Water is the most important natural resource, yet many customers are unaware of the benefits of conserving it. Over the past two decades, more than 50% of the United States regularly experienced drought conditions due to the water supply running low.

As water conservation concerns grow, now is the time for water utilities to connect with customers and explain the reasons to conserve water.

“With monthly rates continuing to rise and the water supply running dangerously low in many parts of the country, there has never been a more critical time for water utilities to proactively communicate with their customers,” said Andrew Heath, Senior Director of Utilities Intelligence at J.D. Power in a recent press release.

Share the Facts About Water Conservation

Many customers don’t pay attention to their water consumption or realize the strong impact that water conservation efforts could have on both their daily lives and their communities. It’s up to utilities to share that essential information.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans use around 82 gallons of water every day in their homes.

To pique customers’ interest, utilities should share facts about water conservation. For example, many customers may not know that turning off the tap while brushing their teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day. Or, if saving water isn’t enough, focus on saving money. Sharing how much a customer could save off their bills by conserving water or making efficient upgrades can do wonders to capturing their attention.

When customers understand the reasons to conserve water, and how it directly impacts their communities, the environment and their health, they are more likely to make a conscious effort to participate.

As a trusted source of information, there are many ways a utility can communicate facts about water conservation. For example, your utility can share an infographic explaining how water conservation goes hand-in-hand with reducing monthly bills and preserving a limited community resource, or an educational fact sheet about how saving water helps maintain water quality.

Consider communicating facts about water conservation through:

  • Newsletters
  • Short-form videos
  • Infographics
  • Educational fact sheets
  • Webinars
  • Community events
  • Social media

Compelling Reasons to Conserve Water

In addition to presenting facts about water conservation, it’s also important to communicate the benefits of conserving water so customers understand how it directly impacts them. Some of customers’ biggest motivators include:

  • Financial savings: It’s no secret that customers are motivated by money; they want to save on costs and reduce their monthly water bills. By highlighting the potential cost savings, they are more likely to engage with your utility’s conservation messaging and participate in water-saving efforts.
  • Community impact: Some customers may be driven by the desire to benefit their own community. This is especially true if their utility is a municipal or cooperative, as community engagement is already a proven priority. To reach these customers, share the impact they can make on their community by conserving water.
  • Sustainability focus: Many customers value sustainability and want to implement sustainable practices into their daily lives. Showing customers how their actions, like reducing water waste and usage, directly contribute to a healthier environment, can make them feel more empowered to reduce their water footprint.

Actionable Strategies for Conserving Water

Once your utility has helped customers understand the reasons to conserve water, it’s important to give them actionable strategies for how to do so. Again, education is key. Don’t assume that customers already know how to save water. It’s important to provide them with achievable water-saving tactics, including:

  • Being mindful of household leaks: Do your customers know that household leaks are one of the main causes for water waste? In fact, the average family wastes around 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually. Connecting this fact to how much money customers are spending encourages them to pay more attention to leaks. Additionally, use this knowledge gap to provide customers with tips and tricks to detect and address leaks.
  • Installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances: Installing water-efficient products can help customers use at least 20% less water. As their trusted resource, customers look to you to guide them about the best products to purchase and upgrades to make within their homes. If your utility has a marketplace, promote your water efficiency items to customers and direct them to other rebates or incentives.
  • Reducing outdoor irrigation system usage: Nearly 30% of household water use is devoted to the outdoors, and 50% of the water used outdoors is lost due to wind, evaporation, and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems, according to the EPA. Use this as an opportunity to educate customers on the benefits of using timers, sensors and checking for outdoor leaks often. Depending on your utility’s location, this could be a great opportunity to share additional resources pertaining to your specific climate or environment.

By educating customers about the importance and benefits of water conservation, as well as providing practical tips for water-saving practices, your utility can empower customers to take control of their water usage.

How to Promote the Benefits of Conserving Water

Although we live in a digital age, it’s important to connect with customers across all channels and mediums. The San Jose Water Company does just this by hosting in-person community events, school programs and civic presentations to educate its community about water conservation.

Its in-person events are an effective way to get the community to understand the power of preserving water resources and offer customers an opportunity to ask questions or share their challenges. Additionally, the school programs help kids start thinking about their role in helping to save water and encourage them to bring water conservation ideas and tips home to their families.

The utility even hosts “Water Appreciation Nights” at local football and baseball games, furthering the reach of their conservation messaging.

