The Carlsbad Desalination Project
Cities of Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos
Poseidon Water enlisted Southwest Strategies to help manage a large-scale public relations campaign and comprehensive outreach program to more than 25,000 stakeholders for the nation’s largest seawater desalination project.
Client: Poseidon Water
Expertise: Public Outreach
Location: Cities of Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos
“Southwest Strategies has provided superior outreach for the construction of the 10-mile pipeline for the Carlsbad Desalination Project. Throughout the project they have helped conduct a number of public meetings for which they have always been exceptionally prepared, implemented logistics perfectly and delivered a flawlessly executed event.”
Project Manager, Poseidon Water
When it was proposed in 2012, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant and Conveyance Pipeline Project was the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination project in the nation. The project was made possible through a public-private partnership between developer Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority. Set against the backdrop of California’s severe drought, the creation of a new locally-controlled, drought-proof water supply was a significant milestone for San Diego County and the entire state. For the construction phase of the project, Poseidon Water hired us to conduct outreach to potentially impacted parties near the plant and along the 10-mile pipeline route and share key information with the public. The outreach along the pipeline route presented a major challenge as the pipeline crossed three cities and numerous diverse business and residential communities.
We undertook a preliminary research effort to understand residents’, businesses’ and property owners’ concerns, and met with elected officials to collect additional information regarding construction expectations and requirements. With this understanding, we were able to identify target audiences, build our message platform and begin to develop tactics that would educate local communities about the project and facilitate two-way communication between stakeholders and project officials during construction.
To kick-off construction, we coordinated a ground-breaking ceremony and news conference, and developed and distributed regular enews updates and informational mailers to nearly 25,000 stakeholders. We also launched a project website, which was updated regularly to include bilingual fact sheets, eblasts, construction maps, photos and social media. For local businesses, we specifically prepared and distributed biweekly construction eblasts. To provide personalized project information, we conducted regular door-to-door walks to businesses and residences. Additionally, we coordinated several feature stories, including one that appeared as part of CNN’s “City of Tomorrow” series, and regularly coordinated media tours along the pipeline route and at the plant.
As work approached residential areas, we proactively held a series of public workshops, which allowed community members to engage directly with project team members. During one segment of construction, we placed an onsite construction liaison in the field. This staffer coordinated with construction crews, the City of San Marcos, Poseidon Water, the Water Authority and residents on a day-to-day basis to ensure seamless communication and address potential challenges before they arose.
Nine months before the completion of the plant, we worked with Poseidon Water and the Water Authority to plan a dedication event to celebrate the completion of the project and highlight the historic and national significance of the occasion. The team developed a distinctive theme and brand for the event – “Now Serving: Pacific on Tap” – which reaffirmed the magnitude of the project, with a nod to San Diego’s thriving craft beer culture.
After more than a decade of planning and three years of construction, the seawater desalination project was completed in late 2015. Throughout construction, our outreach to local communities successfully reached nearly 25,000 individuals. The project Facebook page reached nearly 2,000 fans, the Twitter account was followed by more than 600 and more than 150 stories were printed in local, regional and national news outlets. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant Dedication Event was also an overwhelming success. Over the course of the day, more than 700 attendees were present, including 50 reporters, 75 dignitaries and elected officials, and 200 community and business leaders. We continue to provide consulting services related to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant to Poseidon Water today.