Target Marketing And Technical Assistance Engages New And Current Customers
TARGET MARKETING AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ENGAGES NEW
AND CURRENT CUSTOMERS
Elmer Alex, PE, Winzler & Kelly, San Diego, CA
Dave Lindow, PE, Winzler & Kelly, San Diego, CA
Lois Humphreys, TRG & Associates, San Diego, CA
Mike Wykosky, Winzler & Kelly, San Diego, CA
Maria Mariscal, San Diego County Water Authority, San Diego, CA
The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a
wholesale supplier of water. SDCWA was created through special act legislation by the California
Legislature in 1944 and works through its 24 member agencies to provide a safe and reliable water
supply to support the region’s economy and the quality of life of its residents. In 2008, SDCWA
imported approximately 82% of its water supply. This reliance on imported water has been burdened by
a combination of state-wide drought conditions and court-ordered pump restrictions in the Sacramento
River Delta to protect the endangered delta smelt.
SDCWA does not sell recycled water, but because it plays a vital role in providing reliable water to the
region, SDCWA takes an active role in promoting and supporting recycled water use throughout the
county. It is essential to promote and effectively market recycled water use to minimize the risk of
water supply shortages and provide sustainable sources of water in San Diego County. In 2008,
SDCWA estimated that only 25,000 acre-feet of recycled water produced is beneficially reused.
SDCWA has a goal of 32,000 acre-feet of beneficial reuse by the year 2012. In order to help meet its
goal, SDCWA began a recycled water outreach and support program aimed at informing, engaging,
educating, motivating, and serving existing and future recycled water customers throughout the county.
SDCWA established the “Market Development and Technical Assistance Program,” herein referred to
as “the Program”
SDCWA hired the team of Winzler & Kelly and TRG & Associates to assist in its efforts. Winzler &
Kelly is a multidisciplinary engineering firm with offices throughout California, Oregon, and the Pacific.
TRG & Associates is a full service public relations firm specializing in water reclamation and other
environmental programs, with offices in Northern and Southern California. The partnership between the
firms was needed because the Program required both technical and public relations services.
The marketing goals of the Program were to: 1) increase the number of recycled water customers and
connections and 2) elevate the recycled water “brand” in the eyes of the customer and their
Conduct a Needs Assessment Survey
SDCWA serves 24 member agencies, each uniquely different from the others. Each agency is in a
different stage of recycled water implementation and therefore has different needs. In order to
determine the needs of the member agencies and develop a comprehensive strategy for the Program, a
Needs Assessment Survey was distributed to each member agency. A brief form was prepared to
determine the parameters of each member agency’s recycled water program, including the number and
type of existing and potential recycled water customers, staffing, budgets, and resources. They were
also queried about their specific needs and the types of resources that would be the most helpful in
satisfying those needs. Approximately 50% of member agencies returned the Needs Assessment
Survey and the responses highlight some common needs and issues throughout the county. They are as
1. Funding for pipeline extensions and retrofits
2. Printed materials, fact sheets, and brochures targeted at customers
3. Informational Workshops for customers
4. On-site technical assistance for customer retrofits
5. Customer service workshops for member agency staff
Since SDCWA has an existing program to provide funding for recycled water pipeline extensions and
retrofits, the Program focused on needs 2, 3, and 4 in order to accomplish its marketing goals.
Prepare a Strategic Plan
Before embarking on the Program, a Strategic Plan was developed to provide the framework and a “road
map” to describe both the challenges and opportunities of using recycled water in San Diego. The
Strategic Plan focused on clearly identifying how potential customers should be approached, what
language should be used, the specific customer services that should be provided, and establishing a
consistent format and design for printed materials. This advanced planning and strategizing with
potential recycled customers greatly enhances their willingness and cooperation.
The Strategic Plan that was developed included the following strategies:
1) Recycled Water Needs to be Branded
Branding is not merely a logo, but rather a quality “thread” that runs through every aspect of a
business or operation. This “thread” is communicated through tools, resources, service, and
communications so that recycled water is branded (perceived and valued) as it is intended – a high
quality, reliable, local and sustainable water supply that is cost-effective, environmentally beneficial,
and delivered with outstanding customer service. Recycled water should be branded with a
consistent message aimed at increasing recycled water use. Messages should be common throughout
all agencies, encompassing marketing practices, customer service or public contact, materials,
training, and workshops.
2) Provide Consistent Marketing and Customer Service throughout the County
Customers are core to the success of recycled water programs. Without the customer, there is no
market for recycled water; therefore, the customer’s needs and motivation are paramount. In San
Diego County, recycled water is produced from numerous wastewater treatment plants, but in the
public’s eye it comes from one treatment source. There should be no differences in how the water is
perceived regardless the retailer.
