Publicity Builds Good Will for Water Works
How a Water Company Gained the Co-operation of a Hostile Public Through a Series of Well-Chosen Advertisements—A Campaign of More Than Eighty Insertions
THE East Bay Water Company of Oakland, California, furnishes the water supply for nine cities of the East Bay section on the land side of San Francisco Bay. To the inhabitants of these cities, approximately 350,000, the company’s officers directed a very extensive advertising campaign.
The purpose of this advertising campaign was to regain the confidence of the East Bay people. The East Bay Water Company had succeeded another company but a short time before, and, along with other things received in the transaction had encountered a public opinion that was quite unfavorable. To change this public opinion—to replace misinformation and conjecture with definite facts—and so regain the confidence of the people served with water, the company’s side of the question had to be placed before the people in a way they would see and understand. Paid space in the newspapers was chosen as the best medium for accomplishing these ends.
The Company’s Place in the Community
The conception the company has of its place in the community is well shown in the first advertisement, which reads in part: “When a group of people having a common interest live in the same place under the same laws and regulations—these people constitute a community. Whenever a community exists, community problems arise. These community problems explain and account for the public service corporations—companies organized to render service essential to the general public health or convenience or both; in other words, companies organized to solve community problems. The most important among community problems is the question of adequate water supply. In this East Bay Community, the East Bay Water Company as a public service corporation, in a sense acts as the agent of the public in securing, storing and distributing water for domestic and commercial uses.”
The Water Problem the People’s Problem
It was in this spirit of co-operation with the people of the community that the East Bay Water Company employed advertising as a means of rendering an even greater service to its customers. The company regards the water problem as the people’s problem, and it believes that the people can be kept informed regarding it in no better way than through paid advertising. Advertising enabled the management of the company to take the public more freely into its confidence. Reasons for policies were explained—co-operation in preventing waste gained, and misunderstandings were prevented. More than one thousand stockholders residing in the East Bay communities can be kept acquainted with the activities of the management through advertising prepared primarily for the public. The saving on postage and letter writing alone goes far toward defraying the cost of newspaper publicity.
Each Community’s Problem Treated in Ads.
Each big community problem of water supply and distribution was made the subject of one or more advertisements. The first of these, wastage of water in the home (quoted further on in this article), was planned to gain the readers’ attention by interesting them in a topic of great concern to them—the size of their water bill. Once this point of contact was firmly established, it was comparatively easy to build public confidence and good will by advertising successively in detail. The methods employed to make the water clean, safe, pleasing to the taste and to the eye, and free from all impurities; the water business—the amount invested in watersheds, equipment, etc., and the cost of transporting the water from the watersheds to consumers; methods of purifying water; provisions for the city’s growth; comparisons of freight and water transportation ; cultivation of civic pride—the value of a wellkept yard—how to plant and take care of flowers and lawns—and how to choose flowers; the work of different employees; and finally a comparison of the increase in water rates (12 per cent.) with the increase in commodity prices (98 per cent.).
Expense Justified by Results
The amount spent by the East Bay Water Company for space in newspapers and periodicals during the year 1920 was but a trifle more than three-tenths of one per cent, of the gross revenue. If this amount had been apportioned to the meters in operation, it would have meant about eleven and one-third cents each for the year. In view of the unusual interest the public has in water development, the spending of such a small sum for advertising purposes is more than justified.
The East Bay Water Company believes that its advertising is for the public good; that it is to the best interests of the community, and so long as it continues to serve the community it will be used.
In this campaign there were some eighty-seven advertisements, which were published in San Francisco, Oakland. Redmond, Berkeley and other California city dailies. Space does not permit of reproducing all of these “ads,” but some of the best are quoted herewith:
Number Two of a Series
(Cut, of running faucet)
Why We Ask You Not to Waste Water
Is it because we are afraid of a shortage of water?
No. This year’s rain has filled the reservoirs with enough water to insure an adequate supply for at least ten years.
Is it because we lose when you waste water?
No. You pay us for every drop of water registered by your meter, whether used or wasted. As a matter of fact, the more you waste, the more we gain.
Then why, you ask, do we urge you to save water?
Because in addition to water—we sell service. Part of this service is to give you full value—to help you pay only for what you use and to use all that you pay for.
(Continued on page 835)
Water Works Advertising Campaign
(Continued from page 832)
In this series of advertisements we will show you where to watch for leaks and how to perform household duties without water waste.
If our suggestions are followed, consumers will only pay for water used—not wasted—and will become our greatest asset,—satisfied customers.
Number Thirteen of a Series
(Cut of a meter)
Does Your Meter Work Over-Time?
Yes—meters have been found that were not registering correctly.
But the meters used by this company do not register more water than passes through them—more water than is actually used. They might sometimes register less by becoming clogged with dirt or sediment from the outside.
This condition may cause the meter to run slow—and you are charged with less water than is actually used.
In the past, when consumers have insisted that their meters registered high, these meters have been taken out, sealed and tested in the presence of the consumer.
During the past year about 1,000 meters were taken from the ground and tested, after being in use from 1 to 5 years. None of these meters registered high. Only a small number registered less water than the amount actually passing through them.
