the Water and Health Advisory Council, and what the Water and Health Advisory Council does.
Chad Seidel: Absolutely. My role with the Water and Health Advisory Council just started in the last few years and it's really a fairly new entity that is focused on addressing key issues in water. And that is providing context to drinking water utilities and policy makers, public health professionals, and even the public. I often think about how I would communicate these critical issues to my mom. And it's centered around the key issues for water. How do we make sure that everybody's got access to drinking water? How do we apply science to informing how we make decisions and prioritize where we put our resources to address water related concerns? And then, how do we make sure that everybody gets effective public health protection? Everybody really should have equitable public health and access via drinking water. So, the Water and Health Advisory Council is really an independent body intended to address that.
We've got great people with [00:16:00] backgrounds ranging from, like myself, drinking water quality and treatment engineering. We've got policy folks that bring that background. Some who've had experience with EPA, for example. We've got analytical chemists that can get into the details about how to detect some of these things that might be of concern. And then folks that have run water utilities, and in academia, addressing really big picture questions about water supply and, and water quality. So, it's been a terrific group to be engaged with, and I'm excited about the impact that we can have and the way that we can share relevant information across those aspects of the community, whether it be really technical or really high level.
So glad to get the message out there.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Well, you mentioned big picture and water. I mean, what are some of the big picture items that you specifically are thinking about the most that our listeners should be aware of?
Chad Seidel: Yeah, happy to. You know, my role here at Corona Environmental Consulting and even in my academic role, I've always had the intent to be focused on the things that matter most for public health protection, when it comes to drinking water and [00:17:00] over the course of my career, I would say the good fortune for my career, the unfortunate fortune for the communities that were impacted by them, efforts related to things that just were really detrimental to public health, whether it be water unavailability, because systems had contaminated water that couldn't be used at the time, and how to overcome that.
Like for example, I was the technical lead for the state of Louisiana addressing Naegleria fowleri, the so-called brain-eating amoeba, you know, when that's on the nightly news nationally and moms don't know if they should have their kids take a bath or not. There's a need to fill in the scientific and policy gaps there.
And so in today's world, a lot of the conversations around, you know, either trace contaminants like Perfluoroalkyl compounds or microplastics, sometimes about persistent naturally occurring things like hexavalent chromium or arsenic or the things that often aren't talked about as much, like microbial contaminants or declining infrastructure that makes us more vulnerable to having conditions that, you know, are probably centuries old now where we didn't have the [00:18:00] public health protection afforded that we have today.
And so I'm always wanting to be at the forefront of addressing those things. I’m fortunate to have a team of folks here at Corona environmental that are doing that. And we try to keep our focus on those things that matter most.
Christoph Lohr: And so, what were the things that matter most?
Chad Seidel: Well in today's world? It still really is about do the basics and do the basics well.
So, in the water utility segment, which is where we predominantly provide our support sometimes to building owners and managers, it's about maintaining consistent, effective, safe, affordable, reliable water supply. And there's a lot of challenges to that. You know, in some parts of the US, we've got drought considerations where the water supplies that were reliable before just aren't.
Or the quality is changing because of the drought. We've got efforts in other places where flooding has impacted the treatability of water and makes it very difficult to maintain those things. You know, we're doing work here in our local community, in Colorado, where I'm sitting in Louisville, Colorado, which was unfortunately somewhat of the epicenter of the Marshall fire [00:19:00] that happened late last year and over a thousand homes burned down. And a key focus, keeping the water system up and online, but then recovering in the places where all those homes were lost and not only getting the community back on its feet with water, but in the places that burned down, being protective of public health from any longstanding issues that could persist from that.
So very much science directed, engineering applied, and, you know, we call ourselves pretty epic water nerds and have a hard time getting out of the weeds, but always try to do our best to communicate it effectively.
Christoph Lohr: Definitely, definitely. Well, from the contaminants out there, you know, you've mentioned contaminants a few times. Is there one manmade contaminant, maybe one biological contaminant, and then maybe we'll spend a little bit of time on each one in terms of concern. I guess we'll start with sort of a manmade contaminant that the Water and Health Advisory Council is tracking and considering.
