Water providers are important sources of information about lead in drinking water—but they’re not the only ones. People in need of solutions will look to a variety of sources to find them, and not always the ones you would expect. Although water utilities should expect to play a lead role in communicating with their customers, there are many benefits in collaborating with other potential information sources.
Below is a brief list of stakeholders who may complement or amplify a water supplier’s outreach on lead in drinking water:
Public Health Officials—Whether at the city, county or state level, these officials are generally trusted and viewed as independent. While they shouldn’t be expected to lead the messaging effort, it is important that the information they provide be consistent with that shared by water providers.
Local Regulatory Agencies—Discord between a water utility and its oversight agency can be disastrous. Both communications and technical staff should coordinate to ensure consistency.
Neighboring Water Systems—A single “media market” often encompasses numerous water systems. Proactively discussing the issue of lead with peer agencies and consecutive systems is the best way to prevent confusion.
Community Building/Permitting Officials—Although their roles generally have little to do with water quality, it is important to remember that lead is at its roots is a construction materials issue. Apprising building professionals of premise plumbing issues and water utility actions and messages can broaden your reach and avoid contradictory information.
Real Estate Professionals/Home Inspectors—The transfer of property represents an opportunity to replace lead service lines and address other lead plumbing issues. Communicating about lead with those involved in home inspections and real estate transactions encourages transparency that may reduce risks for some households.
Elected Officials—Often the first stops for concerned residents, public officials and their liaisons field constituent questions every day. Prepare them by providing background information and a resource to whom they can direct more detailed inquiries.
School System Representatives—This stakeholder group is important enough to warrant its own section, “Help Schools.” Charged with protecting a young and vulnerable population, school officials can be strong advocates if properly informed.
Plumbing Professionals—Often overlooked as stakeholders, plumbers are a go-to resource for homeowners trying to determine whether they may have a lead issue. Reaching out to them early increases the likelihood that they will help their clients make informed decisions.
Water and Consumer Advocates—Proactively reaching out to stakeholders who advocate for water safety and consumer protections encourages a spirit of collaboration and demonstrates authentic interest in public health. Water providers are uniquely qualified to provide accurate information to groups that communicate separately with their customers.
Here are free resources for utilities to use to communicate with stakeholders that include public officials, plumbers, public health agencies, realtors and others.
Editable Presentation to Public Officials (PPT)
Editable Letter to Plumbers (DOC)
Sample Presentation to Public Health Agency (PDF)
Sample Presentation to Real Estate Community (PDF)