Aug. 13, 2013
ACWA Members Encouraged to Highlight Transparency Efforts
Recent news stories about an FBI investigation into activities at a water district in Southern California have put the issue of water agency transparency in the spotlight.
As we have seen in the past, news stories like these overlook the fact that hundreds of well-managed and well-governed water agencies serve millions of Californians every day without generating headlines or controversy.
Past polling reinforces that the public values these services and trusts those who run local water agencies.
Water agencies have a compelling story to tell. But it’s always important to take stock and ensure your agency is taking steps that reinforce transparency and openness.
To that end, ACWA has prepared a few tools for member agencies to use to review their transparency efforts and communicate the value and quality of services they provide every day.
- Take a short survey. Please take a moment to answer a few survey questions about steps your agency has taken to promote transparency. The results will help ACWA provide updated information if needed in the near future. Click here to take the survey.
- Devote space to transparency on your website. ACWA encourages members to highlight their commitment to transparency by posting board meeting information, salary information, budget and financial documents and other public information in an easy-to-find location on their websites. Agencies also should post their policies related to reserves, conflict of interest, expense reimbursement and other related topics so customers can easily access the information. (Many agencies already do this. For examples, see web pages by Irvine Ranch Water District and Contra Costa Water District.) For more ideas, see the California Special Districts Association’s Transparency Checklist.
- Make sure your customers know what you do. As noted above, the vast majority of water agencies go about their jobs efficiently with little fanfare. But your community might not know everything you are doing to serve them effectively, which in the past has led critics to describe special districts as operating “under the radar.” ACWA has compiled some message points and a “myths versus facts” piece for use in communicating with key audiences. Click here to access these resources.
- Take advantage of existing resources available on www.acwa.com. ACWA has produced a number of tools to help communicate the value of water, explain the important role of special districts, and help customers and others understand the importance of maintaining prudent reserves.
ACWA is currently updating its out-of-print 2005 publication, “Open and Accessible: A Public Water Agency Guide to Communication and Transparency.” The updated version will be available this fall.
Questions on transparency outreach may be directed to Lisa Lien-Mager, ACWA’s Director of Communications, at email@example.com. Questions on legislation related to special districts and reserves may be directed to Wendy Ridderbusch, ACWA’s Director of State Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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