Identifying Potential Partners
Who is initiating the conversation about replacing lead service lines (LSLs) in your community, and who needs to be involved?
Successful community-wide endeavors are partnership efforts. Consider your perspective if you or your organization initiated the conversation about LSL replacement in your community. What are other potential perspectives, and who in your community may hold these perspectives? Thoughtful consideration should be given to identify not only the key decision makers, but to also understand the diversity of the community in order to engage those who may have reason to question the issue, who may not fully understand the issue, or those whose voices are often not heard.
What are the major decisions that need to be made and issues that may need to be resolved at the local and state level?
Identifying the issues of concern to community members and the major decisions that need to be made, such as goals, timelines, responsibilities for LSLs on private property, access, communications, and funding, will provide a helpful starting point. Determining key issues and decisions will also help identify the key decision makers and necessary expertise. Consider the relevant roles and responsibilities for different decision makers, experts and others and how they will need to work together to move plans forward.
Who are the decision makers?
Decision makers include the water utility itself, local elected officials for municipally owned water systems and the state public utility commission (PUC) for private water companies, state or local public health agencies, transportation or public works departments, and other state or city officials. A state commission or regulatory body typically approves the rates charged by investor owned utilities. These commissions have different authorities, responsibilities, and names in different states; names include: Public Utility Commission, Public Service Commission, Utility Regulatory Commission, or Corporate Commission. To simplify our discussion we will use the term “Utility Regulatory Commission” to refer to any agency that regulates the prices or actions of a utility that provides water service.
Read more about specific decisions to address.
Read more about specific decisions to address.
Who else are stakeholders in these decisions, and what are their questions and concerns?
Consider others who are affected by or who could help inform the decisions made throughout the LSL replacement planning and implementation process. Depending on your defined community, these stakeholders could include regulatory agencies, medical community, public health agencies, community advocacy groups, the public schools and/or PTA, faith-based groups, developers and others in the business community, real estate agents, plumbers, home inspectors, local housing agencies, other utilities, homeowners associations, local charitable organizations and others.
Asking them about and addressing their questions and concerns to the extent possible will help inform the planning process. Civic leaders may also play important roles in communicating information to the general public.
Local advocacy groups and community organizers can be key partners
“We had a dedicated Department of Public Works and a community accustomed to advocating for itself. With the funding, we had everything we needed. I see our role as creating inertia. We helped the city see this was doable.”
Read more on this case example from Chelsea, MA.
What is the community make-up, economically, racially and ethnically?
An inclusive partnership is informed by an understanding of the community’s demographics. In previous community partnerships, what were some successful approaches to engage different segments of the population? It is important that trusted representatives of all affected community members are engaged in the LSL replacement initiative. Representatives could include prominent religious leaders, physicians, community organizers, or others who are active in community improvement partnerships. Having these trusted representatives at the table ensures that community questions and concerns are being considered and addressed in a culturally competent way throughout the planning and implementation processes.
Who are the public health partners in the community, and what role can they play in the LSL replacement planning process?
Local health agencies and departments develop numerous public health initiatives through community partnerships. You may want to learn the extent to which public health officials in your community have engaged in working with the public water system and lead abatement programs generally. Important opportunities may exist to learn from or extend initiatives to address lead paint in homes to also encompass water. Public health officials’ expertise can lend credibility to the effort and provide valuable insight on initiative design and community engagement.
Learn about the role of public health professionals in LSL replacement.
Are there other partners to consider engaging in the initiative?
The planning team could also include local grant makers or private foundations. Guidance from funders can help to keep plans on track according to their reporting requirements and reinforce their commitment to the successful completion of the initiative. Grant makers might also make valuable connections with additional funders for the initiative.
Additionally, regulators and consumer advocates should be included in conversations concerning funding mechanisms and ratepayer impacts where the water system is a private water company subject to regulation by PUCs.