City of Los Angeles

Rainwater Harvesting Program

In Los Angeles, rain is a good thing. With average rainfall hovering around 15 inches on a good year, every drop counts. The problem is the city’s many impervious surfaces—like rooftops and driveways and four-lane freeways. They shuttle rainwater straight toward the storm drains, picking up modern-day pollutants like trash, motor oil, pesticides and dog waste, on the way out to local rivers, creeks and the ocean.

The campaign

In 2008, SGA helped the City of Los Angeles envision and launch a rainwater harvesting pilot program. The goal was to get 600 homeowners in the Mar Vista, Jefferson and Sawtelle neighborhoods to allow us to install a rain barrel at their home. If we succeeded, we’d save between 600,000 and 2.2 million gallons of polluted stormwater from spilling into nearby Ballona Creek, every year.

Our strategy

Studies show that people rely heavily those around them for cues on how to think, feel and act. With that in mind, one of our key strategies was to engage a crew of early adopters, who could pass on their experience, answer questions and encourage their neighbors to join in the rain barrel program. Every resident who had a rain barrel installed also received a lawn sign, announcing that their house harvested the rain. The result was even more social awareness for the program. A human face also attracts earned media. We helped our early adopters become spokespeople for the rain barrel program in the media.

What we did

SGA created a multi-platform campaign that integrated online outreach via a microsite, social media channels and email communications with a grassroots outreach at community meetings, farmers’ markets and neighborhood festivals.

We cultivated relationships with resident champions, who were already bought-in on the benefits of rainwater harvesting, and developed materials featuring those champions. These residents gave the program credibility through peer endorsement and helped teach residents more about rainwater capture. Brochures, how-to manuals and a video showing how to install additional rain barrels, put in permeable pavement or plant a rain garden helped empower residents and deepen their commitment to harvesting rainwater.