A Fictional Homemaker Helps Deliver a Message About Proper Care of Sewer Systems

Patty Potty helps deliver messages about protecting wastewater collections systems in a humorous, memorable fashion.

Patty Potty
Patty Potty

Patty Potty is on a mission to save sewer systems from flushable wipes and other things people flush that don’t belong there.

Her “No Wipes in the Pipes” campaign is getting traction in Texas cities and around the world. The campaign, started in 2014 by the San Jacinto River Authority and Payne Communications in Houston, is building up followers on social media.

According to Patty (a fictional character created as the campaign spokesperson), “People are flushing all kinds of things down the toilet that they shouldn’t be. It’s not a trash can, but people treat it as such. Some products and wipes are advertised as flushable, but they aren’t. They might flush down, but they aren’t biodegradable. Instead of breaking down, they get caught in wastewater treatment plant screens and filters. That costs cities money to clear and repair, not to mention the stress it puts on pipes and pumps.”

A star is born

“We needed a character who would be memorable and be a role model to educate people on how they can help cities to extend the lives of sewer systems,” says Patty, played by Michelle Simpson, outreach specialist for Save Water Texas. “We wanted to make it fun at the same time.”

The Patty Potty character is a housewife from the 1950s who is completely in charge of her home. She is bossy and prissy and attacks things head-on, especially wipes. When out speaking, she asks the audience to take the Patty Potty Pledge — to put only the three Ps in the toilet: poo, pee and toilet paper.

Her speaking venues have ranged from classrooms with 15 children to industry conferences with 500 or more attendees. Using humor, she has proclaimed her no-wipes message for the Texas Water Conservation Association, the American Water Board of Directors annual meeting, other Texas water conferences, and municipal utility district board meetings.

“If you can make people laugh, you have them,” Patty says. “It’s a great way to connect with your audience, and the message becomes much more memorable. It’s also a great way to get the audience engaged and to participate.” Patty is a hit with all age groups: After one industry conference, an audience member came up to her and asked where she’d been all his life.

Promoting the message

The campaign is funded through sponsorship packages on the Patty Potty website (www.pattypotty.com) along with promotional materials available to cities, such as bill stuffers, posters, bumper stickers, magnets, tote bags and display items.

Patty also promotes a fats, oils and grease campaign that educates audiences on the dangers of putting those items down the drain. “I tell them that just because they were told they could do it doesn’t mean they should,” Patty says. “Many are hearing the message for the first time, so it is an uphill battle attempting to change behavior.”

She encourages other cities and states to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and to share the information worldwide. Patty won’t stop until the whole world gets the message.


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