River Tours Increase River System
Knowledge and Perception of TMWA

Challenge

After receiving a steady stream of questions through the customer call center and public forums, we noticed a recurring theme that needed to be addressed.  Many in the community did not understand where their water came from, and therefore did not have an appreciation for the water being delivered to their tap.  This theme of questions clearly created an opportunity to educate customers on something they valued, their drinking water.  Our challenge was to increase Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) customers’ understanding of TMWA and the community’s drinking water system.

Communication Goals

  • Directly connect customers with TMWA in order to gain an understanding of the community’s water system.

Diagnostic Stage:
Discovery

We evaluated different formats and communication methods and researched other water purveyors’ programs.  We also gathered information regarding effective take away items by tracking the most common questions and misconceptions customers have regarding their water and TMWA through the customer call center, public forums and the media.

Next, we identified key members of TMWA’s team to serve as water experts and tour guides for the tour. We also determined and targeted key customer groups and elected officials with communication tactics to participate in the tour.  We also recognized that the largest group with the time available for a tour was an older generation.  It is also the group who is more permanent, has the most time to attend public forums and utilizes the call center.

We recommended full day, guided water system tours as the method that would be the longest-lasting and have the greatest impact on customers. On the tours, TMWA staff would explain sections of the water system including:  the distribution system, storage reservoirs, the river system, water treatment, and the agreements in place with all users of the river.

Prescribing Stage:
Strategy

Through a hands-on experience give TMWA customers the opportunity to gain a full understanding of how water gets to their tap.

Apply & Re-Apply Stage:
Implementation

The tours are guided by TMWA’s highly knowledgeable management staff and act as an open forum for all customer inquiries and questions.  The tours begin at Lake Tahoe Dam in Tahoe City and follow the Truckee River, reaching Donner Lake, Stampede and Boca Reservoirs and a hydroelectric plant at Verdi and the water treatment plant at Chalk Bluff.  After analyzing the results of the first tour, we began a spring and fall tour.

Evaluation

  • Through a post River Tour survey, 75 percent of all customers who attended changed their opinion of TMWA for the better and the majority of the remaining 25 percent already had a positive opinion of TMWA
  • 94 percent of all customers who attended strongly agreed that all their questions were answered adequately by the TMWA tour guides
  • 90 percent of all customers who attended strongly agreed that their knowledge of the Truckee River system has improved after the tour