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Water: Best Management Practices

Stormwater Outreach Materials

Minimum Measure: Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts

Subcategory: Stormwater Outreach Materials


Stormwater education starts with a well-developed outreach plan. The outreach plan should identify goals and objectives, classify the target audience, identify the message, and explain how the message will be distributed.


A municipality must first determine who the target audience is and if more than one audience must be targeted (see Attitude Surveys).   If multiple audiences need to be addressed, can they be reached simultaneously or should they be prioritized?   The answer will depend on who is targeted and which messages are aimed.  Once the target audience has been determined and the stormwater message packaged, distribution can begin. Outreach materials (posters, flyers, magnets, etc.) will not help prevent stormwater pollution if the target audience does not receive them. Common distribution mechanisms include direct mail, door-to-door distribution, telephone, targeted businesses, presentations, handouts at events, media outlets, and messages posted in public places. Deciding how to distribute materials requires a close look at the level of time, resources, and work required. For example, if posters with a stormwater message are to be printed, should the posters be mailed to a specific audience? Should mailing tubes be purchased? Are addresses available?


There are several ways to implement outreach and education.   It is not always necessary to reach the entire audience at once.    Therefore, one or more of the following approaches might be useful.

Mail. The mail can be the best distribution vehicle if the target audience can be defined geographically, or if a mailing list encompassing the entire audience (e.g., landscapers, farmers, garages) is accessible. The U.S. Postal Service has established procedures for bulk mailings, and it is advisable to contact them early to discuss the pros and cons of this approach. In addition, lightweight flyers and brochures can be added to general mailings, such as utility bills or municipal service notices, without raising postage costs.  

Door-to-Door. Door-to-door canvassing is very effective, but it is resource-intensive if employees deliver the items. If it is too difficult or expensive to send employees door-to-door, it might be possible to work with local scout troops, environmental groups, or other willing organizations.    Using door hangers is one recommended option.  They can be printed cheaply and distributed without disturbing occupants.

Businesses, Organizations, and Public Places. Using selected businesses and organizations to deliver the message can increase the likelihood of reaching the target audience and save money on postage. For example, if a brochure or poster on oil recycling is printed, the brochure/poster could be displayed at auto parts supply outlets. Lawn and garden centers could display an alternative lawn care poster. Businesses will be more likely to distribute materials if there is an added benefit to them. "Green company" endorsements could be included on the posters. Septic tank-pumpers could be asked to distribute refrigerator magnets containing information on proper septic tank care and include a space on the magnet for the customer to write down the pumper's name and phone number.    Schools and local organizations with building space are good candidates for the display of materials, especially posters.

Presentations. In-person presentations are effective at reaching target audiences.  Presentations allow audiences to ask questions and receive answers immediately. Presentations can be given at schools, retirement homes, civic clubs, libraries, businesses, and associations.

Conferences.    Conferences, with their presentations, promotional give-aways, and displays, can be an excellent way to promote messages.  However, a conference might not reach the intended audience.  Moreover, those attending may already be familiar with the message. 

Media.  Local radio or cable stations may play audio or video messages, especially if they are required to air public services announcements.  Sometimes the easiest way to distribute a message is to have someone else do it. If the target audience subscribes to an existing periodical, it might be more effective to include the message in that publication. It will save time on mailing lists, postage costs, and news media releases. It also increases the likelihood that the message will be read by members of the target audience, since they are already familiar with the publication. Brochures and flyers can also be displayed in local libraries and other public places. See Using the Media fact sheet for additional information.


Effectively distributing stormwater materials depends on several factors, including design, production, and distribution costs. Other factors include the audience and what they do with the materials they receive. The quality of the materials affects the message's success.   A brochure should be carefully prepared to ensure that audiences will actually read it.    Another approach is to deliver a simple message in a simple medium, such as a magnet.    A magnet posted on a refrigerator is likely to be more effective than a complicated flyer.


Stormwater outreach materials are effective at reaching large audiences.  If they contain catchy slogans, graphics or logos, they can be even more effective. 


Outreach materials can be time-consuming to produce and costly to distribute. Another barrier may be a diverse audience, requiring multiple messages to account for demographic differences.


The cost of distributing stormwater messages depends on the method used and what is to be distributed. The U.S. Postal Service bulk mail has specific requirements and discounted unit costs. Going door-to-door can be labor-intensive and requires staff or volunteers and transportation. Using businesses to distribute the message can be very effective and requires virtually no distribution cost. Electronic presentations (e.g., in Microsoft PowerPoint) can be an economical way to present information if computers and projectors are available for use or loan. Presentations can be costly, depending on the materials. Flip charts and posters can cost $5.00 each or more. Producing 35-mm slides (from slide film or computer disc) costs approximately $4.00 per slide.

Other Helpful Information and Resources
See the Pet Waste Management fact sheet.


The Council of State Governments. No date. Getting in Step: A Guide to Effective Outreach in Your Watershed. The Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY.

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