Water Conservation can be Smart AND Sexy
On January 31, 2014, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) asked its customers to voluntarily curtail water consumption by 10%. To facilitate achieving this goal, the SFPUC Communications Division developed a multi-lingual and edgy public education campaign that successfully promoted water conservation through behavioral changes and plumbing upgrades for residents and businesses.
With 2013 being the driest year on record in California and no relief in sight, drought preparedness and conservation have become the new normal. We’re proud that the 2.6 million people that rely on our Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System already carry a strong conservation and environmental ethos. In San Francisco, residents use a miserly 49 gallons per person per day, one of the lowest in entire state, and 50% of the national average. These low use numbers, however, make achieving additional water savings even more challenging.
We needed a creative campaign that would provoke thought, encourage conversation, and inspire immediate action. In June 2014, the SFPUC Communications Division launched the “Water Conservation is Smart and Sexy” campaign that was featured on television, newspapers, buses, outdoor billboards and online.
The summer campaign from June-August had 3 goals:
1. Increased utilization of water conservation programs and rebates;
2. Consistent behavioral change; and,
3. Increased awareness of the drought and region’s water supply.
How did we do? Since June 2014, our customers have exceeded the 10% goal and made up for the earlier part of the year! Thanks to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s executive directive, even San Francisco City Departments have reduced their water use by 16%.
Conservation and drought preparedness are not “quickies” and are the new normal in California. If we are not vigilant and consistent with our education, even the savings we gained this summer can quickly evaporate. Our reduced demand and wiser water use is here to stay.
As public agencies, we need to be even more innovative and unafraid to take chances.Our messages to protect and enhance our public safety, health, education, environment, and economy are some of the most important ones the public should pay attention to. I think the success of the “Water is Sexy and Smart Campaign” is a turning point and hopefully challenges others to think outside the box.
By harnessing the creative talent and innovation of your team, we have dared to create provocative campaigns that will capture the interest of our audience.
I promise by “Doing It” you’ll be amazingly “Satisfied” with the results.
The campaigns also ran in Spanish and Chinese to reach San Francisco’s diverse communities.
Written by Tyrone Jue, Communications Director
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Series hosted by the San Francisco Mayors Office of Civic Innovation