Page 26

SOURCE - Winter 2016

Fresno Implements Urgent Proposition 218 Campaign 26 SOURCE winter 2016 Citizens Learn Their Total Water Story By Mark Standriff and Karen P. Snyder In 2013, after a Proposition 218 review so-licited little participation, the Fresno City Council approved a 34 percent residential rate increase over four years for water supply system expansion. When organized and vocal opponents appeared a year lat-er, the council rescinded the rate increase but found itself unable to fund capital im-provements already underway and meet operational and debt obligations. UNTIL RECENTLY, GROUNDWATER has provided nearly 90 percent of the water sup-ply for Fresno’s 500,000 residents and busi-nesses. However, decreasing groundwater levels (100 feet over the past 80 years) have increased the cost of pumping ($9 million annually) and resulted in declining water quality. In the early 1990s, the city began developing the Metropol-itan Water Resources Management Plan (Metro Plan) to maximize access to surface water, increase groundwater recharge, and extend conservation efforts. Infrastructure updates included 13 miles of 72-inch transmission pipelines to deliver wa-ter from two surface water reservoirs in the Sierra foothills (combined storage 180,000 AF) to a new 80 million gallons a day (MGD) surface treat-ment plant; another 13 miles of new transmission lines to deliver water to customers; a new stor-age facility; and multiple well rehabilitation and replacement projects. Given the public challenge to the 2013 wa-ter rate increase and recognizing that new rates would need to be implemented within months to cover existing obligations, the City Council called for a “robust participatory process” to “connect the dots.” The result was a five-month, multi-step public awareness campaign. Step 1: Develop Participatory Strategy (August 2014). The objective was to provide a public forum to facilitate discussion about the nuances of the city’s water situation, followed by discussion of proposed solutions and cost recovery strategies. The approach was founded on four principles: multifaceted communication, open and transparent discussion, easily accessed feedback mechanisms, and demonstration of how public input was incorporated in decision-making. Step 2: Develop Message (August 2014). Key messages were solidified from technically vetted and consistent information and presented in un-derstandable terms. Without this, there is the po-tential for miscommunication, which can result in confusion and lack of trust. With its public out-reach partners, the city determined key areas of stakeholder concern, which were developed into key points in the Total Water campaign: • Ensuring a reliable and sustainable wa-ter supply is critical to Fresno’s present and future prosperity. • Investing in our water infrastructure will en-sure a safe and reliable water supply 24/7/365. • Maximizing our existing rights to mountain water will replenish our rapidly depleting groundwater. Step 3: Establish Multiple Venues for Infor-mation Access and Stakeholder Participation (September 29, 2014 - November 10, 2014). A series of four community forums, held every two weeks and spread around the city, provided the foundation for all communication activities. Each forum covered one of the community’s key concerns, including: Fresno’s Water Supply Is-sues and Needs (September 29, 2014); Solutions: Fresno’s Water Future (October 13, 2014); Paying for Fresno’s Water Needs (October 27, 2014); and Summary and Next Steps (November 10, 2014). Radio, television, and print advertising and cof-fee shop fliers were used to remind residents of online resources related to each forum. Updates were provided to community and civic groups to distribute to their membership. The forums were designed as a theater-in-the-round to engage residents and make them feel MANAGER’S CORNER


SOURCE - Winter 2016
To see the actual publication please follow the link above