The meter in your parking is a cash register—counting accurately the water you use—and reporting its reading to our inspectors. This reading, turned in at the office, forms the basis of the bill you receive.
Number Twenty-four of a Series
(Cut of five pumping stations, raised one above the other)
Raising 2,000,000 Gallons of Water 800 Feet Daily
It is difficult for the average man or woman to realize the gigantic task of actually lifting 2,000,000 gallons of water 800 feet every twenty-four hours.
Yet the topography of this East Bay section is such as to make it necessary to boost water pumped from wells at Alvarado or stored in Lake Chabot from the low elevation of the pumping station at 24th Avenue to the homes and reservoirs of Piedmont.
No other water system in this country (either privately or municipally owned) is confronted with such an expensive daily problem,—a problem which cannot be eliminated, regardless of the source of supply.
To pump this water to Piedmont requires the equipment of five different pumping plants—-operating day and night.
When some Eastern visitor tells you that water rates in this community are not so low as those in some other communities. explain these conditions and difficulties.
Number Thirty-two of a Series
(Cut of chart showing water supply and population)
More People—Constant Water Supply
The population of Oakland and the East Bay Cities is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that 50,000 new people came to this section during 1918.
With the completion of the great San Pablo project, the East Bay Water Company will have developed the available local source for the gathering of water. Today the company maintains 21 reservoirs, located from Lake Chabot or San Leandro Lake to Richmond, and 18 pumping stations.
The development of the water supply must keep ahead of the growth of these communities—for a community without adequate water supply is impossible.
Number Thirty-five of a Series
(Cut showing derrick hoisting roof support)
Concrete vs. Wood for Supporting Reservoir Roofs
Several of the smaller distribution reservoirs were covered by the predecessors of the East Bay Water Company.
Supporting the roofs of these reservoirs were wooden posts —posts that extended from the floor of the reservoir to the roof.
Water rots wood—and consequently the posts in the reservoirs would eventually rot away.
In the rehabilitation of the East Bay Water Company’s reservoirs, concrete posts—thoroughly reinforced—are being installed.
Concrete will last and will not in any way affect the water.
A roof over a distribution reservoir—keeping out the sunlight—is the only method of preventing the growth of Algae. And Algae, while harmless, causes a disagreable taste, color, and odor.
In all the rehabilitation work of the East Bay Water Company, the structures are being built to last—to form a definite and permanent part of the plant and equipment of this company.
Number Forty-six of a Series
(Cut showing freight being shipped)
Accumulating Freight and Accumulating Water
John Smith lives in Richmond. He wishes to ship a case of goods to the East. Bill Jones lives in Alameda. He also desires to send a box of merchandise to the Atlantic Coast.
Both have their freight delivered to the local freight depot. Freight of this class is assembled in the freight storage warehouse, and a carload is made up. It is then dispatched to its destination via various distributing centers.
Now, water is gathered, stored and dispatched in much the same way.
During the rainy season hundreds of small creeks and streams are diverted into larger ones, and are finally stored in storage reservoirs such as Lake San Leandro and others.
These “I. c. I. shipments,” as we might call them, are assembled into one large shipment and pumped when needed, to the distribution reservoirs for final distribution to you.
The cost of bringing these small streams of water together (transporting and holding them in storage) is an item entering into the water rate that should not be overlooked.
Number Fifty-one of a Series
(Cut showing double header of locomotives on up-grade)
Why a Double Header Is Like a Pumping Station
When you travel over the Sierras, it is necessary to use the power of two or more locomotives to pull the train over the grade.
Transporting weight up a hill costs more money than transporting the same weight downhill or on a level.
It is estimated that it costs the Denver & Rio Grande 33 1/3 per cent, more to haul freight over the Rocky Mountain grades from Denver to Salt Lake than it costs other railroads to haul the same freight from Chicago to Omaha.
It takes additional fuel, additional labor, additional equipment to transport freight over the mountains.
Just so it takes additional pumping equipment, additional men, additional fuel to transport water to the hilly regions of the East Bay Section.
Certain hill sections of this community have their 2,000,000 gallons of water used daily pumped several times before this water can be dropped by gravity to users from distribution reservoirs.
It is obvious that water transportation costs, where water must be transported uphill, are higher than in communities where water is carried downhill by gravity.
To eliminate high water transportation costs here, you would need to eliminate the hills. So transportation costs will always be high.
Number Seventy-eight of a Series
(Cut of fireman at his post)
Quick! More Steam Pressure
If you should look in on E. Foley, fireman at the great oil burning, steam pumping plant at Alvarado, you might think his job monotonous and uninteresting.
But suddenly there’s a change in the constant “push—pull —push—pull” of the giant pumps which transport 10 millions of water each 24 hours, to the next relay pumping station.
Perhaps a dozen fire engines have begun to suck water from the mains. Or there’s break in the pipes or a broken down relay pump. Foley must act quickly or there will be more trouble.
His trained ears tell by the sound of the pumps what should be done. Even before orders can be telephoned from headquarters, he has adjusted the steam pressure.
E. Foley and the night man, P. Juhl, as well as 55 other engineers, firemen and motormen in 16 other steam and electric pumping plants, are on the job constantly, 24 hours in the day, 365 days in the year watching, waiting, listening that you may not be deprived of water at your faucet for a single moment.