Valencia Water Company has hired the services of a public relations firm to promote water conservation and, specifically, help the company meet the state mandated goal of reducing water demand by 20 percent by 2020.
In the last month Wolcott Company Inc., has sent out news releases about rebates and gardening tips.
“Denis Wolcott, formerly a local journalist who had worked for many years in the Santa Clarita Valley, was originally hired as an on-call consultant in 2009 to assist with public education and outreach around VWC’s implementation of this allocation-based tiered rate program,” said Valencia Water Company manager Ken Petersen.
“Denis is a recognized expert in water matters, and has worked with several California water agencies to provide similar communications assistance,” he said, noting Wolcott is a former communications manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
“The implementation of the allocation-based tiered rate program was about a 2-year process to inform customers and resulted in a greater understanding and acceptance of the new rate structure,” he said.
The work carried out by Wolcott included such things as mailings, news releases, development of web-based designs and elements that enabled customers to view water uses on their accounts “and more,” Petersen said.
“VWC continues to utilize Denis Wolcott for other outreach and communication to promote greater water-use efficiency and water conservation, primarily to help VWC meet the requirements of SBX7-7, to reduce water demand by 20 percent by 2020,” he said.
And, when conservation led to a sharp drop in revenue and prompted the company to suggest a 25 percent rate increase to cover the shortfall, Wolcott was there to help the company through a tough time.
As Petersen pointed out: “Denis also has been used to develop communications materials around past rate increases.”
A year ago, Valencia Water Company customers, who conserved water above and beyond state and local requirements, were told to pay for those efforts with as much as a 25 percent increase in water rates for at least a year.
The proposed “revenue adjustment surcharge” in May 2016 would have meant a typical Santa Clarita Valley family of four who currently would pay about $40 a month would pay at least $48.54 while the surcharge is in effect.
The company postponed its scheduled discussion of the proposed rate hike after heated reaction from the public.
So for the past month, news releases issued by Wolcott reminding customers of rebates and “Special Tips for Irrigating Landscape” gardening remain rooted in the company’s push to achieve the 2020 deadline.
“These services continued as we entered the drought and there was an increased need to communicate with customers the voluntary, then mandatory requirements to reduce water use by 25 percent,” Petersen said.
The “outreach” promoting conservation worked.
“Because of its ongoing communications and outreach efforts with customers – (the Valencia Water Company) achieved some of the highest water savings in the state during the drought,” he said.
Lastly, Petersen noted that the “on-call” professional services contract for public education, outreach and communications with Wolcott is more cost effective than hiring a full time communications expert.
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