Water utilities are starting to discover the value that the community can provide to help combat the problems of limited water supplies, tight budgets, and wastewater blockages. Forward-thinking utilities and even some retailers are coming up with creative new ways to engage with customers and work together with them to promote responsible household water use.
Here are just some of the ways that you could improve your water network through customer engagement:
Bathroom fixture replacements
Many toilets and showerheads are old and inefficient, using significantly more water than necessary. The water industry has noticed this issue and started to take active steps to reduce wasteful water use in bathrooms.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) started a toilet replacement program in June 2014, offering $125 vouchers to assist the purchase of high-efficiency 1.28 gallon per flush (gpf) toilets.
To date, the DEP has replaced 11,341 toilets, accounting for savings of approximately 0.45 Million Gallons Daily (MGD).
Similarly, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) is replacing up to two showerheads for any customer with bathroom fixtures installed prior to 1996.
On top of the efforts by water utilities, the manufacturing sector is also stepping in to take part in the effort to conserve water. In response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, members of Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) donated hundreds of plumbing supplies which were installed in the homes of affected residents. As part of this project, Delta Faucet Company took the opportunity to improve water efficiency in Flint by providing WaterSense labeled faucets and showerheads.
Fix-a-Leak Week is an annual EPA initiative aimed at combatting residential water leaks. On the EPA website, you can find information and resources to help your company take part in this program and reduce wasted water.
This March, utilities in Phoenix, Dallas, Charlottesville, Fort Worth, and Atlanta promoted Fix-a-Leak Week in their communities through social media, contests, races, and workshops.
Residential water assessments
One of the reasons that consumers aren’t doing enough to reduce their water consumption is that they don’t realize how much water they are wasting. By offering free surveys and assessments, consumers can be better informed about their water use and receive expert advice on how to improve their water situation.
In New York City, the DEP has been organizing complimentary water surveys, with 3,040 apartments surveyed in 2016 alone. Their program has led to an estimated 0.4 MGD of savings so far.
This is another area where the retail sector has stepped in to make a difference; The Home Depot offers an interactive Home Efficiency Audit tool which calculates the water and money savings likely to be achieved by replacing old fixtures with WaterSense labeled models.
Complimentary water saving kits
Water operators such as NYC DEP have realized that getting home-owners involved in water efficiency is so important that they are offering water conservation kits for free upon request. In addition to efficient showerheads, these kits include leak detection dye tablets and aerators for kitchen and bathroom faucets.
Social media campaigns/competitions
Social media is becoming increasingly important in the digital age, so water companies are now making use of this powerful tool to interact with their customers an educate them about responsible water practices.
Miami-Dade WASD has an active social media presence focused on key water issues. The company recently carried out a photo competition on social media, directing participants to take a photo of something which showed how water is essential to their daily lives.
WASD has also produced educational YouTube videos about water conservation and the disposal of cooking oil. These videos make up but a small part of the wealth of educational water content available for free online. Sharing this material with your customers through social media is an easy way to get key messages across and improve community participation in positive water practices.
Talking to people about the importance of water early on in their lives can pay back in the long term when they grow up to be responsible adult water users. Birmingham Water Works has sponsored an online competition for fifth grader´s to come up with a poster talking about what the world would be like without water.
Educating the construction industry
Cobb County Water System is getting ahead of the game by talking directly to the construction industry; giving them good advice and technical support to ensure water conservation is built into homes from day one. In 2016, Cobb County gave 23 trade presentations about WaterSense to 1,269 builders, retailers, plumbers, and irrigation and landscaping professionals.
In the same year, Delta Faucet Company held five courses providing water education for more than 540 architects, designers, and other trade professionals.
What is the key to running successful community engagement initiatives?
One of the most important aspects of any community engagement program is a robust software ecosystem built on a flexible CIS solution.
Initiatives such as a toilet replacement program require careful management to ensure that time and resources are used efficiently. The implementation of such a scheme involves setting up a business process which must integrate with customers, equipment retailers, and installation contractors. So how does a CIS solution help bring together all these elements?
Open Smartflex AquaCIS is specially designed to give water networks the flexibility to implement innovative and community-focused strategies which improve both network operation and customer experience. The solution integrates mobile field service management, key back-office processes, and external contractor management in a way which gives you the freedom to quickly set up any scheme you could think of.
By relying on a state-of-the-art CIS solution, you can harness customer information across a broad range of business functions to paint a complete picture of your community. This level of detail gives you the power to increase your impact by targeting the right customers at the right time.