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Water Conservation Campaign Helps Santa Cruz Lead California

In the spring of 2014, Miller Maxfield was asked to assist the City of Santa Cruz, California, in implementing a water rationing program in response to the historic drought that continues to grip the state. Santa Cruz, which is 100% dependent on local rainfall as its source of water, was among the first communities in the state to institute mandatory rationing in response to the current drought. While the governor called for a voluntary cutback of 20%, Santa Cruz’s mandatory program called for 25% or system-wide consumption of 8.2 million gallons of water per day.

Miller Maxfield employed a highly integrated approach to outreach via a two-phase campaign that included preparing-for-rationing and ongoing conservation. The campaign utilized these key methods and strategies:

  • Earned media—print, radio, TV and online

  • Social media

  • Video on YouTube and community access TV

  • Partner outreach—Chamber of Commerce, etc.

  • Advertising—print, radio, public transit

  • Radio PSAs

  • Direct mail

  • Bill insert

  • Banners for use at public events

  • Tent cards and misc signage for use at restaurants, hotels, etc.

The result of the campaign was that the city hit the 25% reduction goal at the end of the first month of mandatory rationing, a reduction rate that held through the summer. The percent of residents who successfully met rationing requirements was 94%. Water use in Santa Cruz was 44.9 gallons per day, according to a state water board report issued in November 2014, well below the 60 gallons a day goal set by the Water Department in May. Santa Cruz was cited as the lowest per capita water user in the state by Pacific Institute in November 2014.

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