I spent the better half of last week in Phoenix for the 91st Annual AZ Water Conference and was blown away! I’m excited share some highlights of the incredible panels and presentations:
Keynote Address Encouraging Collaboration Between States
The event kicked off with Pat Mulroy, Senior Fellow at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Law and former General Manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, who gave a lively keynote address urging Arizona water leaders to collaborate with their counterparts in Nevada and Colorado on the Drought Contingency Plan to preserve Lake Mead. She recognized the successes Arizona cities have already achieved through groundwater banking and conservation efforts, and highlighted cities like Tucson, who early on recognized the need to change their water use habits.
Results and Updates from the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge
It was great to reunite with the AZ Pure Water Brew team – a group we were proud to be a part of last year – and give one of three presentations about the project at the conference. Speaking to a packed room, team lead, Jeff Prevatt, asked if anyone was unfamiliar with the project. Not a single person raised their hand. We were thrilled to see such ongoing interest in the project, even a year later. Channah Rock and I shared results from our outreach and communications strategy as well as public perceptions and acceptance of potable reuse. Review of mainstream and social media coverage of the project indicated that news stories and social media posts were two times more positive than that of other water reuse related projects. Additionally, over the course of the project we saw a 20% increase in sentiment over the course of the project, underscoring the success of our messaging strategy. Results from the in-person survey that we administered at events demonstrated roughly a 15% increased shift in participant’s willingness to consume purified water as part of an added-value product, beer, as opposed to purified water consumed directly.
Many in the audience wanted to know where the beer truck would be going next. In September, the truck will travel to Austin Texas for the National WateReuse Symposium. Visit the AZ PWBC website for more updates.
Using Media and Multimedia to Spread Your Message
There were a number of fantastic presentations about innovative conservation programs. Erin Young from the City of Flagstaff gave us a behind the scenes look at how they won the Wyland Foundation’s 2017 Mayor’s Conservation Challenge. Their inventive and creative staff teamed up with a local production crew and actors to create some truly fantastic videos. My top two include H2O the Musical! – a song and dance about the conservation – and Kids for Conservation – preschoolers share how they’ll conserve water.
AZ Water Executive Director, Dave Iwanski, moderated an illustrious panel – Making Media Work for You – with guests from Arizona Capitol Times, Arizona Republic and Imagine Schools. Panelists inspired a lively discussion and provided valuable insight about how water utilities can effectively communicate with their customers through mainstream media. When asked by the audience what recommendations they could provide for handling a crisis, Rhonda Cagle from Imagine Schools suggested, “The longer you try to hide something, the worse it gets. Best to try to answer the questions sooner rather than later and as best you can. That’s how you turn a crisis into an opportunity.” Luige Del Puerto with the Arizona Capitol Times stressed the importance of not just telling what occurred but what is going to happen next.
Later this month, WaterNow will host a webcast discussing the importance of communicating with ratepayers, building community relationships and for utilities to start talking early and often about the work they’re doing. Click here to learn more and register.
Throughout the event, there were incredible opportunities to learn, share and lead the way in preserving and enhancing Arizona's water environment. We always have a wonderful time with our Arizona partners and this event was no exception, we can’t wait until next year!