Welcome to Culver Water Currents—your monthly e-source for industry news and product information, including the latest educational and promotional items, trends, tips, stories, and events.
This month, learn about the EPA’s grant for small water utilities, how the landscape of customer interaction is changing, and more best practices for spreading the conservation message.
Culver Company’s Products Group can help you select or create the right educational and promotional products for your outreach efforts. Be sure to check out Culver Water Currents each month for your industry product news.
There are 157,000 public water systems in the US, and a high percentage of them are small operations located in rural areas. According to the EPA, more than 97 percent of these systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and 80 percent provide services to fewer than 500 people.
Small water systems have unique challenges that make it difficult to consistently provide drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations. Often, they are challenged with a lack of financial resources, aging infrastructure, and high staff turnover.
The EPA functions with a stated goal to “work closely with states and our federal and tribal partners to assist small systems with financial and technical resources to sustainably provide safe drinking water.”
To that end, the EPA recently awarded $12.7 million in grants to help small water/wastewater systems and private well owners. This funding is to be used for training and technical assistance to improve operations, management, water quality, and system sustainability. The project is scheduled to last 18 months.
Eligible applicants were nonprofit organizations, nonprofit private universities and colleges, and public institutions of higher education. Nonprofit organizations that engage in prohibited lobbying activities (as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995) were not eligible. For-profit organizations, as well as state and municipal government agencies, were also not permitted to apply for the grants.
Those receiving EPA grants were:
The grantees have the option of using their own personnel or contracting with other individuals or organizations. Either way, they will work with small water systems all over the country to improve their financial and managerial capacity as they seek to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act.
For many utilities, engaging the customer on an individualized basis can be challenging. With innovative new data tools and a myriad of ways to engage with customers, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In addition, industry leaders are realizing that the face of their customer has changed and that they need to try harder to proactively engage with them in order to build trust, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, long-term retention.
Simply stated, millennials are the new face of today’s customer—and they will be for a long time to come. Now America’s largest generation, their choices and behaviors have shaped many industries, and they are now influencing the utility industry.
Unlike prior generations, millennials use technology differently and more frequently. As a result, they are natural seekers of information. They easily turn to the internet as a means to manage their lives. They are also used to regular communication from service providers—whether it’s Amazon, Uber, or Starbucks, they have come to expect a high level of service, flexibility of choice, and personalization.
Large utilities are no longer ignoring this trend and are paving the way. Making individual consumption data available through web portals, apps, and social media enables a truly customer-centric experience. The proactive nature of text alerts on subjects from higher-than-average bills to early leak detection changes the tone of the interaction and works to build trust and customer satisfaction. As the industry becomes increasingly one of connected devices, all water utilities will have the ability use big data to reshape customer communications to something that is not just about rate increases and boil notices.
While these innovations provide seemingly endless opportunities to create valuable interactions with the customer, educational programs that include community outreach remain a critical part of the equation. Those utilities that provide education to residents through school programs and community events demonstrate a commitment to the community that residents appreciate. Not all utility companies have the resources to implement the full scope of technology and community involvement, but certainly, an integrated approach at any level will deepen your relationship with residents, building a foundation to thrive in today’s new customer-centric utility landscape.
When it comes to building a relationship with your customers, it’s nice to be a big fish in a small pond. According to the EPA, 80 percent of water utilities serve 500 residents or less. This creates the perfect scenario for your outreach efforts to make a big impact on your community and to truly affect behavior change.
When you have the opportunity to achieve such strong reach with your message, focusing on simple, practical, and quantifiable ways to save water and money is most effective. Start with the basics—promote short showers, help them detect and stop leaks, or how to shave and brush teeth efficiently. Quantifying exactly how much water will be saved can go a long way to changing minds and creating openness to new water-saving behaviors. Proactively reaching out to residents in this way educates them about conservation, gets them to use less, and raises awareness of how to say money, ultimately achieving a deeper level of customer engagement.
To further expand your impact, consider sending the same message and tools to the local schools, as well. When children learn basic conservation principles early on, they tend to retain these ideals for life.
At Culver, we offer a wide array of water conservation items, ranging from simple messages on water bottles or bookmarks to comprehensive brochures and booklets. Remember, simple reminders can be very effective:
Fix leaky faucets. A faucet leaking 60 drops per minute wastes about 192 gallons per month (more than 2,300 gallons a year).
Install low-flow faucet aerators in sinks. They can cut water usage by 50 percent.
Take showers instead of baths. An average bath uses 35 to 50 gallons of water, while a 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead uses about 25 gallons.
Take short showers. Cutting shower time from eight to five minutes reduces water consumption by about six gallons. For a family of four, that can save nearly 9,000 gallons per year.
The EPA estimates that the average American wastes about 30 gallons of water each day. So, it’s critical to teach homeowners in your community that conserving water not only saves money on utility bills, but also contributes to higher water quality and helps preserve a valuable natural resource.
Culver Company offers a wide array of educational materials and promotional items that encourage customers to save water. Consider including any of the following tools in your outreach efforts to help residents create new water-saving habits.
Toilet leaks are the biggest water-wasters in the home. These nontoxic blue dye tablets are easy to use and make for excellent giveaway items. After dropping a tablet in the tank, wait 10 minutes. If color appears in the bowl, there is a leak that needs to be repaired.
Baths and showers account for 32 percent of total household water consumption. Decreasing shower time from eight to five minutes can save nearly 9,000 gallons per year for a family of four. This digital shower timer attaches to the shower wall with a strong suction cup and signals with an LED flash and buzzer when the time is up.
By flipping this colorful bookmark, children are taught about the benefits of taking shorter showers by an animated hippo. It also includes water-saving tips and doubles as a ruler, serving as a constant reminder to conserve water.
A fun item for all ages, the Use Water Wisely Wheel presents dozens of water conservation tips with just a spin of the wheel. It includes facts about home usage that provide context for water conservation and explains the importance of saving water.
All of the above products can be customized to include your company name, logo, and contact information. For additional information about any of our water conservation materials, call us at 800-428-5837, email email@example.com, or visit www.culverco.com/catalog.