| Gamification boosts utility’s customer engagement, water efficiency success
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Gamification boosts utility’s customer engagement, water efficiency success

Screen from City of Davis video gameTo encourage community members to save water and appreciate the value of a resilient water supply, a California water system is engaging customers of all ages through an entertaining new strategy -- interactive online video games.

The City of Davis is home to a University of California campus and is situated 11 miles west of Sacramento State University. The city’s Environmental Resources Division worked with local college students and an outreach consultant to develop a series of interactive online games designed to educate players about protecting the natural environment through stopping water waste and preventing pollution.

Dawn CalcianoThis “gamification” strategy is an increasingly popular tactic in digital learning. Game design elements are brought into a non-game setting, such as a classroom, in order to increase motivation and attention on a task. 

"The games have been another tool in our outreach toolbox in order to engage customers," said Dawn Calciano, City of Davis Conservation Coordinator. "For our older players, the games have the added benefit of challenging preconceived assumptions and offering alternative approaches that may not have been previously known or considered in a fun and non-confrontational way."

The environmental video games are designed to work with the Chromebook platform used by students in local schools. Players can get tips on saving water, learn which products can be recycled and composted, and find out what should not go down a storm drain by matching pictures or identifying water leaks on a city map. 

While the outreach consultant created the water efficient games, city staff members created the graphics for the stormwater and recycling games to accompany the code written by the college students. The city hosts the games on its website and promotes them through social media, at local events and in their newsletter.

With about 70,000 residents, the city’s water division relies on both groundwater and the Sacramento River to deliver safe water to customers. Even with recent rainfall, the past three years have been the driest on record for California, stressing water supplies and prompting communities to reduce demand through conservation and efficiency solutions, including restricting irrigation to two days per week

"The City of Davis aims to focus customers on water use efficiency, which is a long-term change in how we view water supplies and how we use water," said Calciano. "The City emphasizes water use efficiency on an ongoing basis through our Greener Davis social media channels, monthly e-mail newsletters and our website. We also send shorter-term drought messages through these same channels."