Communication Support to Water Utilities to Improve Public Perception of Water

Request for Proposals

In accordance with the Virginia Public Procurement Act §2.2-4303, Virginia Health Catalyst is requesting proposals for professional services from marketing and communications organizations with expertise in water communications (hereinafter referred to as “offeror”). This project aims to provide water communication resources and trainings to water utility staff to build trust with customers.

Through an APRA-funded grant, Virginia Health Catalyst can contract with one offeror to provide water communication resources and support to small and disadvantaged utilities. The offeror will receive up to $50,000. All receipts and invoices are due by November 31, 2022, and the program will end on December 31, 2022.

Contact Elliot Popoff (epopoff@vahealthcatalyst.org) with any questions.

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    About the Project


    Water is essential for a healthy life. Unfortunately, not all Virginians choose to drink their tap water for a variety of reasons, including trust in the water quality, access and affordability, and/or preferences for beverages other than water. Drinking tap water is associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes and obesity, and improved cognitive function among children and adults. Water can also improve one's oral health – fluoridated drinking water protects teeth and may reduce tooth decay by as much as twenty-five percent. Even though most people know that drinking water improves health, seventy-two percent of adults are inadequately hydrated, putting them at risk for health complications. To ensure all Virginians have equitable access to safe, trusted, fluoridated water that is their beverage of choice, Virginia Health Catalyst (Catalyst) works to improve trust in tap water by providing education, training, and support to water utilities to improve their water communication.

    Catalyst staff will partner with a small number of water utilities to improve water communication practices to increase consumer trust in tap water. Catalyst, with the support of the offeror, will assist utilities with implementing a new Consumer Confidence Report template. Catalyst staff will also engage water utilities with developed water communication tools to increase trust within the community. This will be a flexible and conversational approach to provide utility staff with the tools, technical assistance, and trainings needed to help them feel comfortable communicating effectively about water with consumers.


    The offeror must meet the following minimum criteria:

    • Be a licensed business that follows all appropriate federal and state regulations
    • Possess expertise in providing support to water utilities
    • Possess experience developing toolkits for water utilities
    • Possess experience consulting with a variety of partners in the water sector
    • Understand the importance of water utilities developing trust with customers
    • Understand the unique challenges of small and disadvantaged water utilities
    • Understand the public health implications of poor relationships between water utilities and customers

    Preference will be given to offerors:

    • Located in Virginia
    • With experience working with Virginia water utilities
    • With relationships with Virginia’s Office of Drinking water staff
    • With experience creating Consumer Confidence Reports
    Project Commitments & Timeline

    Offerors agree to:

    • Monthly 60-minute meetings w/Catalyst staff
    • Quarterly work reports to Catalyst
    • Conduct research about Virginia utility’s unique needs and share findings
    • Create water communication resources for water utilities in Virginia
    • Conduct at least 4 trainings for water utility staff
    • Spend funds appropriately before the November 31, 2022 deadline
    • Regular communication with Catalyst staff including phone calls, e-mails, and meetings

    April 2022

    Project begins, kick-off meeting

    May 2022

    Research and develop toolkit

    June-August 2022

    Test and revise toolkit

    September-December 2022

    Conduct trainings

    Funding Availability

    Through a APRA-funded grant, Virginia Health Catalyst can contract with one offeror to provide water communication resources and support to small and disadvantaged utilities. The offeror will receive up to $50,000. All receipts and invoices are due by November 31, 2022, and the program will end on December 31, 2022.

    This funding will support:

    • Staff salary support
    • Research into specific programs needs
    • Development of a Consumer Confidence Report template
    • Development of a water communication toolkit for water utility staff
    • Training development and implementation
    • Travel

    The funding will not support:

    • Additional subcontractors
    Submitting a Proposal

    Applicants must submit a written proposal of no more than 4 pages addressing the following components to Elliot Popoff (epopoff@vahealthcatalyst.org) by EOD March 25, 2022:

    • Explanation of the content expertise and professional qualifications of the offeror
    • Outline of work proposed with deliverables
    • Total cost estimate
    • Up to two examples of previous work (not included in the page count)

    You may submit a hard copy via mail to Virginia Health Catalyst, 4200 Innslake Dr., Suite 202, Glenn Allen, VA 23060. Please note that any hard copies received after the deadline (EOD, March 25, 2022) will not be considered.

    Applicants will be notified of the selection committee’s final decision by Wednesday, March 30, 2022

    Proposal Review and Selection Process

    In accordance with the Virginia Public Procurement Act, Chapter 43, Article 2, Section 2.2-4302.2 of the Code of Virginia, Virginia Health Catalyst will choose a firm through competitive negotiation. In order of preference, two or more offerors whose professional qualification and proposed services are deemed most in line with Catalyst’s needs. Catalyst staff will conduct negotiations beginning with the offeror ranked first. If a contract satisfactory and advantageous to Catalyst can be negotiated at a price considered fair and reasonable, the award shall be made to that offeror. Otherwise, Catalyst shall formally terminate negotiations with the offeror ranked first and negotiations with the offeror ranked second, and so on, shall be undertaken until a fair and reasonable price is agreed upon. Should Catalyst determine in writing and in its sole discretion that only one offeror is fully qualified or that one offeror is highly qualified and more suitable than the others under consideration, a contract may be negotiated and awarded to that offeror. Catalyst utilizes a selection committee to review all proposals. Members of that committee may check references or require a phone conference or interview with applicants on a case-by-case basis, though it may not be required. The selection committee will make its recommendation to the Catalyst Chief Executive Officer for final approval.

    For each proposal, the selection committee will evaluate the offerors using the following criteria and tables:

    • Well-defined proposed services that meet the needs of the grant
    • Content expertise
    • Detailed steps for planning and implementation of the program
    Water proposal criteria
    Water proposal criteria 2