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Stormwater Case Studies Search Results

Case Study Location: Maine: State of

Case Study Title: Maine Public Education Campaign Raises Stormwater Pollution Awareness

Minimum Control Measure: Public education and outreach on stormwater impacts

Scenic image of MaineMaine's 28 regulated MS4 communities and 8 nested entities teamed up with Maine DEP and other agencies to launch the state's first public outreach effort based exclusively on social marketing principles. Directed by independent market research, Maine DEP aimed its media campaign at college-educated 35-55-year-olds. Its aim was twofold – improve awareness of stormwater pollution sources and educate the public on how pollution gets into local waters.

Location: Maine: State of
Annual Rainfall: 30-40 inches (rain and snow)
Population: 1,305,728 (2003)
Year the Program Started: 1993

Contact Information:

David Ladd
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
17 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 287-5404  

Kathy Hoppe
Maine Department of Environmental Protection / Division of Watershed Protection
1235 Central Dr
Presque Isle, ME 04769
Phone: (207) 764-0477  

Barb Welch
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
17 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 287-7682  


Scenic image of Maine

Maine's outreach campaign employed social marketing techniques to direct, implement and gauge the effectiveness of its media efforts. Borrowing aspects of San Diego's "Think Blue" education and training campaign, Maine DEP's goal was to educate individuals about the causes of stormwater pollution and the steps they could take to protect water quality.

Having worked previously with 14 of Maine's 28 MS4 communities, Maine DEP determined that a state-wide public education campaign was feasible. Meetings with town managers and other stake holders resulted in agreement on funding the campaign. Each community committed to contributing at least $1,000 in start-up revenue. Maine DEP used creating fund raising and partnerships with many organizations to raise the lion’s share of the campaign's advertising and outreach costs.

Maine DEP staff, with assistance from EPA-funded Tetra Tech, held training workshops to explain the process and emphasize the benefits of using social market training to conduct outreach activities to MS4s. These workshops, in turn, fostered a partnership among state agencies and communities to develop a proposal for an effective state-wide awareness effort.

Media Campaign

Maine Stormwater logoMaine's MS4 communities occupy 4 broad areas in the state's central and southern regions. A state-wide media effort would require close coordination of state, local and private participants.

In the summer of 2003, DEP hired a market research firm to gather information on target audiences using focus groups. The results were not encouraging. The majority of adults knew nothing about watersheds, where stormwater went, or what caused the majority of water pollution in their neighborhoods.

A subsequent survey of 3,600 municipal employees confirmed the findings of the focus groups.

Maine DEP has experimented with social marketing since the 1990s, when they began collecting data to refine their description of the ‘ideal’ target audience. From these studies, DEP determined that college educated 30-55 year olds were most concerned about water quality, and most likely to take action on its behalf. They would be the ThinkBlue Partnership's target audience.

Another issue of interest to campaign planners was soil's role as a pollutant. When surveys were first conducted in 1996, few if any respondents listed soil as a source of water pollution.

In the spring of 2004, the DEP and the MS4s jointly funded an advertising firm to produce TV, radio and print spots, purchase airtime, and mount a stormwater-issue public relations campaign.

The advertising firm and the campaign's steering committee developed a logo and coined a slogan – Think Blue; Clean Water Starts With You. The University of Southern Maine and Aquarian Engineering, a consultant to some of the MS4s, collaborated on a website The Maine State Planning Office, Coastal Program and DEP provided partial financing for the website, the single contact point in the ads.

Radio and television ads began in July. To enhance the media buy - to make it appear more extensive and longer than it really was – media spots ran on a two weeks on, one week off schedule. Only radio ads were broadcast for one week. The following week, television ads and radio ads were broadcast. The third week, only television ads ran, and so on. Additionally, ads were purchased on Maine Public Radio around its Thursday evening news for 13 consecutive weeks, and television ads aired for five consecutive weeks. The campaign concluded in October.


Image of a lighthouse in MaineMunicipalities regulated under Maine's Stormwater General Permit must not only engage in educational efforts, they must also demonstrate behavior changes and undergo impact evaluation. They must set demonstrable goals – increasing the amount of oil recycled rather than poured into storm drains, for example, or decreasing the amount of pesticides lawn care services apply. Success is measured not by the number of flyers mailed but by changes in behavior.

