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Marketing Nonpotable Recycled Water: A Guidebook for Successful Public Outreach & Customer Marketing

Project: 03-05
Type: Communications Tool
Year Released: 2006

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, California State Water Resources Control Board
Total Investment: $149,869.08 (Cash)

Principal Investigator: Lois Humphreys, TRG & Associates


Hundreds of recycled water projects in communities throughout California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Florida have been implemented over the past 75 years—some with community involvement and support and some without. In the past 10 years, with unparalleled growth and water demand in some areas of the country, as well as increased public scrutiny of public works, some recycled water projects have been met with opposition and controversy, especially where outreach was not implemented. Public outreach and marketing should no longer be an option or afterthought, but an integral component of every recycled water project to ensure that the public understands and supports reuse. Building the infrastructure necessary for a recycled water system requires large capital investments; therefore, every agency should ensure that ratepayers are aware and knowledgeable about how tax dollars are benefiting their community. The research conducted as part of the Guidebook demonstrates that once people know what recycled water is, how it is used, and that it is safe, they wholeheartedly support its use.

Goals and Objectives

The project provides water agencies with a comprehensive document to aid in planning and designing a public outreach and customer marketing campaign for a recycled water program, including marketing and communication strategies to:

  • Increase use and demand for nonpotable recycled water;
  • Improve communication about the value, public’s perception, and benefits of water reuse; and
  • Address issues such as public perception, trust in municipal agencies, the nature of the market, cultural values, and the status of competing public and political issues.

The case studies, market research, and templates of an outreach plan and communication materials will help agencies avoid pitfalls and design an outreach program that will help the public and other stakeholders understand the many benefits of reuse for their community.

Research Approach

Initially, TRG & Associates researched and identified four successful existing recycled water programs. The common denominators with these case studies included:

  • They represented different regions in the U.S.
  • The programs were established and serving various recycled water customers.
  • The regions experienced high rates of growth and had a growing demand for water supplies.
  • Their programs included an element of public outreach and customer marketing.

Las Vegas, Nevada, Conserve II in Orlando, Florida, San Antonio, Texas and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in southern California were selected and interviewed. The fifth case study, the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA) was included because it represents a region of rapidly growing communities, in an area of high water demand. VVWRA is in the process of developing its reclamation program, and as such, was an ideal setting for some of the market research. Once the background research was conducted, templates for a Strategic Outreach and Customer Marketing Plan and numerous communication materials were developed. The Strategic Plan allows the user to develop a plan that is tailored to his or her community or region. The Plan includes:

  • Introduction
  • Situation Analysis
  • Budget
  • Public Outreach and Marketing Goals
  • Challenges and Opportunities
  • Key Outreach Messages
  • Stakeholder Groups
  • Strategies for each group
  • Recommended Communication Tools and Advertising
  • Timeline

Findings and Conclusions

The Guidebook serves as a useful tool, not only for agencies embarking on a new reuse project, but for agencies that may need additional resources for ongoing projects. The Communication Tools templates (provided on two CDs) include a brochure, newsletter, PowerPoint presentation, and fact sheet. These contain some generic messages and language, although you can change any of this information to suit your needs. You can include your own agency’s logo and other information, and even switch out some of the graphics and photos if you desire.

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