The Sound of Water: Public Utilities Tell Their Stories Through Podcasts in Growing Trend

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Jan 23, 2023
  • Newsletters

Over one-third of Americans listen to podcasts regularly, so it’s no wonder that public utilities are turning to podcasts as another tool to aid their communication and public education efforts. As the way people receive information becomes more mobile, both agricultural and urban public agencies across the state are increasing how they distribute news and information. For many, that includes using podcasts to tell their story.

For some, the podcasts tell the history of water in their service area. For others, the episodes are a way to highlight job opportunities for the next generation. No matter what story is being told, it is clear that people are listening.

Cucamonga Valley Water District

Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD) was one of the first water agencies to try podcasting. They launched “CVWD Through the Decades” in 2021 as a history-based podcast that told the story of securing a reliable water supply in the Cucamonga Valley starting as early as the 1800s. The nine-part series took listeners through each decade, recognizing the area’s past, present and future of water.

“CVWD Through the Decades” started in response to a request from the district’s leadership team and Board of Directors to find a way to tell the intriguing history of water in the region to a broad audience. The podcast, produced solely in-house, has received more than 1,800 downloads and attracted more than 300 subscribers. CVWD reached listeners from 22 other states and 10 other countries. The podcast recently received the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) 2022 Excellence in Public Information & Communication (EPIC) Award.

“As a long-time resident of Rancho Cucamonga, I have seen firsthand the growth and success of this community, which started with the forethought of the early settlers to access precious water in the local canyons and groundwater basins,” shared CVWD President Randall James Reed. “We are proud of the success of this special project that pays tribute to our past and present while setting the stage for a bright future for CVWD and the community we serve. Additionally, we are excited to be one of the first water agencies to launch a podcast, inspiring other agencies to embark on their own podcast journey.”

Due to the success of “Through the Decades,” CVWD hopes to do another podcast in the future.

Turlock Irrigation District

In 2021, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) started its “TID Water & Power Podcast” to tell its story about delivering power and water to their community. TID General Manager Michelle Reimers came up with the idea and TID’s communications team developed the details that went into launching the first episode.

“TID has so many talented employees and we want to share the great, innovative work they’re doing. The podcast has been a great opportunity to spend an hour breaking down complex topics – something we can’t do in a 30-second video clip or social media post – and really tell the district’s story,” Reimers said.

TID also created a special 10-episode package in celebration of its 135th Anniversary. These “TID Short Stories” are about 10 minutes long and tell a historical story about the district and the TID community.

The “TID Water & Power Podcast,” recorded and produced entirely in-house, has exceeded expectations by receiving more than 5,800 downloads across 20 full episodes and 10 bonus episodes. Over half of the downloads have come from listeners within TID’s service territory, but they have several regular listeners from Sacramento, Oklahoma and even Germany. The podcast was a finalist for the 2022 ACWA Huell Howser Excellence in Communications Award.

Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District

Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District’s (EVMWD) SCUUP (Southern California Underground Utilities Partnership) Podcast started when Ruben Murillo, EVMWD’s Maintenance Superintendent, approached his supervisor with the idea. They then approached Bonnie Woodrome, EVMWD’s Community Affairs Supervisor, and together they put their thoughts on what the podcast would look like into a presentation to EVMWD’s General Manager and Board for approval. The first episode aired six months later.

“As communities grow, the utility industry continues to need innovative thinkers and talented workers to keep our services running smoothly,” said EVMWD General Manager Greg Thomas. “Ruben’s podcast sets the stage for those looking to find a career within utilities, climb the ladder within an agency, or better themselves and the organization. It is an asset to have this insight from so many seasoned professionals. We are extremely proud to support this employee-driven venture.”

“There is no other podcast like this available. Podcasts are an incredible way to connect with people that you may never meet in real life. It’s truly what gave us the idea to launch ‘The SCUUP’,” added Murillo. “We love coming up with relatable content, guests, and topics that draw people in. Podcasting has allowed the story of the everyday utility worker to be told from different perspectives. What we do at EVMWD is crucial to everyday life. People need clean drinking water to live and reliable wastewater services for sanitation. Most people take this for granted. Our voices share a fresh perspective on how everything comes together.”

Murillo hosts the podcast and invites guests to join him to discuss a variety of utility industry-related topics. Topics so far have included utility finance, wastewater, the path to leadership and the benefits of ACWA JPIA.

Eastern Municipal Water District

One of the newer podcasts is “The Drop” from Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD). Launched in October 2022, EMWD plans weekly episodes to discuss the latest issues in the water industry. Topics so far have included episodes on drought and the Colorado River. 

For EMWD, “The Drop” is a pilot project. They have a weekly recording, editing and posting schedule. Later this spring, they plan on evaluating the project, looking at everything from how they are marketing the podcast to how often they produce episodes. The goal is to access people on-the-go, when working out, driving or even cleaning the house. Currently, EMWD is seeing most of its listeners tuning in through Apple Podcast, but it is available on a variety of platforms.

With water being such a hot topic in California, we can expect more water districts to develop podcasts to teach customers and listeners about water supply, floods, drought, conservation, and more. Listeners can tune in or get more information about all the podcasts mentioned here on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and the individual water district’s websites.

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