3) Reward and Recognize Customers Who Use Recycled Water
Customers need to be recognized and rewarded for using recycled water. The recognition of
recycled water customers helps to reward their efforts and publicize recycled water use, while also
attracting more customers from that industry.
4) Provide Customers’ Constituencies (Including the General Public) with Information
Provide outreach and materials for constituencies, along with ongoing assistance when it is needed.
In general, the customers’ constituencies are part of the bigger audience who are targeted for
recycled water, or who hear about recycled water in the media. This audience includes golfers, users
of parks and public venues such as the Del Mar Fairgrounds, employees who work in fields or in
manufacturing plants, landscapers, and students and their parents.
5) Look for Creative Opportunities to Provide Member Agencies with Funding Assistance
The cost to install pipelines, retrofits, and other infrastructure is the main obstacle preventing
agencies from growing their recycled water backbones. This obstacle is amplified if the customer is
completely financially responsible for the retrofits. Even member agencies that have actively
supported and implemented recycled water need more funding assistance to be able to expand and
successfully connect more customers. SDCWA already recognizes this fact and currently provides,
through their Reclaimed Water Development Fund, up to $200 per acre-foot of recycled water.
6) Partner with Industry Associations
Businesses have an enormous economic stake in the future water supply for San Diego County.
Tourism, biotechnology, golfing, manufacturing, and recreation all need a sustainable, drought
proof, economical water supply that will help them maintain a competitive edge. Establishing
communication and building relationships with industry associations that support the local industry
professional is essential.
7) School Districts are an Important Market
School districts are a sector impacted by budget cuts, staff reductions, and program cutbacks. Water
demands and associated costs are high for school districts because it is critical that school grounds
and parks be kept landscaped for sports and community events. Expanding recycled water use at
schools can be made by emphasizing financial rewards and using successful schools programs as
models. There are numerous school districts already using recycled water and they could be
approached to act as models for other school districts.
Identify and Target Water-Dependent Industries
With the feedback from the member agencies and the Strategic Plan developed, SDCWA embarked on a
program to encourage existing and potential customers to increase recycled water use throughout the
county by targeting specific water-dependent industries and providing technical assistances to those
industries. Three major industries vital to San Diego’s economy and heavily reliant on water availability
are biotechnology, golf through tourism, and landscaping.
1) Why the Biotechnology Industry?
In June 2004, the Milken Institute ranked San Diego as the top biotech metropolitan area in the
United States based on the area’s success in bringing new ideas to the market place, creating jobs
and products and for infrastructure that allows a metro area to capitalize on its biotech knowledge
and creativity, such as the quality of its workforce and amount of research and development dollars
it receives1. Several major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including Neurocrine
Biosciences and Nventa Biopharmaceuticals, are headquartered in San Diego, while many similar
companies, such as BD Biosciences, Biogen Idec, Integrated DNA Technologies, Merck, Pfizer,
Élan, Genzyme, Cytovance, Celgene and Vertex, have offices and/or research facilities in San
Many of these companies have buildings where the HVAC system primarily consists of a cooling
tower. San Diego’s relatively dry and temperate climate allows cooling towers to be the primary
method for cooling large commercial buildings. Cooling towers are ideal for conversion to recycled
water since cooling towers don’t necessarily need potable water for their processes. Many of the
biotech companies currently irrigate their site landscaping with recycled water, in which case
retrofits to these project sites would be minimal because a recycled water source is already available.
2) Why the Golf Industry?
Tourism is the third largest industry in San Diego County2 primarily due to the region’s semi-arid
climate. Golf is a major component of the tourism industry because of the ability to play almost
year-round. This benefit has attracted the United States Golf Association (USGA) to hold the US
Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in 2008. Other professional events include the San Diego Open
(formerly the Buick Invitation) and the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play
Championship. These highly visible events bring golfers around the world to San Diego.
Golf courses are seen by the public as consumers of a large amount of water because of the vast
fairways and greens requiring irrigation and maintenance. This relatively large amount of potential
non-potable water use make golf courses ideal for conversion from potable water to recycled water
3) Why the Landscape Industry?
The San Diego region is known for lush semi-tropical landscapes with diverse palette of beautiful
plants, shrubs, flowers, and turf. However, many of these plant choices require an abundant water
source, causing problems as water supplies have become more limited. In order to maintain San
Diego’s lush semi-tropical landscapes, sources other than potable water must be utilized. Recycled
water is always available even during drought conditions and mandatory water restrictions.
Inform and Educate
After identifying the industries that should be targeted by the Program, technical reference materials
were prepared to assist those industries with their transition to recycled water. The chemistry of
recycled water is different than that of potable water because it is a product of wastewater treatment, and
therefore, is conveyed through separate pipelines. Recycled water may require additional treatment or
specialized maintenance procedures in order to be utilized.
