Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • Cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa in conjunction with Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Cities of Avondale, Chandler, Glendale, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, Goodyear, Town of Fountain Hills, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, Arizona American Water, Arizona Bureau of Reclamation, Salt River Project, Global Water; Cities, towns, utilities, non profit organizations and NGO's throughout North America
  • Modest increases in nine out of twelve promoted behaviours

Water - Use It Wisely

Water Use It Wisely has become one of North America's most widely implemented, branded water conservation programs, with over 350 private and public partners, including corporate sponsors such as Lowes and The Home Depot. It illustrates a wide range of promotional tactics and strong partnership development, and is available for use throughout North America.


Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing as in the case with this particular program.

The cities of Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale partnered with the Arizona Department of Water Resources in 2000 to promote water conservation. With a combined population of over two million, these three cities needed an effective campaign to persuade residents to change their water use behavior. The governments didn't want to preach, they wanted to motivate. Water Use It Wisely was to be the catalyst for this change. With exploding growth, aging infrastructure, the warming of our planet and a serious drought, the Water Use It Wisely campaign was created to provide a powerful, customizable conservation outreach effort that allowed all organizations large or small to implement a proven campaign and leverage each others efforts through an effective co-branded approach.

Getting Informed

Consumer focus groups conducted by the Behavior Research Center in 2000, prior to the campaign's launch, indicated that water conservation ranked in importance below other local concerns such as air quality and traffic congestion. The focus groups also revealed that the majority of consumers lacked knowledge about water conservation techniques and that they thought their individual actions would not make much difference. The focus groups were followed up by a baseline survey.

A common sentiment uncovered by the research was that people wanted to know what they could do (Don't tell me to save water, show me how to save). This was key to developing a successful outreach campaign that would empower people to change their behavior and ultimately reduce overall water use.

Targeting the Audience

Water Use It Wisely chose to focus on the following target audiences listed in order of importance:

  1. Women, ages 25 to 54
  2. Children, ages 8 to 14
  3. Men, ages 25 to 54

Delivering the Program

Water Use It Wisely was designed as a fun, eye-catching campaign highlighting the simple things people could do in and around their homes to reduce daily water consumption. It encouraged people to do their part without feeling it was too little to make a difference. It reinforced that each person could and should change water-use behavior. The emphasis was stewardship, not hardship (Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering Communication)(Overcoming Specific Barriers).


The Water Use It Wisely campaign presented over 100 tips that consumers could easily do every day in and around their homes to save water. For example, a low-water-use plant was featured alongside the call-to-action message: The next time you replace a flower or shrub, choose a low-water-use plant and save up to 550 gallons each year.

The messages were eye-catching, clear and empowering, applauding people as the solution without forcing the behavior change upon them.

The theme There are a number of ways to save water, and they all start with you. You are Water Saving Device #1 was the overall, consistent message present throughout all materials.

Communications were designed to reach members of the target audience throughout the day, and to make it easy for them to sign-up or get involved. The goal was to have the message everywhere, make it convenient to interact with, simple to understand and easy to put into practice.

Consumer Website

The Water Use It Wisely website,, provided easy access to water conservation information, filling a critical role in the overall campaign.

The creation of this website allowed all partners to reference one location for resources, tips and tools on how to conserve water, throughout all their conservation materials. It featured an interactive in-home water audit that helped consumers identify the sources of wasted water in and outside their homes. This was complemented by information on outdoor water-use and water saving technologies, educational links and tools, and over 100 tips for how to conserve water, to help consumers learn to lower their daily water consumption.

Although it was primarily designed as a consumer website, professionals around the country began using the site as a guide to implementing effective outreach campaigns.

An Information for Conservation Professionals link provided a gateway for local governments, public and private utilities, associations and NGOs. This section featured a complete campaign tour of all customizable materials, partner and sponsor testimonials and an on-line store where program managers could order promotional items by credit card. The site also offered a rich assortment of branded conservation tips, resources and tools that all partners could access and use in their conservation materials.

