By Pete Antoniewicz
While a lot of water-industry education has to do with biology, chemistry, and physics; pumps and piping; or instrumentation and information networks, there is also a broader need to educate consumers on the value of water and their role in protecting it in an ever-changing world.
The following industry-association, advocacy-group, government, and non-government-organization reference links offer numerous opportunities for municipal utilities, private water companies, and industrial water users to do a better job in serving their own needs. They also help in raising the profile and performance of the water industry as a whole.
Utility-management, internal-operation, customer-service, and PR personnel, as well as industrial-water users and other water professionals, can benefit by using them to:
- Identify new technology applications to remedy old problems or emerging concerns.
- Educate current employees and new hires to protect internal interests and do a better job of satisfying water-user needs.
- Build good will for the long-term success of water operations. Consistent communication is critical to maximizing consumer awareness and building customer satisfaction. It can pay dividends in terms of better conservation practices and breaking down resistance to rate adjustments needed to deliver reliable, high-quality water service.
- Educate water users to participate in conserving resources, reducing costs, and advancing water sustainability in their homes, in their communities, and at their jobs.
- Take advantage of social media to leverage the efforts of larger water-resource and environmental organizations while maintaining local awareness with reinforcing messages.
- Support educational programs in local schools to improve water awareness among future customers and their parents.
While there are many specific-event focal points for water and wastewater professionals throughout the year, here are some resources that can aid in the task of educating the public all year long:
- Value of Water Campaign. This US Water Alliance program is loaded with resources — reports, fact sheets, multimedia/social-media examples, and more — that water and wastewater utilities can use to support local communication efforts.
- Water’s Worth It. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) provides a variety of resources that utilities can use to educate their customers, raise their own profile, and encourage behavior that makes their work more productive.
- DrinkTap.org provides multiple resources to address consumer questions, educate, and encourage conservation.
- Work for Water. Utilities needing to recruit new, qualified workers due to retirement, growth, or turnover can better present their case to prospective employees with the help of this WEF website.
- World Plumbing Day. (March 11) Originated by the World Plumbing Council in 2009, this event is supported by many fact sheets and other educational resources that can be focal points for reinforcing customer communications.
- Fix a Leak Week. (March 15-21) This annual U.S. EPA event is a great way to communicate to consumers the value of identifying leaks to save both money and precious water resources — for themselves and for the utility.
- Flood Safety Awareness Week. (Mid-March) Utilities can use the focal point of this National Weather Service program to educate water and wastewater customers on flood-related aspects of utility operations. This can range from advising potable-water customers where to check for boil-water notices to reminding wastewater customers of the importance of disconnecting sump pump outlets from wastewater drains.
- WateReuse Symposium 2021. (March 15-25) This event, produced in conjunction with WEF, provides insight into water-reuse policy, research, and management strategies that can help communities facing water-scarcity challenges.
- World Water Day. (March 22) This United Nations-sponsored website provides thought-provoking points and support materials to draw attention to water resources and challenges in any community — municipal, rural, or international.
- EarthEcho Water Challenge. (March 22 through December) Formerly called the World Water Monitoring Challenge, this event is designed to elevate public awareness of the need to protect precious resources, starting with local waterway monitoring.
- Earth Day. (April 22) Heading into its sixth decade, Earth Day is a high-profile environmental celebration that generates attention from a variety of perspectives. Building messages around that theme can be a great way to publicize utility environmental efforts and make important points about good conservation practices. Some locales also celebrate the seven days leading up to Earth Day as Earth Week.
- Water Week 2021. (April 25-May 1) This annual event — usually associated with National Water Policy Fly-In lobbying efforts in Washington DC — will be held as a standalone virtual event in 2021 but will still provide an opportunity to advocate for a variety of water-related needs.
- Global Water Awards. (May 17) Presented as part of the Global Water Summit, these awards and the presentations during the event feature innovative ideas and implementations that can inspire water utilities and industries to improve their own operations.
- RSA Conference On Cybersecurity. (May 17-20) As an exclusively virtual event focused on the theme of Resilience, this year’s event will be readily accessible for water-industry IT professionals increasingly concerned about the secure operation of their growing Internet-of-Things (IoT) networks.
- Smart Water Week. (May 24-28) By going virtual for 2021, this annual SWAN Forum conference has the potential to promote the success of ‘smart’ water and wastewater solutions to a broader audience than ever before, as reflected by 2020’s virtual event agenda.
