Water Wonders Videos Give Lynchburg Utility Customers Valuable and Durable Insights

Two team members at a Virginia water utility respond to the COVID pandemic by creating an award-winning series of informational videos.

Water Wonders Videos Give Lynchburg Utility Customers Valuable and Durable Insights

The video series shares information on water infrastructure and how the utility works to maintain safe and reliable drinking water, sewer and stormwater services. Shown from left are Nancy Lilly, stormwater outreach coordinator, and Lilly Meighan, education and outreach coordinator.

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The Lynchburg water utility was all set for two weeks of jam-packed field trips celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day in 2020 with schools and community groups.

Then suddenly COVID came on and the city went on lockdown. “We knew we needed to continue to maintain our presence in the community so as a temporary approach, we filmed a few water videos for the public, schoolteachers and families who were home-schooling their children,” says Lilly Meighan, education and outreach coordinator.

“We realized how popular the videos were getting and COVID was not going away any time soon, so we continued them and expanded the topics.” The messages have taken hold in sometimes surprising ways.

Meighan reports, “A parent who was watching the videos with her daughter informed us that she had deemed herself the Water Watcher and started correcting everyone at home when they were putting the wrong items down the drain or toilet,” Meighan says.

Meighan is one of two creators and producers of the Water Wonders videos. The other is Nancy Lilly, stormwater outreach coordinator. Before the pandemic, as they were giving a presentation at the local children’s museum, someone introduced them as the Water Lillys. The name stuck and has been used in the videos ever since.

The Lynchburg Regional Resource Recovery Facility handles an average of 13 mgd. In addition to the city, it serves the Virginia counties of Amherst, Bedford and Campbell. It is one of the oldest utilities in the United States.

Video vignettes

All videos are water- and environment-related and last two to five minutes. The Lillys started out making one a week and now create one per month; there were 31 on the Water Wonders website as of March, and more were being planned. The Water Lillys write the scripts and self-produce and appear in them, so the costs are very low.

Ideas come from the utility staff, schoolteachers and the producers. Meighan and Lilly pick topics that are trending with residents, such as water main breaks and aging infrastructure. They work with teachers to gear the videos and field trips to school curriculum.

The videos range from telling what to flush and not flush, to water wildlife and its importance to the ecosystem. The producers also film what is going on in the field to show residents what the utility is working on.

The videos are for all ages, although they were first targeted for children who were at home during the lockdown. As parents started watching them with their children, the Water Lillys saw the appeal and changed their focus. They started including information on how residents’ decisions may affect water resources. 

Promoting the videos

Meighan and Lilly send the videos out to the science coordinators from the schools and the teachers. They also promote the videos on the utility’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter accounts.

The videos are also posted on the utility’s website (www.lynchburgva.gov/water-wonders). The utility started the hashtag #WaterWondersWednesday so that viewers can receive alerts to new videos. They send several notices announcing new releases, mimicking the way big-screen movies are premiered.

“We discovered that the video program also was a great team building and employee engagement tool,” says Meighan. “There sometimes can be a disconnect between the office staff in the utility, plant operations and employees in the field. This has helped to bridge the gap. Field team members regularly submit ideas now.” 

Widely viewed

A blooper film was used as a morale booster to help the staff get through the pandemic. Blooper clips were inserted between the utility’s strategic planning and other water leadership meetings and were popular with the staff.

To date, the videos have been viewed more 17,000 times, an average of nearly 600 views per video. Educators using and enjoying them; the Water Lillys are recognized around town, and so are videos’ messages. 

The program has won several awards including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies Environmental Achievement Award in the Public Information and Education E-Media category. The Lillys also won a Virginia AWWA award and as of March were finalists for two other regional awards.  


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