Great Water Alliance

What was the challenge?

Situation: The City of Waukesha, WI, has a unique opportunity to create a long-term, sustainable, safe water supply system for its customers by drawing water from Lake Michigan and returning an equal amount to the Great Lakes Basin in cooperation with neighboring communities and leaders, using industry best practices and championing environmental stewardship.

Challenge: From the beginning, Waukesha’s need for an alternative water source was highly publicized and debated not just locally or regionally, but internationally. This led to misinformation being disseminated which complicated and threatened the program. It was clear that the program needed an identity and a strong focus to providing correct information.

Also, the return flow requires pipelines to be constructed in neighboring cities which will not directly benefit from this program. Extensive public relations, public affairs, communications, and education is needed to ensure relationships are built with stakeholders, news media, elected officials, and the public.

Mass Audience

Research: Research provides insight into what people are thinking, and even why they are thinking it, which is the reason we are able to specifically and effectively target marketing and communication efforts. We performed qualitative and quantitative research at the beginning of the program, and will continue longitudinally throughout. This approach assists in maintaining situational awareness of stakeholder interests, concerns, misperceptions, while identifying emerging issues. Thoughtful and intentional research is just one reason the program is so successful.

Brand: This historic project needed an identity, so MK developed a new brand for the program — the Great Water Alliance (GWA).

The name, derived from the Algonquin word for Lake Michigan (michigami, or “great water”), conveys the magnitude of the undertaking while emphasizing the regional cooperation necessary to make it all work.

Establishing a discrete and recognizable identity was a monumental step for this momentous program as it heads towards the finish line.

Great Water Alliance - logo on background
Great Water Alliance - printed materials
Great Water Alliance - information card

Addressable Audience

Website: The complexity of the Great Water Alliance requires a website that reflects the lofty goals of the project while being the go-to information source for all questions and content related to the program.

Great Water Alliance - website on laptop

Audience of One

Informational Materials: GWA’s communication pieces involve tailoring to different audiences, addressing specific concerns and needs, writing for a varying knowledge base, and conveying important messages in a consistent, comprehensible manner.

Great Water Alliance - Facebook on phone

Audience’s Audience

Two-Way Communication: The intricacies and tensions of a program like the Great Water Alliance necessitate a strategic, open-dialogue communications approach. MKR’s intention is to raise and maintain awareness among all audiences, to inspire new audiences to join in, and to be responsive to all inquiries as they arise.

Great Water Alliance - Open House
Great Water Alliance - Open House
Great Water Alliance - Open House



Unique monthly visits to the GWA website


Reach and 3.26% engagement rate on Facebook


E-Newsletter sign-ups with an open rate of 37.6%