A fun house and The Beatles: creative ways water companies hope to change customer behaviour

It was a big summer hit – a pop-up wacky fun house that families could enjoy for free.

But there was a serious point behind the Unblock Against The Clock attraction. The brainchild of Yorkshire Water, the game taught people of all ages about the ‘unflushables’ which cause sewer blockages – and cost millions of pounds to clear.

Created inside two stacked portable buildings, Unblock Against The Clock was installed in Yorkshire cities where there had been a particularly bad sewer blocking problem, like Huddersfield and Bradford.

In the timed challenge participants had to solve clues and find the potential blockages – from wet wipes to cooking oil.

Then they took a slide into the ‘sewer’ to leave the fun house and find out their time.

“We are trying to educate customers on what the known blockers are of our sewer network, what potentially might cause blockages, pollution incidents, plastics polluting the ocean and internal sewer flooding,” explained a Yorkshire Water spokesman.

We’ve been working with Yorkshire Water to evaluate the outcomes of this innovative approach and will soon be feeding back how successful the campaign has been.

Other innovations

The Abbey Road manhole cover. Photograph: Thames Water

Yorkshire Water’s fun house is only one example of the innovative ways water companies are using to educate companies about the fatberg nightmare – some of which will no doubt be discussed at the MRS Utilities Market Research conference on 3 October 2019.

Northumbrian Water is one of the utility firms throwing its weight behind the world’s first sewer blockage awareness month – Unblocktober.

They are highlighting the problem with a list of the weirdest things flushed into Northumbrian’s sewer network. This included a full Saturday night outfit including a men′s shirt, pair of jeans and socks which were found to be blocking a sewage pumping station in Durham.

Thames Water has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Abbey Road album with a specially-designed manhole cover depicting the Beatles on the zebra crossing.

They hope the new look “sparks more conversations about what happens next to London’s waste, and serves as a reminder that only the three Ps – poo, pee and toilet paper – should end up in our vast network of underground sewers”.

And over at Severn Trent, they invited in ITV’s cameras for the summer series Sewer Men.

The two-part documentary got down and dirty with waste water workers as they unblocked toilets and drains, and went waist-deep in sewers clogged with wet wipes and fat.

Did it work? Well, one viewer tweeted:

What we do
Qa Research undertakes a wide range of customer insight and research studies for water companies.
Core topic areas have focused on Attitudes to River Water Quality, Improving Bathing Water Quality, Evaluating Behaviour Change Campaigns (water saving initiatives and sewer blockage prevention), Testing New Billing Concepts and Designs, Evaluating Behaviours During Water Supply Interruption, Online Tool Development for Willingness to Pay Surveying and much more.Find out more about the work we’ve done within the water sector by contacting Richard Bryan on richard.bryan@qaresearch.co.uk

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