Using Customized Communication, Feedback, and Simplified Messages to Support Annual Operation and Maintenance Verification of Residential Structural Best Management Practices (Structural BMPs)
The purpose of this presentation is to provide the audience with guidance for communicating technical information about inspection and maintenance of Structural Best Management Practices (Structural BMPs) on residential private property. The presentation will include several before and after examples of improved outreach materials from the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program. The presentation fits the conference theme by enhancing communication to improve the collaboration between the County and residential private property owners.
The County of San Diego, Department of Public Works has developed a set of regulations to address the role of residents and business in preventing pollution of local waterways. The collection of regulations is known as the Watershed Protection, Stormwater Management, and Discharge Control Ordinance (WPO). Under the current ordinance, property owners who have Structural BMPs installed on their property, have special responsibilities to ensure the protection of local waterways.
Structural BMPs are facilities and structures that help to prevent or remove pollutants (e.g., trash, oil and grease, heavy metals, fertilizers, pesticides, sediments from erosion, etc.) in developed areas from entering storm drains and impacting local waterways. These engineered structures require routine inspections and maintenance to ensure that they are operating effectively. The County is required to verify proper maintenance of existing Structural BMPs. In addition to conducting periodic inspections, the County operates a program to verify annual operation and maintenance of Structural BMPs within its jurisdiction. Property owners are responsible for submitting documentation of their inspection findings and maintenance activities annually.
Each year, the County mails Operation and Maintenance Verification forms to property owners and occupants. Historically, this effort to educate residential private property owners about their responsibility to inspect and maintain Structural BMPs on their property have been information intensive and delivered in conjunction with threat of enforcement actions. While many residents are motivated to do the right thing to protect water quality and to avoid enforcement actions, the notices are often intimidating and overwhelming. In addition, the contents are often highly technical in nature and may include activities that are not relevant to the recipient’s property. This places an additional burden on the homeowner as they try to filter through, process, and comprehend the information. Historically, response to thematerials has been negative, often resulting in complaints from frustrated or confused residents.
In 2016, the County of San Diego implemented a project to improve their outreach efforts with the goals of (a) promoting behavior change, (b) continuing to improve perceptions of the County as a partner in pollution prevention rather than as a punisher, and (c) improving the clarity of communication. The project focused on two outreach elements: (1) inspection notice door hangers and (2) informational flyers to accompany the annual Operation and Maintenance Verification forms. Together, the outreach materials were designed to help property owners understand their responsibilities related to Structural BMPs.
Social science research indicates that crafting messages that are positively framed, simple, and that limit choices, are more effective at changing behavior than negative messages that overload the audience with information. Therefore, the revisions included: streamlining and customizing materials to pro
Jennifer Tabanico is President and owner of Action Research, a firm that specializes in changing behavior for the public good by applying marketing and social science research to outreach programs that promote clean, healthy, and sustainable communities. Jennifer has a Master of Arts degree in Experimental Psychology and more than a decade of experience developing and implementing community-based social marketing programs for public and private agencies. Her most recent clients have included the City and County of San Diego, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the American Forest Foundation, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.