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Facilitating Consumer Confidence: Strategic Communications for Reclaimed Water

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Most consumers are confident that their utilities are providing them with the cleanest, safest water possible, and are treating their wastewater to the highest standards. But sometimes they aren't so confident when it comes to reclaimed water.

In states like Florida and California where reclaimed water has become a common utility, consumers use reclaimed water without second thought. Utilities with new reclaimed water programs, unfortunately, often face consumers who aren't convinced reclaimed water is as safe as it is purported to be. Providing consumers with a steady stream of accurate information about reclaimed water can help keep and maintain consumer confidence.

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) in Virginia is embarking on a new reclaimed water program. Integral to the success of the program is the consumer education program that is currently being developed. HRSD recognizes that customers need to first understand and believe the benefits of reclaimed water before they will fully and confidently accept it as a viable alternative to potable water for certain applications. The stronger the perceived benefit, the higher consumer confidence. Therefore, HRSD is producing written and pictorial educational materials that are heavy on the benefits (“What's in it for me?”) and light on technical language. (Highly technical information is available as well.)

The audience for these materials has been carefully targeted by HRSD. The agency is also using the materials to skillfully address the current void of information for reclaimed water.

In this paper, we will address how effective communication with consumers can educate, build confidence and convey the message that reclaimed water is a safe, effective and valuable resource suitable for every community.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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