Scaling UP! H2O

359 Visualizing Success: The Power of Creativity and Problem-Solving in Water Treatment

James McDonaldVisualization helps water professionals better understand equipment, processes, and problem-solving techniques

Often, as water professionals, we breeze past the intricate inner workings of the equipment we handle, missing out on valuable insights that could enhance our understanding and effectiveness.

But what if we took a moment to visualize what’s happening inside that cooling tower? Through the simple act of visualization, we can unlock a whole new perspective on the systems we work with, gaining profound insights into their operation.

Step into the fascinating world of industrial water treatment with host Trace Blackmore and special lab partner, James McDonald as they embark on a remarkable journey through the heart of a cooling tower. Shrinking down into water molecules, they vividly visualize the processes at play, offering a captivating glimpse into the complex world of water treatment.

James McDonald, Director of Technology & Marketing at Chem-Aqua, founder of Industrial Water Week, and weekly contributor to the Scaling UP! H2O podcast, shares his profound insights into the importance of creativity and visualization in engineering. By harnessing these tools, water professionals can deepen their understanding, sharpen their problem-solving skills, and foster better communication within the industry.

Join us for this enlightening discussion and discover how visualization techniques can revolutionize your approach to industrial water treatment. Let’s unlock the full potential of our creativity and imagination, together shaping a brighter future for water professionals everywhere.



01:00 – Trace Blackmore shares fun facts about the IRS during this tax return season

05:30 – Upcoming Events for Water Treatment Professionals 

13:30 – Interview with James McDonald, CWT, about the importance of visualizing systems

33:09 – Shrinking down and going inside a cooling tower

01:06:00 – Drop by Drop With James McDonald 

01:08:00 – The power of visualization 



“I like doing visual exercises because it teaches me the gaps in my knowledge so I can learn about those ideas.” – James McDonald

“It serves as an excellent learning tool, offering a dynamic approach to problem-solving by providing a visual representation of the situation.” James McDonald


Connect with Scaling UP! H2O

Email Producer:

Submit a show idea: Submit a Show Idea

LinkedIn: in/traceblackmore/

YouTube: @ScalingUpH2O


Connect with James McDonald


Industrial Water Week:

Read James’ Industrial Water Week Jokes and Comics at


Read or Download James McDonald’s Press Release HERE


Links Mentioned

How Cooling Towers Operate

Water Softener Regeneration Process

Understanding Cycles of Concentration

Global 6K for water 

Episode 21 The One with James McDonald

Episode 49 The One with James McDonald, Again

Episode 113 Pinks and Blues (with James McDonald)

Episode 290 The One About Making Time For What Matters Most (with James McDonald)

Episode 291 The One About Nitrite (with James McDonald)

Episode 31 The One with Mark Lewis

Episode 34 The Other One With Mark Lewis, CWT

Episode 112 The One Where Trace Is Interviewed By Mark Lewis

Industrial Water Week Resources

Water Cake Recipe 

Episode 161 Trace shared a story about the koi fish in the cooling tower

Sharknado Series

Die Hard Series

Criminal Minds

The Rising Tide Mastermind

AWT (Association of Water Technologies)


Drop By Drop with James 

Today we’re thinking about safety.  Working around steam, hot water, high pressures, moving parts, confined spaces, hazardous chemicals, pathogenic organisms, extreme environments, deep water, and even people, there are hundreds of ways we could get hurt or worse every single day.  Of course, there are guidelines, regulations, laws, safety programs, engineering controls, training, and so forth to help keep us safe, but the ultimate thing in charge of our safety day to day is ourselves.  If we don’t follow the rules, learn from the trainings, are unaware of our surroundings, and/or circumvent engineering controls, we are much more likely to get hurt.  So be both smart and aware when you are performing your industrial water treatment duties.  You’re probably NOT the only one relying upon you returning home safely.

A personal example of when I encountered an unsafe condition is from when I was brand new in industrial water treatment and was being trained on boiler inspections.  My manager and I were just about to enter the mud drum of a watertube boiler when steam started coming out of the manhole. My manager and the plant manager both looked at each other and were a little white in the face. An operator had blowndown one of the nearby boilers, and steam had backed up into the one we were literally just about to enter.  If we had climbed in just a little sooner, we could have suffered steam burns and worse.  Neither lockout/tagout nor proper communication had been conducted. Lessons were learned quickly very early in my career.

I’ve heard stories of people dying in confined spaces due to the space being filled with nitrogen or argon.  Proper confined space entry procedures had neither been established nor conducted.  I’ve heard stories about water hammer blowing elbows, valves, etc. apart and injuring people.  I once had a colleague who had live steam blown inside his work boot.  Never have I ever seen blisters that big in my life.  I’m sure too many of you may have scary stories to tell as well.

So please, today and every day, think about the safety of yourself and those around you.  Your safety matters to you, your family, your coworkers, and your colleagues.  Your safety matters to both Trace and me as well. 


2024 Events for Water Professionals

Check out our Scaling UP! H2O Events Calendar where we’ve listed every event Water Treaters should be aware of by clicking HERE or using the dropdown menu.


Water Treatment education

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