New Report Contends 'Marketing Gap' Limits Water Investment, Size of U.S. Water Industry

Feb. 8, 2002

Resource Trends Inc. has released its new executive-summary report titled "Bridging the Marketing Gap in Water." This groundbreaking report contends that water/wastewater districts and municipalities (agencies) have not been applying marketing principles to their strategic-planning processes and dialogue with the public. The existence of this "marketing gap" means that we do not have enough money to invest appropriately in infrastructure, reliability of supply, and the condition of source waters. It is also the root cause of public opposition and lost reputation (negative branding) that many water and wastewater agencies have experienced. Ultimately, this gap limits the size of the U.S. water industry.

The report gives tangible examples of the impact of low public support and under-investment including:

  • Loss of approximately 70,000-90,000 acres per year of wetlands on non-federal, rural lands
  • Inadequate standards and goals related to capacity, causing frequent water shortages in arid regions
  • Deferred maintenance, causing sewage leaks and contamination of local water sources
  • Increasing frequency of ocean and lakefront beach closures
  • Lingering non-compliance with regulations
  • Surface water bodies (40 percent) not meeting standards that would allow for fishing and swimming
  • Agencies treating valuable resources as wastes, thus giving away the investment made by rate-payers

"Water agencies have done a good job of supplying safe and reliable water and wastewater services," says John Ruetten, President of Resource Trends. "However, as growth and aging infrastructure stress water resources and the environment, and federal funding becomes increasingly scarce, agencies need to start treating rate-payers like investors, instead of just recipients of services. Landing investment--increased rate base and operating budgets--requires that agencies understand how to have a meaningful dialogue with rate-payers." Ruetten adds, "They also need to understand that their reputation, or brand, is based on their decisions, standards, and goals related to important non-regulated issues, not public relations programs or logos. Some of these important non-regulated issues are drought resistance and protection of local ground and surface waters."

Following the format of an executive summary, the report defines the problem and outlines the solution.

The Industry Problem

  • Examples of Under-Investment: Impacts to Economic and Environmental Health
  • Rate-Increase Planning and Subsidized Rates
  • Understanding Public Opposition
  • Lost Reputation and Negative Branding

The Solution

  • Why Water-Agency Managers Need to Lead, and How they Should Lead
  • Setting Standards and Goals Related to Important Non-Regulated Issues
  • Having a Meaningful Dialogue with Rate-Payers and Key Stakeholders
  • Articulating and Building a Positive Brand
  • Starting a Journey of Applying Strategic-Marketing Principles

"This report gives water and wastewater agency managers the insight and tools to start a journey of applying marketing principles. It helps them build trust with constituents (improve their brand), increase support for upcoming projects, get rate increases approved, and manage public opposition," says Dan Noble, Director of Research for Resource Trends. Noble adds that this marketing gap effects everyone in the industry since it fundamentally determines working capital and operating budgets

For more information about the report, and how to purchase a copy go to www.WaterAnswer.com.

Source: Resource Trends, Inc.

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