For the biotechnology industry in San Diego, the “Technical Information for Cooling Towers Using
Recycled Water” guide was prepared to assist businesses with the transition of their cooling towers to
recycled water. This guide included the following information to the customer:
• Purpose of the Guide
• Why Use Recycled Water in their Cooling Tower – This section provided reinforcement for the
customer that using recycled water for non-potable uses is an effective way to reduce their
demand for potable water.
• Operation Road Map to Converting – This section provided customers with a general step by
step process of converting their cooling tower.
• General Operating Processes of a Cooling Tower – This section gave customers a general
overview of how cooling towers operate because many times the cooling tower is maintained by
a separate maintenance contractor.
• Water Quality Considerations – This provided customers the information they need to consider
to develop a water treatment program and operational cycles.
• Green Building Considerations – This section provided customers with information that
establishes that using recycled water in cooling towers Green Building credit.
• Regulatory Considerations – This section provided customers background information on
regulatory requirements that go along with using recycled water.
For the golf and landscape industry, a “Greener Landscapes for San Diego: A Guide For Using Recycled
Water” brochure was prepared to assist those businesses with converting their irrigation water from
potable water to recycled water. This guide provided the following:
• Water Quality Information – A general overview of the chemistry of recycled water and
constitutes of concern and benefit.
• Soil Management Strategies – A general overview of how to consider the soil conditions when
applying recycled water for irrigation.
• Irrigation and Recycled Water – Provided recommendations for effective irrigation practices.
• Turf Grass – A general overview how to apply recycled water to golf courses and large grass
areas such as parks.
• Plant Selection Guide – An abbreviated list of trees, shrubs and ground covers that have
successfully grown in landscapes in the San Diego area where recycled was used.
• Salinity Management Guide – An interactive CD-ROM was provided which included
information on turf management, extensive plant list, and water quality issues.
Inform, Educate, and Motivate
After identifying the industries that should be targeted by the Program and preparing technical
references, case studies were developed to showcase peer companies that use recycled water. These
case studies reward and recognize those businesses that use recycled water. Each case study is used to
provide existing and potential customers with information on how recycled water was implemented in
similar businesses. The Program prepared four case studies.
One case study highlighted biotechnology company Biogen Idec with its use of recycled water in its
cooling towers. Recycled water has been used in its cooling tower since November 2006 and currently
accounts for two-thirds of Biogen Idec’s total water consumption. The case study reviewed the
connection process that Biogen Idec underwent, lessons learned for using recycled water in cooling
towers, cooling tower operations, water usage, and employee acceptance.
A second case study highlighted Lomas Santa Fe Country Club’s use of recycled water on its golf
course. The tees, fairways, and rough are irrigated with recycled water; greens, adjacent banks and areas
surrounding the main clubhouse are irrigated with potable water. The case study reviewed the
connection process that Lomas Santa Fe Country Club underwent, landscape irrigation management
practices, water quality issues, water usage, and public/customer perception issues.
third case study highlighted Del Sur Master Planned Community Homeowners Association’s use of
recycled water on turf and plants in common areas. The final case study highlighted the University of
California – San Diego’s (UCSD) use of recycled water on turn and plants on multipurpose athletic
fields and landscaping. These final two case studies reviewed the connection process, landscape
irrigation management practices, water quality issues, water usage, and public/customer perception
Inform, Educate, Motivate, and Engage
With case studies and technical information material in hand and ready for distribution to customers, the
Program set out to engage the biotechnology, golf, and landscape industries in San Diego. This task was
accomplished by contacting industry associations that represent the targeted customer types, allowing
SDCWA to develop a partnership with industry leaders.
For the biotechnology industry, the Program provided a presentation/workshop jointly with Industrial
Environmental Association (IEA) and Biocom. IEA was formed in 1983 to facilitate environmental
compliance among member companies and provide related education activities for the community at
large. The IEA's evolution, however, has included an expanding role as the "voice" for manufacturing
and associated companies in San Diego, not only on legislative matters but on a variety of
environmental issues that affect the quality of life of businesses in the region. It is recognized by local
government and, increasingly, by state and federal officials as a viable, objective, measured resource for
input and expertise on industrial/environmental matters. Biocom is the largest regional life science
association in the world. The association focuses on initiatives that positively influence the region’s life
science community which includes biotechnology companies. The Program held the workshop at
Biosite, a local biotechnology company, which was in the process of converting its cooling towers to
recycled water. The workshop provided attendees with an update on the current water shortages in San
Diego County, highlighted Biogen Idec use of recycled water and cooling towers, and provided
technical information on the conversion process.
For the golf industry, the Program provided a workshop with the San Diego Chapter of the Golf Course
Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). The workshop was held at Lomas Santa Fe Country
Club, the subject of one of the Program’s case studies. The workshop provided attendees with an update
on the current water shortages in San Diego County followed by a Panel Discussion focused on using
recycled water on golf courses from GCSAA members including superintendents of other golf courses,
and turf companies.
