COG and Area Water Utilities Launch Wise Water Use Campaign

May 20, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), in partnership with area water utilities, the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency today launched the first regional campaign to promote year round wise water use.

Using materials developed through the national “Water, Use It Wisely®” the campaign encourages residents and businesses across the region to use water wisely by demonstrating simple wise water use practices in and around homes and businesses. Campaign media include broadcast, theater, and transit advertising and public service announcements, as well as public school education and community outreach efforts.

At the launch, elementary and middle school students from the District of Columbia and Alexandria, Virginia, joined Wise Water Use partners (currently 34 organizations including area water utilities, commissions, and authorities; COG, local governments; the State of Maryland; Commonwealth of Virginia; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) at a model home in Prince George’s County to demonstrate various water saving practices. Examples of the water savings tips exhibited today and promoted in the campaign include:

  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save up to 4 gallons per minute.  That’s 200 gallons each week for a family of four.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk and save up to 80 gallons of water every time.
  • Use a hose nozzle and turn off the water when you wash your car and save more than 100 gallons
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank.  If it seeps into the toilet bowl, you have a leak.  It’s an easy fix, and can save more than 7,000 gallons per year.

Supervisor Penelope Gross and Chair of COG’s Water Supply Task Force stated, “The campaign was designed to be used year round regardless of drought conditions.  By providing and practicing simple ways to save water, citizens of the region can help support efforts to efficiently manage regional water resources and supplies.”

Following the Drought of 1999, area officials questioned the region’s ability to effectively communicate and coordinate its drought response, and its ability to meet the growing demands upon regional water supplies.  To address those concerns, COG’s Board of Directors established a Water Supply Task Force.  The regional Wise Water Use Campaign grew out of the coordinated regional drought response and awareness plan developed by the Task Force.

The “Water, Use It Wisely®” campaign was created originally for communities in Arizona. Research in that area indicated that consumers already knew why they should conserve water, but needed to know a variety of ways in which to do it. Beginning with one Arizona jurisdiction and a small pool of money, the campaign spread quickly to other cities. In two years, it ballooned to a full-scale advertising and community relations success, with ultimate investments of more than one-third of a million dollars.  In addition to the metropolitan Washington region, the campaign has been adopted in such areas as Seattle, Washington, North Carolina, and the Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Market research conducted in the Washington region supported use of the “Water, Use It Wisely®” materials. Each jurisdiction/utility can participate to the level that suits it individually, while demonstrating a regionally united and coordinated effort. Because water supply and reasons for saving water can vary greatly depending on location, even for neighboring utilities, campaign materials focus on everyday tips that can help residents and businesses change their behaviors and attitudes about using water wastefully.

Campaign materials will continue to be developed and distributed in the coming years, with new ads in additional languages that can reach different target populations. Sometime next fall, the campaign will expand to education-based efforts in area elementary and middle schools, which will introduce students to their water resources and to wise water use stewardship.

For more information on water saving tips, log on to www.mwcog.org or www.wateruseitwisely.com , or call the Water, Use it Wisely Information Line at 202-962-3755.  

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