Problem: For several years, attendance at water operator workshops was generally sub-optimal.

Solution: Improved outreach and recruitment methods led to an exponential rise in attendance rates.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s (RCAC) Community & Environmental Services (CES) department offers a range of courses to expand the knowledge base of rural water utility system operators and help them to plan for, achieve and maintain compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards. Over the past several years, RCAC’s water operator workshops in Colorado have typically averaged around 20 attendees.

In 2022, RCAC started to test new methods of recruitment to identify how to boost workshop attendance. Based on the results of the tests, two methods of outreach were found to be most effective. First, Rural Development Specialists can obtain an up-to-date list of certified operators from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Second, outreach emails sent to water operators should include step-by-step instructions on how to register for the course. The combined impact of these two changes was a fourfold increase in attendance. An unprecedented 115 participants attended a recent training – nearly six times the number of participants at similar workshops in the past.

RCAC significantly increased event participation by testing various outreach strategies, measuring their effectiveness and determining which worked best. Rural Development Specialists will continue to observe and measure outcomes in Colorado to see if such high attendance levels are sustainable. Moving forward, Regional Field Managers and staff in other states will also test and evaluate new outreach strategies and gauge their effectiveness in attracting rural water operators and administrators to workshops across RCAC’s region.