Boosting Utility’s Community Engagement

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December 18, 2019

SEE CHALLENGES AS OPPORTUNITIES

The water industry’s problems are daunting. Lead, per‐ and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and other contaminants of emerging concern; the push‐pull of overdue system reinvestment; and affordability are just a few issues we face.

When it comes to projects to replace old infrastructure, meet new regulations, or upgrade our systems, customers opening their wallets a little wider is largely where we’re going to get the money to conquer these difficulties—and these young people are our future customers.We also use our outreach efforts to talk to older students about AWWA’s Water Equation campaign—the fact that there aren’t enough young water treatment plant operators in the pipeline to replace those who are eligible for retirement in the near future.When talking about how to help those in need of access to clean water, I also discuss Water for People.

I compare it to the flocculant/disinfectant powder used in the demonstration, which has a short‐term impact, and the construction of water treatment and wastewater facilities by communities under the direction and guidance of Water for People volunteers. Water for People is obviously more sustainable but more expensive and difficult as well. Both programs have a role in supplying safe drinking water to those who need it.

In concluding discussions with the students, I encourage them to visit the websites of both programs, www.csdw.org and www.waterforpeople.org.Although there are many available tools to reach your existing customer base, such as newsletters, surveys, and bill stuffers, active outreach to all age groups can be a powerful tool to adjust customer appreciation for water and wastewater services. The point of outreach is to affect the present and win in the future. Engaging young people will go a long way toward achieving these goals, as they are our future customers and, potentially, future water professionals.

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