Monday, September 19, 2016

BLOG: Build the Relationship Before You Need the Relationship

by Christine Spitzley, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing, Michigan

People dedicated to the protection of groundwater resources know that pollution prevention is easier, cheaper and more effective than cleaning up contamination. As Groundwater Guardian Team since 1995 our goal is simple, protect groundwater before it is polluted. The tricky part is messaging that goal in a way that is heard, believed and evolves into action. How do you effectively share messages about an unseen resource that everyone uses and yet takes for granted? How to you make it a priority in a world full of seemingly urgent information? How are you heard amidst all the noise? Is it worth it?

Randy Roost is the immediate past chair Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association and a Lansing Board of Water and Light employee. He succinctly summarized what we have been actively working towards in the Greater Lansing Area for decades: “You have to build the relationship before you need the relationship.”

Roost’s wisdom is directly on target. Confidence is earned. Locally, we do what many do across the country to tell our drinking water story. We host plant tours, write articles, bring booths to schools and fairs, engage in social media and give interviews. It can seem endless and repetitive. But when a boil water advisory becomes necessary, or an unexpected spill takes place, educated consumers who know their providers and understand their resources are more likely to trust that those responsible will put public health and safety first. Likewise, as the need to invest in aging water infrastructure continues to grow, stakeholders need to understand where their water comes from and how it is delivered. It is difficult for people to support what they do not understand.

If you are part of the media, seek out water professionals before an emergency. A resource every single person depends on daily IS interesting. A product that is delivered to every home and business daily IS worth noting.  

If you are a teacher please include water in your curriculum as part of science, math, and government. Create a generation of wise consumers who understand the many facets safe water.  

As a consumer, seek information and ask questions.  

If you are a Groundwater Guardian Team, keep sharing the message and building relationships.  

It’s worth it.


Christine Spitzley is the Chief Environmental Programs Planner for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in Lansing, Michigan. She is also the team leader for the Greater Lansing Area Groundwater Guardian team, and has been since the team was formed in 1995. Reach Christine at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

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