Water-logged plants, garden gnomes pitch Southern California's new conservation message

Whimsical tales of bloated plants and drenched garden gnomes play featured roles in a $1.5 million, region-wide advertisement campaign rolled out by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to help save up to 65 billion gallons of water this year.

LOS ANGELES, July 31, 2003 -- Whimsical tales of bloated plants and drenched garden gnomes play featured roles in a $1.5 million, region-wide advertisement campaign rolled out by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to help save up to 65 billion gallons of water this year.

Metropolitan's concentrated three-month campaign, launching next Monday, Aug. 4 in radio spots, traffic report sponsorships and outdoor advertising throughout the Southland, encourages consumers to conserve water by employing smarter landscape irrigation practices and embracing native and California-friendly plants and flowers.

The campaign compels consumers to log onto a new Web site -- "www.bewaterwise.com" -- to access tools that will help them program and customize their outdoor sprinklers systems to be more efficient.

"Starting this summer, we hope to make water conservation outside the home as natural as enjoying Southern California's sunny days," said Metropolitan board Chairman Phillip J. Pace.

"Our strategy uses humor, interlaced with facts, to educate residents with outdoor sprinkler systems that they are significantly over-watering their plants, shrubs and trees," Pace said.

"We're also calling on clever, attention-getting messages to introduce the water-saving benefits and an appreciation for the beauty and heritage of Southern California native plants."

Pace said Metropolitan's campaign marks the evolution of the essential role water conservation plays in Southern California's water future.

"In the old days, we only asked people to conserve when we were in a drought. Today, more than half of our water demands are met through conservation programs, water recycling and the recovery of contaminated groundwater," Pace said. "Every drop of water we save is a drop of water we can store in a reservoir or groundwater basin and use in dry times," he added.

Adan Ortega Jr., Metropolitan's vice president for external affairs, said the campaign is part of the district's larger outreach effort to reduce outdoor water use, particularly during the summer and early fall when outdoor temperatures soar and over-watering is at its worst.

"Our outreach effort began a year ago when we shifted our focus from indoor water conservation to outside, where up to 70 percent of residential water is used," Ortega said. "It continues a year of planning and strategizing about the best way to get our messages across and reduce outdoor water use by 7 to 12 percent."

Through October, Metropolitan's messages will be carried in 60-second radio spots featuring humorous testimonials from sopping-wet plants and water-logged gnomes. The spots, running on 20 major English and Spanish stations in six Southland counties, encourages listeners to visit "bewaterwise.com" for conservation materials and water-saving tools, such as how to solve the mystery of programming outdoor sprinkler systems to be more water efficient.

Traffic report sponsorships in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese will run on nearly 100 radio stations spanning Metropolitan's 5,200-square-mile service area, from Los Angeles to San Diego counties. Outdoor advertising -- featuring colorful billboards and bus sides -- also will be displayed through October.

"This is not your typical government agency campaign, and we salute the courage and the savvy of Metropolitan to use humor to educate people about water use," said Renee White Fraser, founder and president of Fraser Communications, the Santa Monica-based advertising firm that helped the district create the campaign. "Research has shown that humor ensures the audience better remembers, and more importantly, more willingly accepts the message Metropolitan needs to send to all of us about over-watering."

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.


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