Chad Seidel: Yes, certainly. So the conversation these days in terms of chemical contaminants is being dominated by PFAS. PFAS, a long acronym for Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances [00:20:00]. It's a class of chemicals that we've known about, actually for decades. And there are thousands of them, two that are the most predominantly known PFOA and PFOS, Perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate. There's a number of others beyond that, you know. EPA just recently issued updated interim health advisories for those two compounds. And some other aspects beyond that. A number of states are regulating those in drinking water and monitoring for those things in drinking water. Just finding those compounds to be detectable in lots of places, but the science and the questions around the health relevance are continuing to evolve and so the community is finding itself in this position of needing to make a decision about, are we going to be proactive in limiting exposure to these things in drinking water? If so, how? And at what cost and consequence, and what does that mean for the other places that we might wanna spend our time in attention? So PFAS is certainly the primary conversation. If you go to any [00:21:00] water related conference these days, it seems like where the majority of the conversation is centered.
Christoph Lohr: Well, let me ask some follow up questions there. How does PFAS get into our drinking water? You know, what is the concern to humans in environment? And then also what is significant about the latest EPA guidance on PFAS?
Chad Seidel: Well, as I mentioned, these compounds have been produced. In fact, they were created for really specific uses, you know, beneficial uses years ago, decades ago. If anybody grew up in the eighties and had Teflon pans or, you know, Goretex jackets. Types of products that repelled water often had those types of chemicals applied to achieve those outcomes. And they have been widely used for lots of purposes, whether it be non-stick purposes or one often identified culprit of drinking water contamination is the use of firefighting foams that are made of those compounds. Very very effective at firefighting. Routinely used to put out fires with jet fuel and aviation, which is really important [00:22:00] for public health protection in those cases. But the legacy consequence is that those compounds then get into the environment because they're applied. They're used and they might run off into watersheds. It might end up in groundwater. They might just be consumer products that end up in a wastewater environment or in a landfill, and then leech. And so we are now finding these compounds present throughout the water supply around the world. And while some of those compounds have been banned from production in the United States, they are still produced in many other locations globally. And there's a lot of efforts to find new products to replace the use of the ones that we know are bad now with new things, but we don't also fully know if those new ones are better in terms of their primary purpose or the unintended consequence of potential public health consequences later. And so, you know, the real question and concern for us as humans and the environment is, is this a problem for us? Some of these compounds have well studied health [00:23:00] implications for humans and for, you know, aquatic and, and other life forms. And because they are so persistent in the environment and they also accumulate in organisms and certainly us as humans, to some extent, it can cause public health impacts.
And so there's a number of reproductive and developmental impacts to humans that have been described from some of these compounds. There are some questions about their potential carcinogenicity, you know, to, to be causing cancer. All of those things sound bad and those things are all bad. Nobody wants any of those things, but it really becomes a question of, well, at what concentration in drinking water, does that make sense for us to spend the money and to address the control of those things?
As well as does it matter to do that in our drinking water when we may still be exposed to that more so from other media, whether it be the food we eat, the product we buy, the environment we live in. And another key point, they always like sharing about these things is research that shows exposure to these things and accumulation, [00:24:00] like in human bloodstream, shows that the concentrations of those things in our exposure have been going down over time. And so we're in a better position today because of some of the decisions to limit those products. They're not eliminated by no means. And so we need to make some pretty difficult decisions about how far do we go to protect ourselves from those things, no matter where, protect drinking water or otherwise.
Christoph Lohr: Makes sense. Makes sense. What about biological contaminants?
Chad Seidel: So in terms of microbiological contaminants of concern, you know, the classics are just general bacteria and protozoa and viruses. Some of the named ones end up being Giardia and cryptosporidium. But the one that, again, we've talked about for decades and has been named in drinking water regulatory efforts is Legionella. It causes Legionnaire's disease or bacterial pneumonia. And it is the most significant thing that we can identify that causes detrimental health outcomes. And in some cases, death, from exposure to drinking water. CDC, and EPA clearly [00:25:00] identify that as the largest documented concern in drinking water today.
And it warrants our attention, and it is something that we in the water community, whether we're water utilities or academics, or water providers or water users. Everybody has a role to play in knowing what it is and how to address it and to be protective against.
