This Utility's Mobile Tap Trailer Proves That Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

A Lake Michigan city’s Traveling Tap water wagon provides municipal water to supplant bottled water for attendees at city events.

This Utility's Mobile Tap Trailer Proves That Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

The Traveling Tap was a cooperative effort on the part of numerous Kenosha utility team members.

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The Kenosha (Wisconsin) Water Utility created a Traveling Tap water wagon for use at local events to remind citizens of the water’s good taste and promote the utility’s service.   

The utility, serving about 120,000 residents, also maintains the sanitary sewer system consisting of 342 miles of pipe and 13 lift stations.

Sue Hill, director of personnel and administration, got the idea for the Traveling Tap while attending the annual conference for the Wisconsin Section of the American Water Works Association. The host city of Madison had its own unit, named the Water Wagon, on display. Hill brought the idea back home and asked her colleagues about designing one for Kenosha. 

Two years of development

Ian Bagley, director of water production, says the idea was to get customers to taste city water and stop using bottled water. Utility staff researched the idea for two years, discussing what the unit should be like, what it should include, rules for usage and other policy issues.

After a visit to Madison and collaboration on the design of that city’s unit, the Kenosha team decided to move forward with its own design, utilizing in-house resources and employees’ skill sets for the design and construction.

“Because of the public nature of the device, we wanted to make sure we had all details covered, including testing of the water supply and where the unit would be housed and cleaned between events,” Bagley says.

After those details were firmed up, the building of the handicapped-accessible unit took about four months. The unit has eight taps/drinking stations on either side. Water runs through a copper chiller that contains a cooler filled with ice to make sure the water comes out cold.

Pet friendly

One idea from the brainstorming was to include a drinking station for pets, as several city-sponsored events are pet friendly. The pet station has been popular. “We have a Fourth of July celebration that several thousand people attend; many bring their dogs,” says Bob Wienke, lead plant operator. “The pets are able to stay hydrated, and that makes everyone happy.”

The city also takes part in a Bark For Life event for cancer awareness, in which attendees bring their pets to a park with a big play section for the dogs. The utility takes the Traveling Tap to this and eight to 10 other annual city functions including the Kenosha Civic Veterans Parade and the Mayor’s Turkey Day Run.

Communication vehicle

At least two utility staff members attend all the events and make sure the unit is working properly throughout the day. “Because of the public nature of these events, the water source we use is tested to see that it is bacteriologically safe before each event,” Bagley says.

Water sources include hydrants and outdoor building spigots, depending on the location of the function. The utility hands out reusable water bottles at the events, and people return each year with the bottles. The utility meters the water used at events; to date, the water wagon has kept an estimated 120,000 plastic water bottles from being used and tossed.

The utility also uses the portable unit as a communications vehicle; staffers hand out literature on the utility programs. Among those are hazardous waste disposal, lead service line replacement, and education about what is and is not appropriate to flush down toilets.

“Along with encouraging people to drink tap water, we’ve found that the Traveling Tap is a great way to reach out to our customers and educate them on what we do here at the utility and the services we provide,” Bagley says.

The city recently built a handicapped-accessible Dream Playground for children. This community-build project included many volunteers over several weeks, and the Traveling Tap was on site every day, providing hydration for the workers.

“Volunteers unfamiliar with the unit tried to wash off their paintbrushes and hands, so we had to put a stop to that pretty quickly,” Bagley says. “But it was so rewarding for us to be there with the unit and be part of that project.”   


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