For the landscape industry, the Program provided a joint workshop with local chapters of the California
Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) and the American Society of Landscape Architects
(ASLA). The workshop was held at the Scripps Miramar Ranch Branch Library, the same location that
CLCA regularly holds their meetings. The workshop provided attendees with an update on current
water restrictions and recycled water availability. The workshop included a presentation on landscaping
with recycled water and salinity issues with recycled water for irrigation.
Serve Existing and Potential Customers
After engaging customers, the Program set out to serve new and current customers by performing on-site
evaluation of sites for potential recycled water use opportunities and also by establishing a customer
information phone line. The on-site evaluation included assessing potential water quality impacts
associated with recycled water use and recommended process changes and equipment retrofit needs to
accommodate recycled water. Customers where then provided with a report outlining site-specific
and/or industrial process specific recommendations to minimize the potential impacts of recycled water
use at the site. Within 3 months, the Program evaluated Biosite Inc., the Del Mar Fairgrounds, San Elijo
Hills II Home Owner’s Association, Skyline Elementary School, and Solana Vista Elementary School.
The Biosite Inc. and the Del Mar Fairground sites included a payback calculation because of the
significantly lower cost of recycled water in comparison to potable water.
The Biosite Inc. on-site evaluation included the expanded recycled water use in its cooling towers. At
the time of the on-site evaluation, Biosite Inc. was using recycled water for irrigation purposes only.
The on-site evaluation found that changing the cooling tower water from potable water to recycled water
would save up to 15 million gallons, or 46 acre-feet, per year of potable water. The evaluation also
found that approximately $5,000 of retrofits where needed to transition the cooling towers to recycled
water. The simple payback time was found to be approximately 6 weeks because the cost of recycled
water in the City of San Diego is about 72% lower than the cost of potable water.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds on-site evaluation included the expanded recycled water use in its cooling
towers. At the time of the on-site evaluation, the Del Mar Fairgrounds was using recycled water for
irrigation purposes only. The on-site evaluation found that changing the cooling tower water from
potable water to recycled water would save up to 888,900 gallons per year or 2.7 acre-ft per year of
potable water. The evaluation found that approximately $14,000 of retrofits where needed to transition
the cooling towers to recycled water. The simple payback time was found to be approximately 3.2
The San Elijo Hills II on-site evaluation included the expanded recycled water use for irrigation in its
common areas. The on-site evaluation found that 15 acre-feet per year of potable water can be saved by
converting the irrigation in common areas to recycled water. The evaluation found that approximately
$55,900 of retrofits where needed.
The Skyline Elementary School on-site evaluation included retrofits to portions of the site to recycled
water. At the time of the on-site evaluation, Skyline Elementary School was using only potable water
on-site. The evaluation found that approximately 3.4 acre-feet per year of potable water can be saved by
converting some of the irrigation on site to recycled water. The evaluation found that approximately
$32,000 of retrofits were needed.
The Solana Vista Elementary School on-site evaluation included retrofits to portions of the site for
conversion to recycled water. At the time of the on-site evaluation, Solana Vista Elementary School was
using only potable water on-site. The evaluation found that approximately 5.8 acre-feet per year of
potable water can be saved by converting some of the irrigation on-site to recycled water. The
evaluation found that approximately $45,600 of retrofits were needed.
The Program also established a customer information phone line to provide additional technical support
to existing and potential recycled water customers, as well as the general public. The distribution of
recycled water in the county is very confusing to the public. They often do not know where to start and
who to contact. The phone line provided customers with a single phone number to start their recycled
water projects and obtain technical information.
By assessing the needs of its member agencies and preparing a Strategic Plan, SDCWA was able to
implement a program to reach its goal of increasing recycled water use. The Program targeted three
major industries vital to San Diego’s economy, which were biotechnology, golf through tourism, and
landscaping. These three major industries were also found to be eager to embrace recycled water and
were ready to implement recycled water into their business practices. In support of the customers in the
three major industries, the Program prepared technical guides, showcased industry members through
case studies, and allowed SDCWA to reach out and develop relationships with industry associations.
The Program also provided support by performing on-site retrofit evaluations of existing and potential
recycled water customers and establishing a customer information phone line. Within 6 months, the
Program set the foundation to save approximately 73 acre-ft of potable water per year.
1. DeVol Ross, Perry Wong, Junghoon Ki, Armen Bedroussian and Rob Koepp (2004), “America's
Biotech and Life Science Clusters: San Diego's Position and Economic Contributions”, Milken Institute.
2. Powell, Ronald W, October 17, 2007 "Tourism district OK'd by council", San Diego Union-