Make Water Quality Convincing

Outreach and education are important to promote the value of your services.

Can you make my sister drink tap water?

The city of Madison (Wisconsin) has good tap water. I’ve lived there and drank it. I’ve visited and drank it. Madison has won several best-tasting awards. The whole state of Wisconsin actually has a pretty good reputation for clean drinking water.

My sister, however, refuses to drink it.

She grew up drinking tap water, obviously, as everyone over a certain age did. There wasn’t really an option. You either lived in town and had city water or you lived in the country and had a well. That’s where water came from. Evian was just a city in Southern France that most of us knew nothing about. No one bought water in 16-ounce increments.

Flash forward to today. She’s lived around the country and has now been in Madison about eight years. She’s 12 years older than me, active and very health-conscious. Right next to her refrigerator there’s a dispenser drawing water from a 2.5-gallon glass jug in its base. Yes, glass is important.

The dispenser itself, a sleek, modern-looking tower of black plastic and chrome, has been replaced multiple times because it functions poorly. It loses its prime almost instantly, and getting a glass of water requires holding the lever down and listening to 30 seconds of obnoxious chugging and spitting before the water finally reaches the spout again. I can get up from the table, fill a glass from the kitchen tap and sit back down in less time than it takes to coax the first drop of water from the dispenser. But it’s healthier, right? Pure and unadulterated. (I can hear you all mentally screaming “No!”)

Personally, I live in the country and get my water from a private well. It’s 175 feet deep and the water it produces tastes so good my seasonal neighbors get their drinking water from my hose bib.

I drink it in great quantities. Yet it wasn’t until a few years ago that I convinced my sister that she didn’t need to bring a trunkload of bottled water when she came to visit. It wasn’t that she thought my water tasted bad. She didn’t really even understand where the water came from and assumed it wasn’t as pure and healthy as what came out of her glass bottles. I assume she feels the same about city water.

The problem, and it’s one you face, isn’t that she’s looking for the healthiest option. It’s the misperception that your water isn’t a healthy option. No matter how many awards you win and how much value you deliver, some will think they need to pay $8 per gallon for good drinking water, with no thought to the vast resources that go into bottling and distributing water commercially. Or the waste it produces.

My sister is smart and successful, but she’s bought into the idea that branded bottles can deliver benefits your municipal utility can’t. That’s a shame, because you do good work and take care of your communities. And it speaks to the importance of community outreach to teach your customers about where their water comes from, how it’s treated and the important roles you play in protecting those resources.

As you well know, it’s a mission that requires all the support you can build.

Enjoy this month’s issue. 

Comments on this column or about any article in this publication may be directed to editor Luke Laggis, 800-257-7222;


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