Additionally, the utility offers CATCH, a free program where customers can sign up for a water efficiency expert to visit their homes. This expert will help identify leaks and will recommend individualized water and money-saving improvements. By making water conservation accessible for its customers in many unique ways, the San Jose Water Company is able to connect with its customers and share the facts and benefits of saving water.

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) also actively promotes water conservation to its customers and offers a comprehensive range of resources aimed at educating them about the reasons to conserve water and methods to do so effectively.

LADWP offers a wide array of educational resources for customers, including free workshops through its outdoor landscaping academy, Los Angeles Outdoor Landscape Academy (LAOLA). LAOLA aims to educate customers on sustainable landscaping strategies such as turf removal, water-efficient irrigation and groundwater infiltration.

Additionally, the utility offers rebates and incentive programs that encourage efficient water use and sustainable landscaping for residential and business customers, including rebates for appliances and irrigation equipment. Customers can also take advantage of free water conservation equipment, like faucet aerators, showerheads and toilet leak detection dye tablets.

These water conservation efforts can go a long way. In fact, L.A.’s current per capita water is among one of the lowest in any major U.S. city.

Show Your Utility Customers the Benefits of Conserving Water

Water conservation is a collective effort, requiring effort from utilities and their customers. Utilities must be willing to work diligently to educate customers about the benefits of conserving water. In doing so, utilities will encourage and empower its customers to be active participants in preserving this important community resource. Together, utilities and customers can share the load in reducing water usage.

Communicate the facts about water conservation to your utility’s customers with an engagement solution from Questline Digital.

Behind the simple act of turning on a tap lies a complex system of infrastructure and services provided by water utilities — systems that customers may not always understand. From concerns about water quality to inquiries about service interruptions, customers seek clarity and reliability from their utility providers.

To ensure clear communications and effectively build long-lasting customer relationships, understanding their concerns and answering their questions is key. However, engaging with customers is no longer just about responding to their inquiries. Instead, it’s a matter of being proactive — anticipating water utility customer needs and providing timely, relevant information.

Transparency is paramount, with customers expecting clear communication about water quality reports, maintenance schedules, disruptions to service and more. By leveraging innovative communication channels, water utilities can forge stronger connections with customers and enhance their overall experience.

“With monthly rates continuing to rise and the water supply running dangerously low in many parts of the country, there has never been a more critical time for water utilities to proactively communicate with their customers about what they are doing to protect our drinking water today and into the future,” Andrew Heath, Senior Director of Utilities Intelligence at J.D. Power, explained in a press release.

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study found a direct correlation between communications and customer satisfaction. The study showed that a 7-point increase in customer communications and a 6-point increase in customer service drove increased levels of customer satisfaction across the board.

“The communications factor continues to show improvement across each wave of the study, suggesting that utilities are proactively reaching out to customers throughout the year to provide updates on pricing, safety and supply issues,” according to the report.

Get to Know Your Water Utility’s Customer Needs

Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn and improve. Water utilities must recognize the diversity of concerns that customers may have. From questions about water quality and conservation tips to inquiries about billing discrepancies or service interruptions, being attentive to these concerns is crucial.

To begin addressing these concerns, your utility should first focus on identifying common customer inquiries, including knowing customers’ usual consumption patterns, common complaints, preferences, and their general attitude toward water conservation. By understanding your customers better, you can start to anticipate their needs and proactively address their questions.

After all, your utility may provide a needed service, but the way you approach communicating to water customers speaks dividends. Salesforce research shows that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services. 

Effective Strategies for Customer Communications

Effective communication is crucial in addressing your water utility customers’ needs. This starts with establishing clear communication channels where customers can reach out with questions or concerns. This doesn’t just mean responding to their queries in a timely manner, but also being able to clarify complex water-related topics. For example, if there’s a change in water rates or a new policy on water usage, it’s your utility’s responsibility to communicate these changes to your customers.

Traditional communication methods like call centers are extremely valuable. Training customer service representatives to handle inquiries efficiently and providing educational resources can empower them to address common questions. However, it’s also essential to create digital experiences for water customers through email, newsletters, mobile apps, social media and your utility website.

According to the J.D. Power 2024 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study, customer satisfaction with utility websites and apps lag behind other industries, achieving only a 594 rating on a 1,000-point scale. This is compared to other industry scores, including:

  • 718 for wealth management
  • 702 for property and casualty insurance
  • 685 for retirement plans

“Digital is the first stop for utility customers when they experience a problem or need more information related to billing or special programs, but more often than not, their digital inquiries are leading to dead ends and phone calls to customer service,” Jon Sundberg, Director of Digital Solutions at J.D. Power, explained in a press release. “The static, reactive approach to digital being taken by utilities is falling far short of current customer expectations.”