A monthly opt-in e-Newsletter kept partners and other interested stakeholders informed of campaign activities throughout the nation. To further facilitate a one-to-one connection among industry professionals around the world, a forum was established for water industry professionals to exchange ideas with others in the same or similar positions around the world

Co-Branding and Public Partnerships

The founding program partners saw a value in not only growing their partnership within the state, but also in growing the brand's recognition and visibility so that other public organizations across the nation could have access to a proven, effective campaign and all its materials at a fraction of the cost of developing one on their own. They also hoped that this would help the water conservation industry promote one consistent message.

Partner coalitions developed to coordinate these efforts and pool resources. This adaptability of Water Use It Wisely by others around the nation is truly the program's core strength said partner Donna DiFrancesco from the City of Mesa (Developing Partnerships).

Public-Private Partnerships

The Arizona coalition partnered with local home improvement retailer Lowes, for a month-long water conservation promotion. With live radio remotes, aggressive public relations, bi-lingual in-store signage, printed collateral and in-store PA announcements, the promotion was one of the most successful retail partnerships on record with Lowes. The coalition also organized a different water-saving workshop each Saturday at Lowes. These activities reached consumers at the most important time of the decision process the point of purchase (Prompts).

In addition, over 350,000 Saving Water is Easy color inserts were distributed in the Arizona Republic. The insert promoted corporate sponsors and their products, identified water saving devices and tips, and drove people to the website for workshop materials (Developing Partnerships).

Corporate Sponsorships

It is in part from the support of corporate sponsors that many of the coalition's public partners were able to accomplish their outreach goals. For example, Arizona utility Salt River Project (SRP) supported the Arizona coalition by sponsoring a four-week radio spot, placed on the front end of the partners spring media-buy.

In-kind sponsorships came in many forms, including movie theaters printing Water Use It Wisely on their cups and popcorn bags, baseball teams having a Water Use It Wisely Night that included extensive signs and Jumbotron advertising, and even banks using their ATM screens to flash an icon and tip as people were waiting to retrieve their cash.

While the partners were already leveraging their media budget to include television, print and internet advertising, corporate sponsorships enabled them to further increase the campaign's visibility with additional media channels, and increased reach and frequency (Developing Partnerships).

Mass Media

Water saving tips were presented in both English and Spanish throughout all media components including 4-color billboard signs, indoor and outdoor transit signs, bus shelters, airport signs and magazine ads. Black and white newspaper ads were developed for local and state newspapers.

Television advertising presented tips and the amount of water that would be saved by implementing the tip. Several television ads were created with different local and national celebrities, conveying the message that we all must do our part to conserve. Creative radio spots focused on the sound of a particular water saving device and gave the listener a few seconds to consider what they heard before telling them what it was, how it should be used and the amount of water that could be saved by using it.

The comprehensive media campaign was designed to reach people everywhere throughout the course of their day, making the message quick, simple, memorable and easy to put into practice (Mass Media).

Face-to-Face Outreach

Earth Day events, water day festivals and school programs and events provided great opportunities to engage children and adults in thinking about what they could do to conserve. Promotional materials included colorful tips brochures, static clings and temporary kids water tattoos. The professional nature of the materials, high quality product manufacturing and eye-catching brand worked together to ensure the items were used and remained visible at home and at work (Word of Mouth, Norm Appeals, Prompts).

Non-Traditional Tactics

The partners enjoyed taking the campaign to new levels with unique and fun ways to reach the public and catch their attention. One coalition partner wrapped a mobile trailer with Water Use It Wisely wrapping paper.

Water Use It Wisely night with the Arizona Diamondbacks was an evening filled with water saving tips presented throughout the stadium; children went down to the playing field to receive water saving goodie bags and a visit by Water Use It Wisely mascot, Wayne Drop. (The Wayne Drop costume was subsequently available for other events and meetings). As eye-catching as a huge, blue water drop can be, the most engaging, thought-provoking demonstration came in the form of a 16-foot tall pyramid built with 136 one-gallon empty milk containers. The display effectively demonstrated how much water, on average, an Arizonan used every day! People were shocked by the display they had no idea how much water they used (VividCommunication).

Financing the Program

The Arizona coalition was made up of 16 different organizations including cities, towns, utilities and non-profit associations. Each agency contributed towards website updates and maintenance, and account service time to support the coalition and the program's foundation.

