The Wettest Drought on Record

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Presentation delivered jointly by Richard Aylard (Thames Water), Trevor Bishop (Environment Agency), Nick Ellins (Water UK), Tim Collins (Natural England) at Communicate 2012: Breaking Boundaries. The Wettest Drought on Record focused on the challenges of communicating water saving messages in the face of a summer of heavy rainfall.

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  • From 2009 onwards, the industry seeing varying weather patterns Key feature was the jet stream taking usual rain out to sea Generally dry....but very dry in South East
  • Key impact for sector was dry winters...........when we normally get our recharge Below average rainfall for three years in some places.....2011 was the second driest spring since records began Driest on record in East Anglian and South East But even usually wet North West had sixty per cent in the first half of 2010 Most areas saw 50 per cent of their usual 2012 rainfall
  • We started our enhanced water efficiency campaign in August 2011. Waterwisely was a way to engage with customers and make this a two-way process, rather than just ‘telling’ them what to do. Waterwisely was designed to be fun, and make water-saving as easy as possible – a hub to get advice, free products, visibility of how you compare with others. This also links to popular social networking sites, where we know customers spend their time.
  • We publicised Waterwisely in an usual way – finding a interesting way of bringing water efficiency to the news agenda. Our women shaving their legs stat made the front page of the Telegraph.
  • We launched a river protection programme, consisting of seven local campaigns to protect River Thames tributaries. The message was: ‘Your water comes from here. The less you use the more there’ll be in the river’. Press releases were supported by local billboards and ‘ad vans’. Each achieved excellent local coverage. We gave it exclusively to the Sunday Times, whose headline was: ‘Turn off the taps before rivers start to run dry’. We used this to support our response to the Government’s drought announcement resulting in 956 articles. DEFRA later emulated our initiative with its ‘Love Your River’ programme, which we’re advising on
  • Key impact for sector was dry winters...........when we normally get our recharge Below average rainfall for three years in some places.....2011 was the second driest spring since records began Driest on record in East Anglian and South East But even usually wet North West had sixty per cent in the first half of 2010 Most areas saw 50 per cent of their usual 2012 rainfall
  • Eventually led to Caroline Spelman formally announcing an environmental drought – working with EA No immediate threat to public water supplies But what started as a feature for the East and South East Soon expanded from the tip of Cornwall to Yorkshire and became a severe water shortage Secretary of State forms a National Drought Group and CEO of EA Chairs it Water UK take on specific resources to help companies act as one.....Nick and Russell
  • Helpfully – The effects of the environmental drought became obvious to everyone Empty ponds and streams.......low rivers.....cracked roads....rail track subsidence and even canals starting to empty Reservoirs falling rapidly and people reliant on private water supplies – saw local shallow wells etc. drying out
  • One of the most dramatic indicators of the drought was our rivers Levels crashed at the same time as mother nature was nesting, spawning, and relying on good water availability The EA rescued huge quantities of fish to take them to the better off rivers The impact on breeding could be significant and is still not fully known Last line is sobering
  • One of the most dramatic indicators of the drought was our rivers Levels crashed at the same time as mother nature was nesting, spawning, and relying on good water availability The EA rescued huge quantities of fish to take them to the better off rivers The impact on breeding could be significant and is still not fully known Last line is sobering
  • Inevitably......as the above ground water disappeared and the underground stores became more heavily used Water companies enacted their statutory drought plans Built to manage such events and signed off by the Secretary of State Part of wider water resource management planning that considers needs for the next 25 years
  • On the day we announced the bans..........the jet stream shifted south Met office have no idea why.....still looking in to it....Net result was that the usual dry season of the year totally reversed
  • And the rain came.....and came.....and came....five months of record rain from April to August 1.5 months in 24 hours......on solid ground.....over 4000 properties flooded and huge water quality issues A communication challenge for some.....but huge goodwill and we changed our language to explain it Companies used the newly available water to refill reservoirs at about 1% a day Underground stores needed much longer and some companies 75-80% reliant....Midlands still low even now...Thames 7% 3 companies eventually lifted....then final 4.....but water efficiency still going on now.....a dry winter now will be difficult As recovery came....we did less drought and more resilience....Grabbing the vital lessons learned and planning for the future
  • Aim Respond quickly to exceptional rainfall (262% of long-term average rainfall in April) Move messaging on from ‘drought’, which customers were struggling to relate to, to reinforcing that there was still a ‘serious water shortage’ Improve customer understanding of situation – long-term rainfall needed. Activity Acquired 110 digital billboards in tube stations for speed, plus roadside boards in the Thames Valley 600 digital escalator panels at 10 tube stations Updated radio adverts with rainfall messaging Full page ad explaining situation in Metro and Standard
  • Aim Maintain momentum encouraging customers to always save water Promote free water-saving devices Respond to topsy-turvy British weather Recognise the efforts made by customers so far Close water-shortage messaging down Activity Billboards and posters (160) at train and tube stations, plus roadsides Bus side adverts (627) Sponsorship on Heart FM (13 weeks) Radio advert messaging updated to ‘come rain or shine’ Full-page advertorial on water-savings in the Standard and Metro 2,000 tube car panels (4 weeks)
  • Planned drought ad campaign to run over the Olympics to appeal to both tourists and Londoners Moved on from ‘please use water wisely’ to ‘please use our water wisely’ The hosepipe ban was lifted due to exceptional rainfall, and it kept on raining Aim Reinforce saving water isn’t just for droughts Promote free water-saving products Take a friendlier approach Our planned ad was no longer appropriate Instead, we used the booked space to reinforce water-efficiency messaging Activity Billboards and posters at London tube and trains stations (4 weeks) Tube car panels (2,000 for 4 weeks) Billboards at Heathrow Airport (2 weeks)
  • Visitors to Waterwisely increased 419% on the previous week to 20,126… … or 1,550% to 20,126 compared to the same period in June The number of people reaching the site by typing in the full web address (as seen on the advert) increased by 112% to 3,106… … or 362% to 3,106 compared to the same period in June.
  • Key impact for sector was dry winters...........when we normally get our recharge Below average rainfall for three years in some places.....2011 was the second driest spring since records began Driest on record in East Anglian and South East But even usually wet North West had sixty per cent in the first half of 2010 Most areas saw 50 per cent of their usual 2012 rainfall
  • Aim Maintain momentum encouraging customers to always save water Promote free water-saving devices Respond to topsy-turvy British weather Recognise the efforts made by customers so far Close water-shortage messaging down Activity Billboards and posters (160) at train and tube stations, plus roadsides Bus side adverts (627) Sponsorship on Heart FM (13 weeks) Radio advert messaging updated to ‘come rain or shine’ Full-page advertorial on water-savings in the Standard and Metro 2,000 tube car panels (4 weeks)
  • The Wettest Drought on Record

