Improving Septic System Maintenance Through Audience Research

Date / Time:
Wednesday, Sep 16 4:30pm to 5:00pm
Track / Session:
Track: Outreach and Education / Session 9

Maintaining healthy water quality is a community effort and effective outreach campaigns involve the communities they target from their inception. Best practices suggest that developing materials for a target audience is ideally approached after understanding the needs of the audience. The County of San Diego Department of Public Works, Watershed Protection Program, sought to understand and address the needs of residents with septic systems in the unincorporated portions of the county. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss how audience research can be incorporated into the development of outreach materials to improve stormwater education. Residents responsible for their septic systems participated in focus groups and discussed a variety of topics concentrating on ways the County could assist residents in maintaining their systems. The focus groups provided information on general knowledge, how residents handle system failures, how often and whom they hire to pump, and where they go for information. Utilizing this information, the County developed a septic system pumping rebate program which required participation in a septic system maintenance training and passing a quiz in order to receive the rebate. Multiple resources were developed to support the program and included a webpage hosting the program, promotional materials, an 8-minute training video, an example septic pumping frequency chart, and a post-training quiz. Existing materials were updated to reflect the needs of the residents and included modifying the format of the previous training (online slides) to a video with a voice-over and closed captioning. This program intended to condense the amount of information provided while highlighting the key information that appeared as knowledge gaps in the focus groups. Additionally, the video format provides a more interactive and easy-to-digest training for residents that intends to increase rebate participation rates. The video can also be used across various platforms as an education resource, with or without a tie to the rebate program. By integrating information gained directly from the residents the program targeted, the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program was able to develop materials better suited to their audience. The rebate program is expected to launch in late 2020. The integration between education and offering rebates when people take action to maintain their systems should increase participation and ultimately knowledge of stormwater-related issues within the community.

Primary Speaker:
Joey Schmitt, Action Research
Joey Schmitt is a Project Director at Action Research. In 2014 he received his master’s degree in experimental psychology from California State University San Marcos. Joey has over seven years of experience with stormwater behavior change programs. He enjoys yoga, playing monopoly, gardening, and tinkering with his stock portfolio.
Supporting Speaker 1:
Daniella Gutierrez, County of San Diego
Daniella Gutierrez is a Land Use/Environmental Planner with the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program. In 2008, Daniella received a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Daniella has over nine years of environmental compliance experience having previously worked as an Air Pollution Control Inspector and an Air Resources Grant Specialist at the County’s Air Pollution Control District. Daniella is a native San Diegan who enjoys running long distance races, playing bar trivia, and has recently taken up learning how to surf.