Madison Water Utility, WI

Increasing the Effectiveness of Madison’s Water Conservation and Sustainability Plan with Strategic Polling and Analysis Our Approach Project Outcomes

Project Goal

The Madison Water Utility (Madison) applied to WaterNow’s Spring 2019 Project Accelerator for support with public polling and research to inform updates to their Water Conservation and Sustainability Plan. The goal of the public polling was to help Madison better understand which conservation programs would most likely motivate their customers to conserve water, as well as local appetite for investment in these programs. Madison also wanted to learn about successful conservation programs to improve their offerings. This Project’s aim was to enable Madison to set more ambitious conservation objectives and select a suite of measures targeted to achieve those goals. Polco, an online engagement and polling platform, had offered their services to WaterNow on a pro bono basis for the Spring Project Accelerator. With their partnership, WaterNow selected Madison’s proposal in part to take advantage of the opportunity to support direct public engagement in utility planning and to profile Midwest water conservation programs to understand common practices and programs that encourage customers to conserve water.

Our Approach

This project involved two rounds of public polling. The first focused on helping the City better understand what customers know about their water supply, what conservation measures they’ve taken in the past, and what aspects of sustainability they’d like to see the utility prioritize in the future. The second round of polling followed up on specific feedback collected in the first round of polling, to help Madison learn whether customers are willing to pay more, and how much more, to support income-qualified customers with bill assistance, a program the utility is considering.

Madison also wanted to know more about the types of conservation programs offered in other Midwestern cities similar to Madison in terms of water resources, weather, climate, etc. Out of the 76 cities WaterNow investigated, 34 had conservation programs, including financial incentives, educational programs, and outdoor watering restrictions through local codes and regulations.


Based in part on this project work, Madison is positioned to realize significant water savings within the next few years, most tangibly around limiting outdoor watering. The next round of polling was also instrumental in helping Madison to craft meaningful Updates to its Water Conservation and Sustainability Plan.

Read the full report here.