Make Your Water Quality Report Work for You

Recently, there has been an uptick in media interest in drinking water contaminants, thanks in part to the release of the Tap Water Database, by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to its website, the EWG obtained water testing data for the period of 2010 to 2015 from all 50 States.

The information in the Database can be confusing because EWG made its assessments based on non-enforceable health guidelines published by health and environmental agencies, including the State of California; EWG’s own research; as well as Federal legal limits. When residents and journalists search the EWG Database, they may find that the local drinking water systems exceed contaminant limits listed by the EWG.

The good news is, your water system is likely already equipped with the information the media and your customers are seeking, thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act requirement to provide an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) to the public.

The CCR, frequently known as the annual Water Quality Report, summarizes the results of the previous year’s drinking water quality analyses, communicates information about a water supply system, and conveys health impacts of drinking water. Assuming your water system already made paper copies of the CCR available and/or posted a direct link to the entire report on the utility’s website as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s a good idea to remind customers that the information is always available.

Check out the infographic created by AE2S Communications’ Taylor Corbett to view seven suggestions for proactively promoting your utility’s water quality, using your CCR.

Adding value for your employees and your clients

We’ve all been there. You are assigned a task and know it can be done, but have no idea how to do it.

That is a reality of the workplace. This reality is actually an opportunity waiting to happen. It’s an opportunity for employers to make the workplace valuable, make their employees feel valued and turn around great, valuable products for clients.

Making the workplace valuable can be tricky. Many things go into competing for those “best places to work” competitions. Companies trying to attract young people have Jello fights and chicken petting day. Companies trying to retain people who have been in the workforce offer benefit packages that include health insurance and discount warehouse memberships.

But one key way to make the workplace valuable is by encouraging staff to try and learn new things.

I am given this opportunity every day. On a weekly basis I use at least four graphic design programs from Adobe, an animation software, a video editing software and multiple Microsoft products. I started using all of these in high school or college more than 10 years ago.

Because I’ve worked at places that encourage learning and self-growth, I’ve been able to keep up my skills in all of these programs, and add new programs to my repertoire.

It takes time to learn the programs and practice, but that time equates to having more graphic design, video editing and design skills in general. This space for growth has made me a more valuable employee, but it’s also made my workplace valuable to me.

By investing in training time and skill development, it’s also made the products I produce improve. Now when a client comes to us with a specific need, we have a multitude of options to help find a solution.

Need to explain an infrastructure project? AE2S Communications gave me the opportunity to learn how to create animations last year.  Now I’m able to easily create fun-to-watch cartoons about how or why a clients’ project is needed and how it will be built.

Want to support a successful voter-approved initiative? I’ve been given the freedom to hone my design skills and can make you an entire set of infographics, handouts, GIFs and interactive websites.

By giving me time, space and encouragement to hone and expand my skills, I now add value to my company and for our clients.

So give your employees a chance to learn something new. Ask them if there is a program they are interested in learning and maybe the next time an impossible task comes your way, you will have the skills needed to do the job right.



Disassembling a disaster zone

My computer desktop is a disaster. I’ll admit it. It looks like an explosion of every file type ever created. Screen shots and video files lurk in the corners. Folders where I meant to file things during a fit of organization clutter around the center of the screen, waiting to be used.

I know how it happens, and yet am powerless to stop it. A project comes up that needs completing immediately. Instead of finding the right file to save the design, or video project, it’s easier to keep it on my desktop so I can access it quickly if I’m working remotely.

Then, it never gets moved…until last week.

It’s funny how a change in the weather sparks some deep, internal desktop cleaning mode. When the snow leaves and the sun starts to show up before 9 a.m., suddenly my desktop is a clean background full of well-labeled folders and endless space.

It takes a little time to accomplish this feat, but once completed, it’s well worth the effort.

So here are a few tips that have helped me capitalize on the instinct of spring cleaning and file my documents where I can actually find them again.

1 – Use a consistent date and project label

Finding documents using the “last opened” feature is great, if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t depending on your platform. A more reliable way to organize files is to ensure the title of the file is as descriptive as possible but in a style that’s easy to remember. I start with the year, then the month and date in number format followed by the document description and if it’s a draft or final. (2017-0501-BlogPostCleaning-Final) Try to avoid spaces in your file names as that can cause issues.

2 – Create a file structure that makes sense to you and your team. Otherwise you will not use it.

The worst thing about file structures is not being able to find a document when you need it. To create a structure that works, it takes a little bit of practice and working with others who need to use the same files.

Finding a method to organize files is tricky because everyone approaches in their own way. One method we have agreed on in a joint server space is listing files by type and giving each a letter identifier so the files are grouped logically because of their alphabetic listing.

For example, anything files relating to standard graphics, logos or photos start with A- (ex. A-Logos and A-Photos). This keeps all graphics at the top of our file list. Print documents are filed in folders that start with P instead of just their name. That way when I have informational sheets or brochures that also need printing, they can be filed in P-InformationalSheets and P-Brochures.

This has worked well for us, but would not work well for all teams. That’s fine. Because it works well for us, we use it consistently. That’s the key with any sort of filing system.

3 – Organize things by purpose, not by file type.

One event can include dozens of different file types. Videos, InDesign, Illustrator, Word, Excel, PDF and Access files are just a few of the different file types that could be necessary. Saving things by their use may make more sense for your team if you ever plan to have repeat events. This makes it easy to pull that file and use it in later years.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can stick to. Make spring cleaning easy on yourself and happy filing!