How to Start a Water Treatment Business

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Looking down on a water treatment plant.
Looking down on a water treatment plant. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A water treatment business offers a lucrative way to improve the health and quality of life of consumers in your market. The residential water treatment market is a multibillion dollar industry that has grown and diversified over the years, as water softeners, media filtration systems and carbon filters are common fixtures in American homes. But operating a water treatment business presents some specific challenges. Some states require that you be a licensed contractor to operate a water conditioning or treatment business.

Things You'll Need

  • Contractor's license
  • Contractor's insurance bond
  • General liability insurance
  • Business license
  • Business cards
  • Start-up funding

Research your state's requirement for water treatment businesses, as many states such as California for example, require you to take and pass a test, undergo a background check and obtain a contractor's insurance bond before you can be a licensed water conditioning contractor if you plan to operate an independent water treatment business. Be prepared to pay the contractor's state licensing fees, which can amount to several hundred dollars.

Get certified as a water treatment professional through professional organizations such as the Water Quality Association. Certification provides your customers with a security that you know and understand water treatment.

Start a water treatment business by operating a franchise or working as an independent. If you are interested in a turn-key water treatment business with plenty of support, you may want to consider purchasing a franchise. Franchises offer proven business models, financing, marketing and technical support, among other services. You will be required to sell the franchisor’s brand of equipment and adhere to certain operational guidelines. If you want more freedom and flexibility, you may choose to operate as an independent dealer. Even as an independent dealer, you can expect some vendors to offer you technical training and, in some cases, marketing support.

Compare insurance companies to find the right general liability insurance policy for your business. A general liability insurance policy protects you in the event you cause damage to someone's home on accident. Policy fees are paid on an annual basis.

Obtain a business license for your business. If your business uses a fictitious name, you will also need to register the name with your local government. Fictitious business names also require that you put a notice about your fictitious name in a newspaper of general circulation. Pay all the fees associated with business licenses, fictitious name registration and newspaper notices.

Understand the water conditions in your market. Find out if the water is abnormally hard, if residents have wells or are served by municipal water. The answers to these questions can have a tremendous influence on how you operate your business. For example, residential wells can be affected by any number of contaminants, such as harness, iron, arsenic, bacteria and more, which gives you more opportunity to sell water treatment equipment. Municipal water systems must adhere to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which may limit your market to softeners and equipment designed to improve taste, such as carbon filters or reverse osmosis systems.

Market and advertise your business to the customers in your market. Develop a website geared toward your potential customers. Make your own or have business cards printed out that you can provide people to advertise your business. Create flyers to advertise your business around town, in laundromats and other places. Consider a direct mail campaign where you offer a new customer discount. Mail to consumers in your area as listed by Zip code and mail routes. Join the local chamber of commerce to network and advertise your business.

Partner with vendors. If you have decided to operate a franchise, you will purchase most of your equipment from the company that owns the business. If you will run your business as an independent business, you can purchase your equipment from any vendor you choose. When selecting a vendor, consider the potential markup on the equipment, its reputation, whether it is certified and how much technical and marketing support the vendor can provide. For larger-ticket items, such as softeners, find out if the vendor offers a financing program for consumers.

Join industry trade groups, such as the Water Quality Association, which provides networking and training opportunities. There are also free trade magazines, such as Water Technology magazine and Water Conditioning & Purification magazine. Each water treatment scenario is a little different, and you want to be able to handle any and all business that comes your way.

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