For over a decade, Beaver Water District (BWD) has worked to engage with the multi-cultural population it serves by investing in inclusive educational and promotional materials, events, and community relations.
The mission of Beaver Water District is to serve customers’ needs by providing high-quality drinking water that meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements and is economically priced consistent with our quality standards. BWD supplies clean, safe drinking water, sourced from Beaver Lake to Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. These cities in Northwest Arkansas then pump, store, distribute and resell the water to their customers.
District Director of Public Affairs Amy Wilson says that building relationships and trust is essential to working in a diverse community. “Multi-cultural audiences have established organizations, events, and leaders. To communicate your organization’s message, the starting point is to meet one-on-one and learn about what’s important to that audience.”
Wilson stressed that listening to community leaders and learning from them is the best way to effectively communicate with diverse populations. “This may involve translating materials and public service announcements, going out into the community with educational materials containing multi-lingual messaging, or dreaming up a project involving music and song to carry the message.”
Since the creation of educational programming for schools and tours at the Beaver Water District Administration & Water Education Center, attention has been paid to translating materials when appropriate and devising tours and materials that work for all populations, not only those of various cultures but also those that may have physical or other limitations.
“Our Education Coordinator, Dot Neely, has done a fantastic job of working with public school educators, as well as homeschoolers and others to ensure that BWD is inclusive and engaging to everyone. Overall, the District reaches about 15,000 people a year, many of them through speaking engagements, on-site visits and tours at the Water Education Center, visits to schools, field trips, and public outreach events, such as the annual OneCommunity Feed Your Brain programs that occur each summer and focus on reading skills for underserved children.”
The District has learned some lessons first-hand, for instance when the organization discovered that the meaning of a crucial word was misunderstood by some multi-cultural populations. The District was using the word “tap” in a public education campaign. But, through their community connections, they learned that “tap” did not convey the desired message.
“We then switched to the word ‘faucet,’ which helped communicate our message more clearly,” Wilson said. (The water is safe to drink from the “faucet.”)
Accurate communication is vital to the District. Wilson said a key challenge is to build trust that the drinking water is safe from the faucet and to instill a reason for the community to care about Beaver Lake and its watershed since Beaver Lake is the source of the drinking water. “Communicating with all audiences about these facts requires creative thinking, patience and commitment.”
One way the District shares its message is through its annual Secchi Day Science Fair on Beaver Lake. The event is held on the third Saturday of every August. Secchi Day features outreach and activities related to the many cultures reflected in Northwest Arkansas.
Wilson said, “Over the years, Beaver Water District has attracted more and more multi-cultural populations to this event. This year, the event attracted more than 800 people with representation from Pacific Islanders to Asian Americans, Indians, African-Americans, and the Latino community. Papa Rap performs annually and the Marshallese share culture through Island dances and crafts.”
Partnerships with organizations within various communities is key. “Beaver Water District works with known leaders to get messaging out via radio, tv, social media, and events, such as having tabletops at the Hispanic Heritage Festival, ArkanSalsa Fest, and emerging events sponsored by KMRW to bring Marshallese youth together with other youth in sports settings.”
The District also uses music to reach their audience through an ongoing project called “Water Fun Facts with Papa Rap.”
Wilson said, “This bilingual CD features original songs commissioned by Beaver Water District to share the story of Beaver Lake and clean drinking water for Northwest Arkansas. The artist Al Lopez (Papa Rap) performs songs, gives away free CDs of music and provides bilingual Water Fun Facts coloring books designed, printed and also utilized by Beaver Water District in its Education Program for students in Northwest Arkansas.”
For more information about Beaver Water District, visit bwdh2o.org.