Every year, the American Civil Society of Engineers (ASCE) grades seventeen aspects of American infrastructure. Ideally, America should be expected to #PassTheTest; after all, A and B grades denotate that infrastructure in a system is in good to excellent condition, at least for the time being. However, since 1998, America’s overall infrastructure GPA as well as drinking water quality and wastewater grades have been in the subpar D-range for two decades. To address this, throughout Water Awareness Month--from May 1st through 30th--the American Civil Society of Engineers (ASCE) worked to design and develop a social media plan to increase awareness of water infrastructure problems in America.
Campaign Issue and Objectives
Ultimately, policy change and increased federal funding is necessary to resolve the problem of crumbling water infrastructure nationwide. This campaign targets and empowers the general public to urge grassroots funding allocation to water infrastructure in Congress, primarily through education of water investment and economic benefits to investing in this problem sooner rather than later; the campaign also is oriented towards informing the general public just how lucrative and good for the general public and economy the water infrastructure industry can be. The ASCE attained this through awareness raising and coalition building online.
Specifically, the objectives for this campaign are to:
- Increase awareness of American water infrastructure and quality problems;
- Draw media attention to the nation's water infrastructure problem;
- Positively frame the water quality policy conversation in favor of investment;
- Raise funding for water infrastructure projects across the country;
- Push bipartisan solutions and education on the issue;
- Begin drafting bipartisan legislation to improve American water infrastructure
Campaign Target Audience
In particular, this campaign attempts to educate the general American public at large to inspire change, focusing on people over the age of 18 (voting population / those able to contribute money to campaign). Since the campaign is focused on personal narratives and economic effects of crumbling water infrastructure rather than ideology, the campaign is meant to reach out across party lines to inspire bipartisan Congressional action on this issue.
We plan to reach out to this demographic using a variety of social media platforms in attempt to foster interpersonal communication and conversation amidst different age groups. Some of the social media outlets we picked- like Facebook and LinkedIn - are more geared towards older millennials or younger Generation Y individuals - whereas others - like YouTube and Twitter - have an appeal with these demographics as well as Generation Z individuals. Throughout the campaigns, we will make judgment calls on how to better heighten communications through these platforms based on audience reactions and engagement.
Current Approaches (Literature Review) to the Water Infrastructure Problem
There have been major social media campaigns aimed at increase awareness and funding for water quality and conservation in impoverished, third world countries, including:
- Tacoma Water's Conservation Program: Tacoma Water, a water company based in Tacoma, Washington, has an ongoing social media presence aimed at interacting with consumers through survey, Facebook and Twitter posts, calls to action, and online announcements as well as raising awareness on water conservation issues in the community.
- Flash Flood For Good: Led by the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, this was a three-day awareness campaign aimed at raising money for increasing water quality in impoverished countries. The campaign's incorporation of celebrities helped them to reach out to a younger audience than an usual initiative.
- World Water Week: WWWeek is a week-long, annual conference focusing on global water issues held by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). It utilizes the #WWWeek hashtag on Twitter and cultivates outreach with a personalized app.
Our campaign differs from others because it:
- Aims to address localized problems (nationwide infrastructure) rather than global issues
- Focuses on rebuilding water infrastructure (rather than sustainability efforts or quality issues)
- Educates the public and largely focuses on the economic benefits in investing in water infrastructure
The Problem [Explained]
Costs of Crumbling Water Infrastructure [if this problem remains unaddressed...]
- Water infrastructure in America (under)funded through a rate-based system and revolving funds.
- Upgrading water systems to drinking water infrastructure needs will require at least $1 trillion.
- 2020 Predicted deficit for sustaining water delivery and treatment: $84 billion.
- 2020 Predicted Cost on Businesses: $206 billion.
- 184,000 jobs across economic spectrum are at risk by inaction in addressing unreliable water delivery
Potential Positive Economic Impact
- Investing in water infrastructure prompts the creation of high-quality jobs.
- Increases competitiveness in American businesses, leading to injection of significant economic activity.
Potential Ways to Remedy This Problem
Most civil engineers agree that we should increase funding to water infrastructure projects locally and federally to address this issue. People propose doing so through water trust funds and grants for projects.
- Increase traction (impressions) of the #PassTheTest and #OccupyAqua call to action across Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook, and LinkedIn;
- Increase the ASCE Headquarters' followers on Twitter by 35%;
- See a 5% increase in applicants to water infrastructure jobs;
- Increase traffic to the ASCE website;
- See at least 1,000 calls a day about water infrastructure issues beginning made to the House of Representatives the entire week after the campaign.
- Raise at least $100,000 for water infrastructure projects nationwide.