Christoph Lohr: So, you know, that brings up a great point, Chad. At IAPMO, one of the things that we have focused on is Legionella risk mitigation. You know, we have a training protocol that allows people in the plumbing industry, you know, installers, inspectors, design professionals, to become familiar with some of the microbiological side of things. Bacause we tend to focus more on the mechanics of plumbing systems. So we have training that IAPMO offers. We also have various manuals. We just released for public comment a manual of recommended practice for safe closure and reopening of buildings. But we're also working on a construction practices document at this time for better construction practices to lead to better water quality. Specifically, trying to address some Legionella concerns in that.
We have an appendix in our plumbing code. The Uniform Plumbing Code has Appendix N which deals with scald temperatures and [00:26:00] Legionella growth patterns and how there's overlap there. And finally, we have a new sizing technology – a sizing tool I should say – that really is the first time in 80 years, for residential homes, single family / multi-family, that, you know, in essence, reduce water age by being able to more accurately predict water usage, which can lead to more accurate pipe sizing. So that mention of Legionella, I think that's one that we've really focused on as an organization. And my sense is that we're focused on perhaps the right topic in sense of water quality. Does that sound fair to say, Chad?
Chad Seidel: Yeah, absolutely. Certainly have an appreciation of the organization's focus and attention to that. And frankly, the reach to practitioners who can make a meaningful difference, you know. Because, you know, even in the building I'm sitting in, which is just a commercial office building that gets high quality water from the local water utility. When our building shutdown in response to the pandemic, they had limited understanding of the type of work that we as an environmental consulting firm that focus on water deal with. They didn't have an appreciation for the fact that we assisted a [00:27:00] number of building owners with facilities across the country in how to maintain those building water systems effectively without having increased risk of Legionella. And so, I appreciate that you described the guides that you've been a part of developing, and I certainly appreciate the academics that we've collaborated with on furthering those efforts too, because like the building owner of this facility here, they just don't know, in most cases, that they have a role and responsibility to maintain their water system effectively. To be proactive in protecting against those types of risks. And so everybody needs to be doing their part to get the word out and hold onto that shared responsibility for addressing and maintaining those things.
Christoph Lohr: It makes a lot of sense, Chad. Well, if there was one word you would use to summarize what you covered today, what would that be?
Chad Seidel: I would definitely go with prioritization. And this is a key part of what the Water and Health Advisory Council have been working to clearly communicate. And that is that I think everybody inherently [00:28:00] values water, and everybody should have safe, affordable, reliable water, and that doesn't come easy. And it requires focus and prioritization on the things that matter the most. And in a world where we only have so many resources to go around, we need to use those resources to put in place the systems that can supply water.
Safe affordable and reliable water, and then maintain that. And then as we learn new things that identify new risks, apply resources to address those things appropriately while not compromising on maintaining what we already have. And so, you know, Legionella is a great example where, you know, I think it's been underappreciated and under communicated, and frankly, underadressed in a number of places that have led to some unfortunate public health outcomes.
And we as a community need to do more with. On the other hand, and I'm not saying that PFAS is not something that we should address, but we should appropriately prioritize how and where we address it and [00:29:00] maintain that expectation and commitment to safe, affordable, and reliable water for everybody. Everybody deserves that.
Christoph Lohr: That's fantastic. Great, great message. And I think it's a unique one that we haven't really heard on the podcast before, that message of prioritization. What is the best way for our listeners to get in touch with either you and or the Water and Health Advisory Council?
Chad Seidel: Glad to make that connection. The simplest these days I think is just use Twitter. You can reach me at, @ChadSeidel, you can reach the Water and Health Advisory Council at the website WaterAdvisory.org. Twitter handle is similar, and you can reach my company, Corona Environmental on Twitter at @CoronaENV.
Christoph Lohr: Well, I just reached out to you on Twitter, so it'll be good to connect. And on behalf of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, just want to say thanks for your time and thanks for sharing your insights, your expertise. And I think our listeners will take a lot away from it today.
Chad Seidel: Terrific. Pleasure to connect and talk about this and look forward to keeping the conversation going. Let's all do our part to make public health protection [00:30:00] and water a reality.
