Public Involvement and Customer Communication

The American Water Works Association recognizes the critical importance and multiple benefits of clear and timely communication with customers, meaningful involvement by community members and stakeholders, and proactive, persuasive and frank information-sharing regarding water and wastewater quality and service.

Water sector professionals have a key role in support of the public and the communities they serve. They manage a crucial natural resource that is essential to people’s health, community economies, the environment, and the fabric of social stability. Water and wastewater quality and reliability are not solely technical - they are also critical health, lifestyle, economic, social and political issues.

AWWA supports the integration of communication and public involvement as core elements of utility management. The credibility and reputation of utilities and the water profession as a whole are supported by open and ongoing communication that establishes relationships and creates a framework for understanding, trust and cooperation, especially in times of crisis.

AWWA recognizes that communication should be a two-way dialogue with customers, community members, public officials and stakeholders. This dialogue should involve a broad range of topics and issues of importance to consumers and stakeholders—including quality, availability and reliability of the resource, conservation, source water protection, infrastructure investment and costs for service. Messages should be consistent, factual and tailored to the receptivity and interest of specific audiences, including multilingual, sensitive and special populations.

Opportunities for input and involvement are essential to public understanding and acceptance of utility programs and projects. The format and depth of involvement will vary according to individual suppliers, communities and issues. AWWA supports the use of diverse communication platforms, including web-based and social media platforms, for communicating water quality data or other relevant information related to water services to the public. Opportunities for involvement must, however, be meaningful, inclusive and clearly linked to the decision-making process.

AWWA advocates ongoing communication and involvement as beneficial to the publics and communities served by water and wastewater utilities. Applied with honesty, openness and receptivity, these critical aspects of utility planning and operations broaden understanding and support for the growing challenges of providing safe, clean and reliable service while advancing awareness of the value of water.

Adopted by the Board of Directors June 6, 1993, and revised June 18, 1995, June 20, 1999, Jan. 21, 2007, June 2013 and revised Jan. 2018.