Continual Improvement through Investment, Training, and Creative Ideas
A DSRSD core value is to constantly increase efficiency even as we increase or maintain the level of service we provide to customers and the community. The projects below provide recent examples of increasing efficiency through prudent capital investments, training, and creative ideas that improve work processes.
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DSRSD Website Plays Key Role in Historic Drought
As reported in EfficientGov.com, August 10, 2015
In the midst of one of the most severe droughts in California’s history and sweeping, state ordered restrictions on water usage, the Dublin San Ramon Services District needed a website with an advanced content management system and a mobile-friendly platform to communicate effectively with its customers.
The situation became dire for Dublin San Ramon Services District in 2014 when its water supplier could provide only 75 percent of the water expected and only by drawing down precious groundwater reserves. This left the District with no choice but to impose mandatory restrictions–a full year before most other California water agencies. In May 2014, at the beginning of irrigation season, the District notified its customers they had to cut back their water consumption 25 percent over the entire year.
Fast and effective communications would be vital to building support and compliance among the District’s residential and commercial customers. Yet the District’s 10-year-old website, burdened by outdated technology, created a bottleneck in the flow of information. Only one person, the agency’s web programmer, could update the site.
“The drought affects people’s lives,” said Renee Olsen, Dublin San Ramon Services District community affairs specialist. “We needed a dynamic content management system so a team of people could keep our content fresh and respond to changing conditions. We also needed a mobile friendly site that would serve the large percentage of our customer population that depends on mobile devices to stay connected.”
After conducting a search of agency websites with similar needs, Dublin San Ramon chose to partner with the government website experts at Vision Internet. The new website, www.dsrsd.com, launched in the middle of an intense drought response campaign in June 2014. Vision Internet’s flexible content management system allowed nontechnical personnel throughout the organization to maintain and update departmental pages under the direction of the public information department.
As a result, 70 percent of the web programmer’s time was freed up for more advanced IT projects. District staff utilized a special function built into visionCMS™ to create approximately 30 “friendly URLs” to automatically redirect customers from the old website URLs, which had been advertised in mailed notices, to comparable information on the new website. This gave customers uninterrupted access to information on mandatory water-use restrictions, which included cutting outdoor irrigation by half.
“Our website played an enormous role in getting customers onboard with the new water restrictions really quickly,” said Olsen.
The new site makes all District water regulations easy to find and view. Vision Internet’s user-friendly content management system allows public information staff to quickly post new information and updates that are clear, concise and easy for customers to understand. The site also provides a seamless connection between mandatory water-use restrictions and AquaHawk, an interactive water consumption and alerting portal hosted by a third party.
Just two months after the District established mandatory restrictions, 97 percent of its residential customers were keeping their weekly water use under the 4,480-gallon limit. Compliance has remained at that level or above ever since, making the district’s 2015 drought message much simpler: “Thank you, and please keep it up.”
In addition, the website was central to promoting the District’s unique drought assistance program that makes recycled water available at no charge to residential customers who pick it up at a fill station. The successful program has since received international recognition.
“People come to our website to find out about the fill station,” Olsen said. “The hours of operation vary, so we simply direct people to check the website or our Facebook page to make sure the fill station is open before they come over. The fill station created community advocates for recycled water at a much faster rate than we could have done any other way.”
Dublin San Ramon Services District now has given away 7.6 million gallons of recycled water to more than 2,000 fill station users. Most take the recycled water home in 55- to 300-gallon barrels or totes, which they connect to a hose or pump to use with oscillating sprinklers to water lawns and gardens.
The District also is relying heavily on the website to share information on a new project that will convert 40 commercial irrigation accounts to recycled water. A new pipeline will bring recycled water to these parks, schools and commercial properties, which will save some 49 million gallons of potable water each year.
The project is being fast-tracked and requires digging trenches on busy streets, which will have a significant impact on traffic. Frequent website posts and tweets will keep the public informed of construction progress, street closings and traffic rerouting.
“Our new website has been our primary tool for raising awareness, conveying the importance of conservation, and educating the public on how to cut potable water use,” Olsen added. “When people don’t understand what they need to do, it creates frustration and anger directed toward their public agency. Our results show that the people of Dublin and San Ramon are well informed and understand the benefits of making short-term sacrifices to keep the water flowing for the whole community.”