Christoph Lohr: In our last segment, I talk with Gabe Pinchev, CEO of Field Pulse, where we discuss field service management software, big lessons from the COVID 19 pandemic, and how the economy has affected students' education routes.
Gabe, welcome to the episode.
Gabe Pinchev: Hey, thanks for having me on.
Christoph Lohr: Absolutely a pleasure and excited to have you on. Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your company?
Gabe Pinchev: Yeah, sure. So, my name is Gabe Pinchev, here in Dallas, Texas, and we are FieldPulse, which is a field service management software for small service contractors to manage their business from end to end with a heavy focus on plumbing, HVAC, and electrical.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. And with the work that you're doing, I imagine that you kind of have seen a lot of big picture trends, trends in business, looking at data to kinda make bigger picture inferences.
Gabe Pinchev: Yeah. And we have a core focus in the specialty trades of HVAC, plumbing and electrical. And so we see a lot of the customers in that segment and our [00:31:00] partners are often plumbing suppliers.
And so it's a core focus for us and we see the different trends and changes over time. Including during COVID.
Christoph Lohr: Interesting. Interesting. So, I guess kind of deviating a little bit here from our agenda here this morning, you know, what was maybe one of the big lessons from COVID and how has that impacted the specialty trades?
Gabe Pinchev: Yeah, so it's interesting. What we saw the most was that the core specialty trades for the mechanicals and plumbing, they were very busy still, and necessarily didn't have an impact. And depending on where you were, sometimes they got even busier, as people were at home more. It depends if you're commercial or residential. While we saw a bit more slow down on what I would refer to more as kind of cosmetic focused trades that were necessities like plumbing, HVAC and electrical off often are.
And then anecdotally, there were some jokes about how plumbers were also busier because of the whole toilet paper shortage and how everyone is flushing paper [00:32:00] towels and whatever else they found down their toilets and causing clogs and issues. But otherwise, these segments were pretty strong all throughout the pandemic and often got busier depending on the situation.
Ans so as we look at a recession or a downturn in the economy, we actually don't expect that big of an impact to that segment and ones we're talking to right now are still saying they're extremely busy and having trouble keeping up. And it also depends on the time of year and seasonality and everything around that.
But yeah, we don't really anticipate a huge slowdown in that segment.
Christoph Lohr: I think a lot of people will be breathing a sigh of relief in that regard. You know, obviously you guys have looked at data for a while, you know. In terms of a larger scale context, historically speaking, how have recessions, you know, historically impacted the skilled trades?
Gabe Pinchev: So it's interesting. I was talking to someone a while back who is actually buying HVAC businesses. And this one is in particular HVAC, but he was buying them specifically because he believed they were [00:33:00] recession proof to some extent. And I guess the joke about HVAC in Texas is when it's a 105 degrees and your AC goes out, you don't really have a choice.
And that often extends to others like plumbing and electrical. When you have major issues and you have to take care of them, you have to take care of them well. While, if you're doing new constructions or remodels or cosmetic changes, those sometimes get put on the back burner, maybe during a recession, as things slow down there. But things that are repairs and are huge issues for people in their home have to get addressed ultimately.
Christoph Lohr: No, definitely. And I think, you know, obviously there's been a lot of talk of recession that we've seen in the news. One of the things that has consistently come up is how that impacts college students looking for jobs. I graduated in 2008, right in the height of the recession and was fortunate to find employment and then to keep employment throughout. But obviously, there was a lot of my generation that was not the case for. What is your sense in terms of, have you been tracking any of the data [00:34:00] or any pieces of information about, you know, number of students going to college versus maybe going into more technical schools? I mean, what, are there any trends there that you've seen, Gabe?
Gabe Pinchev: You'll definitely see a shift in some regard, especially when you just purely look at the cost basis and, where they come out of it. But one of the big things, when we talk to our customers, if we ask them, “What's your number one challenge?” It's finding good help to hire. So they're on the side where they're having trouble finding good people to hire.