- United Nations’ World Environment Day. (June 5) All of nature, including the air we breathe and the water we drink, is connected to nature. Weaving water’s role into the big picture can be used to encourage new consumer behavior or to promote a utility’s sustainability efforts.
- Singapore International Water Week. (June 20-24) This event, co-located with the World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit in Singapore, provides many perspectives on technical innovation for urban water management.
- Smart Irrigation Month. This month-long celebration initiated by the Irrigation Association covers many aspects of water use — including media resources and other ways for public and private water suppliers to encourage industry best practices, public education, and long-term sustainability.
- Membrane Technology Conference & Exposition. (July 19-22) This American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) event focuses on desalination and membrane bioreactor functionality in drinking water and wastewater treatment applications.
- World Water Week. (August 23-27) The Stockholm International Water Institute is hosting the 2021 event — under a theme of Building Resilience Faster — as a full-scale virtual experience, so its diverse array of seminars and thematic webinars will be readily accessible to a worldwide audience.
- National Preparedness Month. Utilities can review their own emergency plans in advance and then communicate them to customers as a way to prepare for dealing with water-related emergencies such as storms, flooding, water outages, and boil-water notices.
- National Protect Your Groundwater Day. (September 1) Whether individual consumers get their water from surface water or groundwater sources (public or private), all can play a role in protecting the environment. Making water-system customers aware of the dangers of hazardous household chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. can help to protect the resource and reduce the need for costly remediation.
- Water Infrastructure Conference. (September 12-15) This AWWA event is designed to address issues such as aging water infrastructure, water loss, operations, maintenance, and financing of improvements.
- World Water Monitoring Day. (Sept 18) This day serves as a focal point for the larger EarthEcho Water Challenge. With some advanced planning, it can be a good way to leverage a well-established program to convince local schools and teachers to involve their students in appreciating the importance of the local environment.
- AMWA Executive Management Conference. (October 3-6) This annual event provides utility leaders with the opportunity to share knowledge and experience among their peers and to capitalize on new technology learning opportunities as represented by the group’s many resources.
- WEFTEC. (October 16-20) After a virtual event in 2020, the 94th annual version of this major water-quality event is scheduled to return to a live venue for educational and networking opportunities.
- Imagine a Day Without Water. (October 21) The Value of Water Campaign, supported by the US Water Alliance and other water-industry leaders, uses this day as a focal point for educating municipal leaders, water and wastewater utility customers, and students on the importance of not taking water for granted — at home, at school, or in the community. The event’s resources webpage links to many suggestions and materials available to spread the word.
- IDA World Congress. (November 7-11) The theme of the desalination association’s 2021 World Congress is Charting Resilient Water Solutions. But this is just one of the group’s multiple events for industrial and municipal water desalination, reuse, and recycling applications.
- World Toilet Day. (November 19) This effort from United Nations (UN) Water does carry a worldwide message, especially for places where centralized wastewater facilities are lacking. But that does not mean that established municipal wastewater utilities cannot also use it to drive home educational points on the importance of protecting existing operations (e.g., promoting the 3 Ps of appropriate toilet use) and improving infrastructure to reduce sewer overflows.
- Groundwater Week. (December 14-16) While this annual event is currently scheduled to revert to an in-person event in 2021, interested parties can still benefit from the online sessions from the 2020 Virtual Groundwater Week event.
Dates Still To Be Determined
- Alliance For Water Stewardship (AWS) Forum. (TBA) While the 2021 Forum has not yet been scheduled, the 2020 event and the group’s many resources provide the public sector, non-government organizations, and private businesses with a universal framework for water stewardship and sustainable use.
- National Take Back Day. (TBA) Using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s publicity efforts around its semi-annual National Take Back Days can be a good way to focus consumer attention on keeping prescription medications out of the wastewater stream all year long.
- Ultrapure Water Micro Conference. (TBA) This event geared toward the need for high-purity water in semiconductor and microelectronics manufacturing provides insights on the latest trends in ultrapure water management.
- WWEMA Annual Meeting. (TBA) As an online event in 2020 (due to COVID-19), the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association Annual Meeting was readily accessible to a wider range of water and wastewater professionals to learn more about the economic, technology, and regulatory landscape.