‘What Not To Flush’ Messaging Hits the Streets of California

October 6, 2016

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Dublin (Calif.) San Ramon Services District customers can learn which items they should not flush down toilets just by looking at the panel truck. Photo courtesy of Joyce Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

Dublin (Calif.) San Ramon Services District customers can learn which items they should not flush down toilets just by looking at the panel truck. Photo courtesy of Joyce Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

The Dublin (Calif.) San Ramon Services District’s public education messaging has gone mobile. To spread its messages about items not to be flushed down toilets and the value of water, the district has equipped their vehicles with educational signs.

The district’s “What Not To Flush” program asks customers to never flush wipes, diapers, or feminine hygiene products, even those labeled “flushable;” to dispose of fats, oil, and grease as well as medications and sharp medical implements safely in the trash; and to recycle or dispose of hazardous household chemicals at designated locations in the community.

“We want our customers to understand how they can prevent sewer backups,” said Sue Stephenson, the district’s community affairs supervisor.

The importance of water and using it wisely has been relayed to district customers since June 2011. Photo courtesy of Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

The importance of water and using it wisely has been relayed to district customers since June 2011. Photo courtesy of Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

When deciding how to educate customers, the district, which provides potable and recycled water services in addition to wastewater treatment, wanted to reduce costs and focus on its target audience — customers. The district spent a total of $18,010 to create 64 magnetic truck signs and to cover a panel truck in a wrap with three separate messages.

“It’s a lot cheaper to put small magnetic signs on our pickup trucks, which we change quarterly with different messages, and a wrap on our panel truck than to purchase bus signs, billboards, or other local community ads,” Stephenson said. “The beauty of the vehicle signs is that they only travel in our service area.”

Now, 15 of the district’s vehicles feature 279 mm (11 in.) by 508 mm (20 in.) magnetic signs with messages that change with the seasons. The signs ask customers to turn off sprinklers in the winter, to consider smart water landscaping in the spring, to save water in the summer, and to fix leaks in the fall. The total cost for this portion of the project equals that of one month of similar signs for buses, according to the project’s “Summary Activity Report.”

The district promotes the benefits of working in the water and wastewater sector through a truck wrap. Photo courtesy of Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

The district promotes the benefits of working in the water and wastewater sector through a truck wrap. Photo courtesy of Chang, Dublin San Ramon Services District.

Larger signs on the panel truck communicate how to start working in the water and wastewater sectors, how to conserve water, and that the toilet is not a trashcan. The truck wrap lasts a minimum of 5 years and costs the equivalent of one month of a billboard in a high-demand area, the report says.

“The district is communicating 600% more messages with our magnetic truck signs and the truck wrap than if we used the more traditional billboards or bus signs,” the report says.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

WEF Highlights Showcases Flushables Outreach Efforts

As the nondispersibles issue continues to grow, utilities are turning to humor to educate the public. In the footsteps of the Singing Sewermen from Thames Water (London), utilities are creating unique and humorous public service announcements (PSAs) and campaigns to educate the public about what can and cannot go down the drain or toilet.

Use keyword FlushablePSA to find all WEF Highlights articles on these efforts. Do you have a unique flushable PSA to share? Send it to Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights editor, at jfulcher@wef.org.

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