Subsequently, smaller campaigns have been run on as little as $2,500 - the cost for a Water Use It Wisely Starter Package and marketing plan.

Larger, more comprehensive campaigns include media, promotions and PR. Following is a sample budget from a larger market campaign:

Starter Package Promotion Items 2,500.00
Bill Stuffer (2) 2,400.00
Bus Sign Interior/Exterior (4) 3,800.00
Theater Slide non-animated (2) 1,000.00
Television Spot 2,400.00
Total Cost for Ad Production $12,100.00
Media Purchasing Market Driven
Public Relations Industry Driven

Measuring Achievements

Administering a campaign is a little like playing golf. You have to make adjustments along the way to stay on course and reach your goal.

To determine residents' perceptions and attitudes about water conservation, a baseline survey of 1,055 residents was conducted by the Behavior Research Center prior to the campaign's launch in April 2000. A Follow-up survey of 1,128 residents was conducted in November 2001 to assess the campaign's effectiveness and investigate changes that needed to be made to reach the campaign goals.


Following are the results from the two Arizona surveys mentioned above:

Importance of Conserving Water

Survey Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how important do you feel it is that Valley residents conserve water on a regular basis?


Rating Scale 2000 2001
1-3 4% 3%
4-7 23% 22%
8-10 73% 75%

Advertising Awareness

Survey Question: In the past month or so, have you heard or read information about steps you can take to conserve water at home?


  2000 2001
Yes 20% 55%
No 45% 80%

Slogan Recall

Survey Question: During the past year or so, do you recall seeing or hearing the slogan, Water Use It Wisely? 69% said Yes. During the past year or so, do you recall seeing or hearing the statement, There are a number of ways to save water and they all start with you?

Responses: 46% said Yes.

Behavior Change

Survey Question: Have you personally done any of the following things to reduce the amount of water you use around the home?

Percentage of Yes responses in 2000 prior to campaign launch and 2001 following the campaign:

Behavior 2000 2001
Repair leaks or drips 91 96
Use your washing machine less or only with full loads 90 94
Use your dishwasher less or only with full load 92 89
Water your landscaping less or at night 84 85
Turn off the water while brushing teeth or shaving 78 82
Landscape with plants that require less water 72 77
Take shorter showers 72 73
Test your toilets for leaks 77 72
Seasonally change the automatic controller timing setting on your drip irrigation or sprinkler system 68 69
Use or install low-flow shower heads 65 69
Check your water meter and water bill to track your water usage 64 64
Use or install low-flow toilets 59 64

In a more recent study, conducted in 2004, after the campaign had been running in Arizona for three years, the campaign slogan maintained its presence with eight out of ten residents still recalling Water Use It Wisely and over half (51%) recalling There are a number of ways to save slogan. The most common steps residents took to conserve water were very similar to the previous surveys, with a slight increase in using dishwasher less or only with a full load (91%) and turning off the water while brushing their teeth or shaving (87%).


Kim Bridges
Water-Use It Wisely, Program Director
4144 N. 44th St., Phoenix, AZ 85018
Fax: 602-957-6333


Comments from Partners and Consumers

Comments were positive not only from consumers, but also from partners and sponsors. Some of the partners comments:

If a city has a limited budget, the Water Use It Wisely campaign is wonderful because it allows any city or organization to get involved at a minimum financial level. A lot of the campaign has already been developed and these different organizations can tap into what has been developed and use that for a lot less money than what they would have to pay to develop their own campaign. Donna DiFrancesco, City of Mesa

The Water Use It Wisely campaign is visually attractive, easily recognizable, and serves to remind the public with simple, concise tips how important and easy it is to conserve our precious water supplies. The campaign has allowed diverse Arizona cities and water organizations to join together in a common goal: to promote the importance of conservation throughout Arizona. Bruce Halin, Salt River Project

Consumer feedback came in the form of follow-up surveys. The following is a sampling of what people said about the campaign in the surveys conducted after the campaign ran:

This provides a lot of good information this is stuff [water-saving tips] that can easily be done at a glance.

I was given ideas on how to save water rather then being left to my own.

I loved it; it got me excited to go home and try it.


This case study was written in 2007 by Jay Kassirer.

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