Utility Uses Multi-Faceted Public Outreach Approach for Large Pipeline Project

Louisville Water Co. relies on much more than press releases and website postings to effectively communicate project details to residents

Utility Uses Multi-Faceted Public Outreach Approach for Large Pipeline Project
The front of the postcard that Louisville Water sent to residents about the Eastern Parkway project.

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The public impact of a 6.6-mile-long water main replacement project has been top of mind for Louisville Water Co. officials from the get-go. That’s part of the reason sliplining is being used in order to minimize traffic disruption, and why work is being conducted in three separate phases only during winter months when water use is low.

Another big component of that is a creative and comprehensive pubic outreach program that has ensured that residents know exactly what is going on and why.

“It’s probably the most layered communications program we’ve ever done,” says Kelley Dearing-Smith, vice president of communications and marketing for the Louisville Water Co. “It was important that we identify the stakeholders and get them involved early on so they would know what to expect.”

Press releases and website postings have been part of that outreach effort, but Dearing-Smith and her team have gone to much greater lengths to keep the public informed and involved in the project.

“First, we targeted one large, oversized postcard to everyone before the project started and then another postcard as we got closer to someone’s street,” Dearing-Smith says. “On social media, Twitter has become a primary news channel for us. We use a dedicated hashtag with up-to-date traffic information, project history, and examples of how we did it.”

Louisville Water also created a “NextDoor” application, which serves as a digital community conversation for each particular neighborhood.

“We not only push information out on this channel,” Dearing-Smith says, “we also quickly respond to any questions or complaints.”

Other media has included special route signage that changes as conditions change, in real-time; neighborhood meetings; and face-to-face sessions with metro council members, the mayor’s office, environmental groups and schools. The meetings even include drone footage of the project taken by the contractor, giving the public a bird’s eye view of the push pits and pipe sections being inserted.

“Overall I think the public is appreciative of the information we’ve provided and how we’ve provided it,” Dearing-Smith says. “We’ve not had much negative feedback.”

She says the oversized postcards were particularly effective because they stuck out in the mail.

As for improvements, she says there are even more opportunities for direct engagement with the community that Louisville Water hasn’t fully taken advantage of.

“We co-sponsored the community’s holiday festival,” Dearing-Smith says. “But there are other events that we could plug into to get the information out.”

Phase 1 of the Eastern Parkway project wrapped up in April and Phase 2 will commence this winter. Old 48-inch-diameter water pipe, dating to the 1930s, is being sliplined with a new 42-inch-diameter pipe.

Read more about Louisville Water in this profile featured in the July 2017 issue of Municipal Sewer & Water magazine. And check out the website on Wednesday for Louisville Water’s tips on what to avoid when attempting to do public outreach for a large project.


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