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May 28, 2015

CWWA Adds "Public Attitudes 2015" to the Conversation

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On June 3rd, CWWA will be releasing a new report titled "Public Attitudes 2015". We, hope that this report starts to bridge the gap between the reality of our infrastructure challenge and the public opinions. The report suggests that the goal of an eventual communications plan would be to get municipal citizens to support, or at least accept, decisions by their local council or board to make major investments into water and wastewater systems. The report looks at messaging around the value of water, educating the public on how water/wastewater systems work and what might happen if we do not act soon – all with a hopeful positive message!  

This CWWA Attitudes Report is no a final communications plan, but rather a guidebook for those developing such a plan. We conducted surveys of water thinkers in Canada and facilitated a roundtable session to brainstorm ideas and concepts for developing a plan. So, while this isn’t your final communications plan, we strongly recommend you read this before you start, or we hope this may clarify the need for a campaign and clarify the issues involved. The report should be available electronically near the end of May.

We believe this is a timely release as it falls in amongst a few very interesting reports that have been released recently with regard to water and wastewater infrastructure in Canada. Back in 2013, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in conjunction with several partners (including CWWA) conducted an Infrastructure Report Card. The results of that report demonstrated the billions of dollars that are required now and in the near future for infrastructure replacement. The report looked at roads and bridges as well as water, wastewater and stormwater.  A second round of that Report Card was conducted this past January and the results are being compiled and analyzed now for an expected release this fall. We already know that a lot more municipalities were able to respond this year, but we expect similar results, suggesting the critical need for major investment in our infrastructure.  

BCWWA recently released a report on the state of water and wastewater infrastructure in British Columbia asking "Are Our Water Systems at Risk?" and considering the sustainability of their systems. Again, this report identifies the need for major investments in water infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Royal Bank (RBC), through their Blue Water Project, has been conducting annual surveys of the general public to gage their attitudes on water. The 8th edition of the RBC Attitudes Survey was released in March with an emphasis on attitudes around infrastructure. The results were very telling and set a clear mission for all of us in the water/wastewater industry. While public confidence in water is still very high (approaching 80%), less than half of respondents new where their water came from, how water and wastewater is treated, nor the condition of their municipal systems.

CWWA has worked at the federal level, providing comments to the Infrastructure Roundtable which led to the renewed Building Canada Fund. Our mission now is two-fold. We need to get the provincial and municipal decision-makers to choose water/wastewater projects for use of the available infrastructure funds. But those decision-makers need to know they have the support of the public when they make the critical decisions that they need to make. We hope that this Public Attitudes 2015 report will be the first step in the right direction.



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