Best Practices for Producing a Water Quality Report Card
Tributary report cards are technical documents. Through careful measurement, water quality indicators are quantified, and the health of a Chesapeake Bay tributary is graded. The report card presents that scientific information to a public audience.
By sharing this information widely, public awareness can be raised. In the longer term, this awareness lays the foundation for engaging the public to support tributary health, and eventually to make the behavior change that will improve the health of their tributary.
But the general public is not a technical audience. To reach the public, the writing must be friendly and understandable. The layout must be pleasing and approachable. And the content must be relevant and engaging.
With funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the West/Rhode Riverkeeper engaged OpinionWorks to conduct a readership study of tributary report cards. Through six professionally-conducted focus groups held in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the Bay watershed, the needs and preferences of the public audience were examined.
The findings of those focus groups were distilled into best practices for producing an accessible and engaging report card for the public. These recommendations are
research-based, driven by the audience. Implementing these recommendations will give a report card much better readership and impact in its watershed.
The full best practices report is below.