Given the preference for digital communication among customers, it may be time to put effort and resources into developing or updating your utility’s mobile app or ensuring your utility’s website offers a seamless user experience.

Chart listing the best digital channels to engage with water utility customer needs
Image Source: Salesforce

Additionally, personalization goes hand-in-hand with digital experiences and communications. Research shows that 59% of customers already believe businesses should personalize their experiences based on the data they collect about them. Further, the J.D. Power Utility Digital Experience study showed that only 54% of utility customers say they have received personalized information regarding their energy or water consumption, despite 49% of customers indicating that they would find this helpful.

Knowing these preferences, utility personalized video offers an easy and appealing way for water providers to engage with customers. Personalized videos leverage customer data, such as usage, program participation and content interests, to create unique, relevant videos for each individual. It’s no surprise that data shows that using personalized calls-to-actions (CTAs) result in 202% more conversions than those without.

4 Key Factors to Meeting Water Utility Customer Needs

In addition to developing strong digital communications, there are other key factors to remember when addressing your water utility’s customer needs.

1. Enact Transparency

Customers appreciate when they are kept in the loop about issues that impact their water service. Whether it’s an unexpected disruption in water supply, a planned maintenance activity or a change in billing procedures, ensure that you communicate these developments to your customers as early as possible.

Notifying customers in advance demonstrates respect for their time and helps manage expectations. Similarly, continue to update customers throughout the process to keep them in the loop. Transparent communications build trust, and trust leads to customer loyalty.

Additionally, implement systems to notify customers in advance of planned maintenance, service interruptions or emergencies. These notifications can be sent through automated phone calls, text messages and/or email alerts, and will continue to act as transparent forms of communication.

2. Implement Feedback Loops

Providing avenues for customers to voice their concerns is one of the most impactful things your utility can do to make sure customers feel heard and valued. Consider conducting surveys, providing feedback forms or holding interviews to gather insights about your customers and their experiences. These methods can provide valuable insights into water utility customer needs and help tailor future communication strategies.

For example, the City of Naperville, Illinois, hosts a water utility customer satisfaction survey on their site that customers can fill out. The survey covers the date of service, what service occurred and satisfaction questions about the experience. Customers can provide their name, address and phone number to be further connected to the utility if there are additional concerns that could not be explained in the survey. The utility uses this customer feedback to guide its service delivery.

Example of customer satisfaction survey for water utility to assess customer needs
Image Source: City of Naperville

3. Educate and Engage the Community

Provide educational materials and resources to help customers understand their water service, conservation practices, billing processes, and any other relevant information. Don’t discount both physical and digital methods of outreach: Send direct mail postcards, host community events, post on social media and keep your website updated.
Additionally, engage with the community through public meetings, events or outreach programs to address concerns, gather feedback and build customer relationships. Keep customers informed about any changes or developments related to their water service.

For example, North Texas Municipal Water District hosts quarterly tours of its water treatment plants. In the first quarter of 2023, the tour was dedicated to elected officials and staff of their member cities and customers. They received an overview of the district, as well as information on history, service areas, water conservation, outreach initiatives and ongoing major projects, then toured the plant complex to see operations in action.

4. Consider Your Diverse Customer Base

Recognize and accommodate your utility’s diverse customers, understanding that inclusivity is paramount in effective communication. This may mean offering customer support in multiple languages, ensuring that language barriers do not hinder access to essential services.

Accessibility considerations extend beyond language. Utilities should make their communication channels and materials accessible to customers with disabilities, providing options such as Braille, large print or audio formats.

By embracing inclusivity and accessibility, utilities can effectively engage with all customers, fostering a sense of trust and belonging within the community. This commitment to diversity not only enhances customer satisfaction but also strengthens the utility’s reputation as a provider that prioritizes the needs of all its customers.

Meeting Water Utility Needs with Customer-Centric Communications

Effectively addressing your water utility’s customers’ needs requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes proactive communication, transparency and customer engagement. By understanding your customers’ concerns and implementing effective communication strategies, your water utility can build trust, grow satisfaction and ultimately provide the high-quality service that customers expect.

When you focus on understanding where customers are coming from, and creating experiences that help make their lives easier, your water utility is proving its dedication to its customers and providing real value.

Learn how Questline Digital’s turnkey solutions can help your water utility improve communications to better meet customers’ needs.