July 2017 President’s Column
I encourage you to leverage AWRA for communicating your work and success in water resources management.
We have come a long way communicating through mass media to a larger audience about important matters that impact our society. Whether it’s through newsletters, mail, newspapers, magazines, radio, television or the internet, we have leveraged multiple channels of communication to reach out to others. Mass media provides us with an increased reach in communication while facilitating knowledge transfer. However, one-way communication, as the mass media examples described above, results in limited engagement, lack of dialogue and one-sided knowledge transfer.
Water resources professionals require access to the right information to effectively influence the decision-making process inherent with water resources management. This is where social media excels. Social media is a real-time, two-way communication channel that promotes interaction and allows for effective information exchange by promoting audience participation and feedback. As water resources practitioners, we should leverage social media to increase our engagement with stakeholders and effectively communicate our value.
Oftentimes, water resources communications revolve around negative news on the impacts to water supply sources and other water bodies, such as water quality contamination. Think about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or stories about impacts on quantity – whether severe drought or flooding. This negative perspective on water resources communication is successful in raising the level of awareness; however, it’s ineffective in educating the benefits of our work in water resources management.
As water resources professionals, we truly do amazing work, and it’s very important that we focus on communicating the benefits of our initiatives. Through science-based research and integrated water resources management, we provide society with solutions to effectively manage water, our most precious resource. As a result, we must do a better job communicating the solutions we provide and their benefits so the true value of our work is realized. When it comes to communication, the positives should always outweigh the negatives.
During the plenary session of the 2016 AWRA National Conference in Orlando, we enjoyed the presence of a panel of water resources experts that discussed water resources resilience and the value of water. If you missed it, I encourage you to listen to it as part of The Water Values Podcast that aired on January, 3, 2017. The panel-expert discussion highlighted the fact that water resources professionals don’t like to “toot their own horn.” Instead, we allow for negative news on the impacts to our water resources to prevail, and we don’t take the extra effort to communicate the value and the benefits that result from our solutions. Every day, we work on the efficient use of our water resources, identifying ways to improve their availability and quality, and ensuring that our ecosystems are healthy, or are being restored so they can function properly. We need to be proactive in communicating the benefits of our efforts to shift the pendulum from negative story-telling to positive and productive dialogue around effective water resources management. Only when we accomplish this collectively, we’ll be in a position realize our true value.
In my first IMPACT article this past January, I referred to AWRA as the means for you to have a voice and lead the water resources community. AWRA is the communication channel for water resources professionals to communicate their exemplary work in the field of water resources. AWRA is all about Community, Conversation and Connections and will ensure that your work doesn’t go unnoticed, while facilitating multiple viewpoints on water resources topics and fostering interaction among practitioners. I encourage you to leverage AWRA for communicating your work and success in water resources management. I also encourage you to join AWRA in the social media forums in support of our quest to educate society about all the great things we do for our water resources. I look forward to collaborating with you on these social channels.
Rafael E. Frias III can be reached at President@awra.org.
This column was originally published in the July issue of Water Resources IMPACT, bi-monthly magazine of AWRA.