To help evaluate the campaign, the marketing firm conducted two phone surveys of Maine adults, once in the spring prior to the campaign and again in the fall after the campaign’s conclusion. In the fall survey, conducted two months after the campaign ended, respondents were asked if they had seen or heard the ads; if they understood the message that stormwater pollutes local water; and if, as a result of the campaign, they had taken any actions to protect water quality.

Among other findings, the survey found:

• 135,283 adult respondents, approximately 14.4% of Maine's population, remembered seeing or hearing ads. This compares with an average 5-10% recall for most marketing campaigns.

• 29% of 30-39 year-olds, 36% of 40-49 year-olds, and 35% of 50-59 year-olds said they have or will take action to protect water quality. These percentages were significantly higher than those younger or older, confirming that the 30-55 year-olds were the best target audience.

• When asked how concerned they were about water quality, 82% responded somewhat or very concerned. This compares to 76% in the April survey.

• 6% of Maine adults identified soil as a source of water pollution, compared with none in the April survey.


That 14.4% of Maine's adults remembered the campaign's ads two months after it had ended indicates that the campaign succeeded in reaching the targeted 30-55 year-old demographic. Although campaign planners spent an equal amount on television and radio, research showed that twice as many respondents recalled the television ads as the radio ads.

Planners found that media time purchased during broadcast of local televised news reached the widest local audiences. Targeting specific markets was easiest on radio, but the marketing firm concluded that ads broadcast on Maine Public Radio failed to effectively deliver the campaign's message. Though they contained the ThinkBlueMaine partnership name and website, the radio ads were ineffective, researchers concluded.

Residents of northern Maine recalled campaign ads the most, followed by residents of Coastal and Southern Maine. Residents of central Maine recalled them least. The media buy was equally effective across the state. The sole exception, Central Maine, saw a minor drop.

The campaign seemed to affect men more than women, although this finding is subject to interpretation.


Year two of the ThinkBlueMaine media campaign resulted in higher rates of ad recognition and increases in feelings of stewardship among Maine's residents.

▪ The percentage of respondents correctly identifying images or messages from media ads two months after the campaign's end jumped from 14.4% to 24% of Maine's adults.

▪ 40% of respondents (versus 32% in 2004) said they had taken or planned to take actions to reduce stormwater runoff. 35% reported specific actions taken, and increase from 26% the previous year.

▪ More than eight out of ten Mainers think stormwater affects water quality – the same as the 2004 survey.

▪ The percentage of respondents citing soil as source of water pollution remained essentially the same as the previous year – 5%.

Based on overall results of the 2005 survey, college educated, middle-income respondents ages 30 to 39 – the campaign's target audience – remain the most likely to say stormwater is a major contributor to water pollution.


The continuing ability of ThinkBlueMaine's media ads to hold the target audience's attention suggests that the campaign's message will continue to resonate with viewers. Since the ads air seasonally, the campaign's consultants believe the ads can continue to run without boring audiences.

A relatively large number of respondents cited trash, litter, vehicles, and dumping as sources of pollution. This suggests that a stormdrain stenciling program will reinforce stormwater messages. A smaller segment cited soil erosion, pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides as sources of water pollution. Taken together, audience recognition of common pollution sources suggests that MS4 communities can spend less on raising awareness and more on behavior change.

While not generally recognized as a water pollution source – no respondents mentioned it – pet waste nevertheless contributes to water quality problems. Maine’s MS4 communities will have to dedicate resources toward raising awareness of this issue.

Additional Materials Related to this Case Study:

Additional Resources and Tools for this Minimum Control Measure

EPA presents this case study as an example to which Phase I and Phase II municipal stormwater programs can refer as they develop their own stormwater programs. Although EPA has reviewed the case studies, they should not be considered officially endorsed by the Agency and are not intended to represent full compliance with EPA’s stormwater Phase II minimum control measures. Each community must decide on the appropriate BMPs necessary to meet its unique permit requirements and local conditions.

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