Thoughts

A place for education, information, and insights about the water industry.

Topics: utility customers

Recent Lessons in Crisis Communications

November 29, 2018
| By Ed Archuleta
 
 
 
It is a crisp October morning. A WaterSmart colleague rolled out of bed late, grabbed his things, and rushed out the door without turning on the local news. He spent his commute listening to one of his favorite podcasts and checking texts and emails on his phone (but not while driving!) . When he got into the office, he headed to the kitchen, and as he began to fill a glass of water from the tap a coworker gasped and ask ed if he heard about the boil water notice . Immediately, concern set in and he began to wonder how he missed such a critical announcement. Unfortunately, this lack of public awareness is not an uncommon occurrence during a water quality incident. 
 
Many urban water u tilities are facing major challenges , including massive population growth, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns , and aging infrastructure. Austin Water is a world class utility organization operating under similar pressures and planning to
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Topics: crisis

Three Lessons That Every Utility Can Learn From Flint, Michigan

January 22, 2016
| By Seth Engel

A Front Page Nightmare It is every water utility manager’s worst nightmare: your town made the front page of the national news because of contaminated drinking water. That’s the situation that Flint, Michigan is in right now. Virtually all of the city’s 100,000 people have been exposed to lead poisoning and other contaminants from corroded distribution pipes.

The water crisis in Flint originated in 2014 when, in an attempt to save money, it made the decision to switch its source of drinking water from Lake Huron to the Flint River. This new water source, while less expensive to procure, was more corrosive to the pipes and leached lead into the distribution system. Now some or all of the distribution system may need to be replaced, which could cost the nearly bankrupt city as much as $1.5 billion.

Lessons Learned So what can the situation in Flint teach water utilities about establishing and maintaining trust with their customers,

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Topics: communications

What Water Utilities Can Learn From the Donald Trump Phenomenon

December 9, 2015
| By Dominique Gomez

No one can really say how long the Donald Trump presidential campaign will last. If you told most veteran journalists or political junkies a year ago that Trump would be a front-runner through the late summer and fall of 2015, few would believe you. But Donald Trump has certainly been successful (still polling #1 in most national polls as of the first week of December). Love him or hate him, his campaign illustrates many of our natural human biases and tendencies – either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are three prime examples that could be relevant to water utilities:

#1 - Shorter is better

Political campaigns, or at least the successful ones, are all about communication. Not all candidates communicate effectively or memorably, but Donald Trump is a clear outlier. His messages are big, simple, and memorable. While there may be other candidates who have more in-depth policy priorities or offer more detail, you can count on

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Topics: ecosystem health

The Intersection of Land Use Management and Water Security

September 18, 2015
| By Kelly Coplin

Water conservation practices are just one component of a sustainable and resilient water system. Many more variables are involved, including protection of water quality of neighboring bodies of water, decrease of flooding in low-lying areas and minimization of erosion of local streams and hill-slopes. Here at WaterSmart we are deeply interested in increasing awareness of these issues, since the public’s relationship with and influence on their water system extends far beyond the boundaries of improved efficiency. In particular, land use practices are closely related to water supply availability, ecosystem health, and water quality. These practices present valuable opportunities for innovation moving forward. Looking to the future, communications around land use issues will be an increasingly important touch-point between water managers and their customers, and it is an area of growing interest in the broader environmental community.

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Topics: bottled water

Bottled Water and the Myth of Purity: Part II

May 6, 2015
| By Kelly Coplin

Last October we wrote about the myth of bottled water purity relative to highly regulated municipal tap water. While American consumers are increasingly choosing bottled water over tap, scientific studies and regulatory paradigms indicate that bottled water is often no more “pure” than tap water. Indeed, while nearly half of bottled water simply originates from municipal sources, American consumers – particularly lower income and minority populations – are increasingly willing to pay 300x (or more) for a “premium” water product.

The nature of these bottled water costs - and their relative distribution across the U.S. population – are troubling in that they imply that perception of drinking water quality could be contributing to growing economic polarization. Heightened demand for bottled water increases the financial burden on lower-income communities, and is indicative of key differences in water perception across diverse

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