9.6 Community Involvement

Many water and wastewater utilities seem to operate in a vacuum. They are invisible to everyone but themselves. We turn the tap and water comes out. We flush the toilet and all is well. But most citizens know very little about what keeps these processes going. It's not that they don't want to know; they often just don't have much opportunity to learn. This is where the utility has an opportunity to tap a huge resource of support.






Simply informing your customers can go a long way toward gaining support for your programs. The experience of the utilities interviewed for this manual, as well as many others worldwide, bears this out. In several of the utilities we interviewed, people responded in overwhelming numbers to campaigns to inform them about their water and wastewater utilities. In other areas, large numbers of community members have participated in drafting master plans and sustainability plans for their communities. Such involvement gives people a sense of belonging and pride in their communities.

If the people feel that they have participated...they are going to be more willing to move forward.
--Jim Noucas, Portsmouth, NH


Just as you will have greater success by involving all your employees, you will compound those successes even further by involving the entire community in your plans. For larger communities, this involvement is vital to gaining support for rate increases and capital improvement plans that might require voter approval. For extremely small utilities with limited resources, involvement of community members can mean the difference between being able to implement your Asset Management plan and never getting off the ground.

It's all a volunteer-driven effort.
--Peter Britz, Portsmouth, NH


Small communities are full of individual people with different valuable skills. Some of these people may be retired, semi-retired or underemployed. This is a resource that can be tapped for various aspects of the implementation of the Asset Management plan--e.g. mapping or creating databases.

It has been said that two heads are better than one. Surely 500 heads can be used to better advantage than 5. Thinking of your customers as allies and collaborators can reap significant benefits.