    1. 1. The wettest drought on record:Counter-intuitive communications
    2. 2. From 2009 we see varying weather patternsThe Jet stream takes usual rain out to seaNormal Jet stream Drought Jet stream
    3. 3. Below average rainfallMonthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
    4. 4. August 2011:Urging customers to use water wisely
    5. 5. August 2011: Managing expectationsThames Water said yesterday: “It mayseem like it’s always raining, but we’vehad below average rainfall across ourregion for nine of the past 12 months.”
    6. 6. August 2011: Educating customers
    7. 7. Below average rainfall – winter 2011/12Monthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
    8. 8. The environmental drought develops “We are facing a severe water shortage.” Environment Secretary CarolineSpelman confirms a drought for thesouth east of England and warns of impending hosepipe bans.
    9. 9. The impact of the drought
    10. 10. Rescue squads sent in to save drought-hit fish “Dr ought condit ions have so badly af f ect ed wildlif e in some r egions t hat r escue par t ies have been cr eat ed t o save f ish f r om r apidly disappear ing r iver s.” "Never ever has it dr ied up t his ear ly in t he year . I t has a t er r ible ef f ect ... We are running out of rivers to put the fish in” Guardian, 3 April 2012
    11. 11. Wildlife complexities Droughts are natural – however: - Many wetland ecosystems already under pressure - Fragmentation has led to isolation Individuals lost or population at risk? Visible impact versus ecological resilience Damaged or able to recover? Robust or fragile ecosystems? Timeline for recovery?
    12. 12. 5 April:Waterrestrictionsimposed
    13. 13. April 2012 Paddington station
    14. 14. But then…
    15. 15. Jet stream moves south
    16. 16. and the rain came…
    17. 17. … and communicating became ‘interesting’
    18. 18. May 2012 Swindon
    19. 19. Improving understanding
    20. 20. Customer viewsQ: How much difference has the rain made?A: 89% recognised there was still a water shortage despite the rain I don’t knowNo difference.Water shortage as No longer a seriousserious as ever 2% water shortage 13% 9% 27% 49%Very little difference.Water shortage still Improved situation, butalmost as serious still a serious water shortage429 Thames Water customer panellists, Community Research 10-14 May2012
    21. 21. Customer understandingQ: Do you agree with the following statements?429 Thames Water customer panellists, Community Research 10-14 May2012
    22. 22. June 2012 Reading Station
    23. 23. Maintaining momentum
    24. 24. August 2012 Charing Cross Station
    25. 25. Visits to WaterwiselyIn the first week of the Olympicsadverts appearing:Over 20,000 visitors to Waterwiselywebsite – 15 times more than thesame period the prior month.
    26. 26. Recent rainfallMonthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
    27. 27. The lessons learnt

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