In Ljubljana the confidence of consumers in drinking-water quality is high. According to the questionnaire repeated four times per year, the reputation of the public company responsible for drinking-water supply and sewerage is enviable and can be compared to the reputations of most economically successful companies. More than 60% of the respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the services and evaluated them with high scores of around 3.8 to 5. On the other hand, however, the consumers seemed to be dissatisfied with two of the important fields of activity by the drinking-water supplier: notifications in the cases of emergency situations and the accessibility of information regarding drinking-water quality. The evaluation namely showed these to be the highest concerns and how important these issues are for the consumers despite of the fact that recently the water supplier has laid a great stress right upon these two questions.
If the drinking-water supply runs smoothly and without any suspicions that it could cause potential health risks, the web-site of the water company will usually be sparsely searched. The majority of phone calls during an ordinary working day simply refer to complaints about issued invoices and to the administrative proceedings for connection to the drinking-water system, and sewerage. However, the situation can change completely during any extraordinary event. How can the supplier convince consumers that it could be useful to become acquainted in advance with where and how to look for information regarding situations that deviate from everyday normality? Consequently, well-informed and knowledgeable consumers are a basis for a safer water-supply. What can been done to preserve the trust of consumers in a company that has existed for more than 120 years, and what to do in order to enable them easy and fast access to information they only occasionally need to obtain, knowing that consumers are, generally speaking, unfamiliar with the sources of information and/or with the contents of the information itself?
We have oriented our attention to children and the young, however the adults have not been completely neglected either. Young people will become our formal consumers and some of them will become decision-makers too. Therefore, we have looked for special water themes and how to present them to young people in more interesting ways. The usage of traditional methods only (i.e. to provide lessons and print the educational material) is no longer a suitable strategy for attracting attention and exciting curiosity. Children frequently teach their parents and grandparents and this is how we will also indirectly address the adults using unconventional methods and the use of social media.
The Cevko mascot was born by having in mind that young children learn through playing. Cevko represents the water pipe and wears blue or brown coats depending on the water theme we want to discuss; drinking water or sewerage, respectively. He visits the children in the nursery and primary schools through organised workshops. Children discuss the importance of clean water for healthy lives, why it is necessary to protect water resources; how to save water, confirm Cevko's vow that they will protect water and the environment, and do Cevko's drawings that are later published on the web. The web is namely a further step in the education of young people. In the virtual world Cevko lives in his town. There the water cycle and instructions on how to perform various experiments with water can be found, a video entitled 'Bottles of Truth' provides visitors with information on how small is the percentage water on Earth that is suitable for drinking, where water and its signs can be found in the town using an interactive way.
The small children are inquisitive and respond to the challenges but it is a more difficult task when addressing the youth and increasing their interests in environmental issues. Therefore we looked for more interactive ways of exciting their interest in water themes. We established web-site called Primavoda, i.e. Primawater, covering various water topics, including general information on the special chemical and physical characteristics of water; for example, why is the sea blue?, what the term 'virtual water' means, how to calculate our water fingerprint, about the water in ancient Roman Ljubljana, named Emona, etc.
Primavoda uses social media as a channel for sharing positive message about water. Its applications present water themes in a 'mobile generation-friendly' way. Instagram is a very popular application used by millions of people - so we combined Instagram and Primavoda - any picture taken with a hashtag #primavoda appears on this site.
All Primavoda applications have social media plug-ins; in that way we encourage visitors to share interesting content or the results they get when they solve different quizzes and questionnaires.
On the other hand we still use the usual communication methods when providing general information for our users. We have established a contemporary and clear web-site where extensive information is available, amongst which is:
- updated news and urgent information about any faults and eventual disturbances regarding the drinking-water system,
- data on drinking water quality, presenting water parameters according to the water supply areas,
- a series of leaflets covering various water topics, etc.
The accessibility of information and data on the drinking-water supply in Ljubljana is exemplary; however, the mass of information can cause difficulties for inexperienced users. Therefore we will continue our work of spreading information about drinking-water using the opportunities that social media offer - in order to preserve or even increase the deserved reputation of drinking water in Ljubljana.