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October 16, 2012
What can municipalities do to promote clean water?

According to George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, public water utilities play a great role in shaping the future of clean water.

Speaking at this year’s Water Environmental Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans during a special Water Leaders session, Hawkins described seven steps community officials and water workers can do to approve water quality and excite citizens to follow suit.

  1. Take pride in what you do. Hawkins emphasized, “Municipalities aren’t polluters. Municipal workers are water protectors.” Workers should emphasize the positive results of their efforts.
  2. Have a recognizable presence. DC Water has created a brand and image that it promotes on its trucks, employee uniforms, websites, and social media.
  3. Think of water users as customers, and promote municipal water as a clean water product. As Hawkins stated, “bottled water really cleaned our clock. In taste tests, 60 percent of tasters can’t tell the difference between our water and bottled water or like the public water better, but people started thinking our water was inferior because we didn’t market it effectively.”
  4. Think like a business. Hawkins encourages municipalities to view ratepayers as shareholders and to put revenue and profit back into the water system to improve it.
  5. Innovate and partner up. If possible, provide services to other institutions that you do best, and obtain services from other institutions that they do better than you. It’s cost- effective and creates good partnerships.
  6. Integrate green and gray infrastructure. Hawkins doesn’t see gray infrastructure disappearing anytime soon, but efficiency and sustainability can increase through the integration of green infrastructure elements.
  7. Keep learning. Hawkins explained, “because you have to.”

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