And so maybe this even balances things out and makes it easier for them to find employees, especially ones that maybe have otherwise done a four year college route, or maybe going through trade school now instead, or going direct and learning on the job. But ultimately, I think you'll definitely see a shift. Back in 07 / 08 people were graduating from college and often didn't have anything to do. And so went back to school in some capacity, whether it was furthering education, depending [00:35:00] on their circumstances, or going into a different line of work. So I think you'll definitely see a little bit of it, but if anything, it could end up helping a lot of the trades that had trouble hiring previously as more people now might look to this as an option.
Christoph Lohr: Interesting. And I guess, sort of larger picture, Gabe, do you imagine that there's more people that are gonna go into the skilled trades and and that college enrollment is gonna drop maybe as a result?
Gabe Pinchev: I think you might see that a bit. There's been a lot of talk, in general, over the past 5 - 10 years that college prices have gotten out of control, especially relative to the return. And you get a much better ROI on your money going to school if you're going through a trade school or going through programs or going into it. And for me, the way I view it is a bit different. If people are saying, “Hey, we need to get more people into the trades, there's a shortage.” I think as an industry, we need to look at it more as in, “Hey, this is a great path to entrepreneurship down the road.” And I think that should be the message for people that are looking at their [00:36:00] options and going to the trades. And not just looking as a short term benefit to them, but also saying down the road, if you have visions of being an entrepreneur and making more money, this is a great path to do so. A lot of our objective here at FieldPulse is to try and make the trades more money, and being a proper business with correct margins and overhead and accounting for all that and making significant money. You're seeing that more in HVAC, plumbing, and electrical specifically now. But if we can advocate that as a path to long term, to starting a business and doing that approach, I think that's another way to get more people into the trades.
Christoph Lohr: You know, I don't disagree. And I think your point about college and the question about ROI, you know, is spot on. I've seen more and more magazines now, such as Money or Forbes, that their rankings are based on, you know, whether it's early career earnings, mid-career earnings or overall return on investment of college. What colleges have the lowest initial cost and the [00:37:00] highest, you know, starting or mid mid-career salaries.
And I think that mindset, I would agree, Gabe. I think that's going to impact, you know, having more people go into the trades and, and I like your point about the entrepreneurship. There's plenty of … we've seen plenty of colleges open up entrepreneurship avenues and classes, but I think that there's a large contingent of people and professionals out there that point to saying entrepreneurship comes not from school, but from going out and doing it. I think that, uh, your point there is well made.
Gabe Pinchev: Yeah. And a lot of the routes that come out of a traditional college are actually harder paths to entrepreneurship, while the trades are a great path to do so. And we're seeing people get into HVAC, plumbing, electrical from the business standpoint. We actually see it the most out of HVAC. And we’re even seeing some private equity getting in the game as well, but people are really starting to view it more as a great business and money maker opportunity. While I believe previously it was more seen as the trade where you end [00:38:00] up, turning it into a business because you grew up in doing it as a trade. We're seeing more people get into it purely from the business standpoint. And I think that's something to highlight to young people looking at their past to say, “Hey, you don't need to just view this as a trade for you, but it's also a trade that you can learn for a future business opportunity.”
Christoph Lohr: I think the paradigm is shifting, Gabe. I definitely agree. Well, if you were going to summarize your talk here in one word, what would that word be?
Gabe Pinchev: We're talking out the recession and all that in this segment, I think, stable. And otherwise, the last topic around entrepreneurship, I guess you could say, opportunity.
Christoph Lohr: I love it. I love it. Obviously, as we're signing off here, our listeners may want to get in touch with you or your company. What's the best way for them to do so.
Gabe Pinchev: Yeah. If you'd like to learn more about FieldPulse and the software we provide, just fieldpulse.com. If you wanna connect with me, you can find me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email at [00:39:00] Gabriel.Pinchev@fieldpulse.com
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Well, Gabe, on behalf of The Authority Podcast, I just wanna say thank you for your time. Greatly appreciate the insights and the experience that you shared with our listeners today.
Gabe Pinchev: All right. Thanks for having me.
Christoph Lohr: Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. Love this episode of the podcast? Head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate and leave a review.
Please follow us on Twitter @AuthorityPM, on Instagram @theauthoritypodcast, or email us at IAPMO@IAPMO.org. Join us next time for another episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. In the meantime, let's work together to make our buildings more resilient and shape us for the better.