Public Awareness – Promoting 811 through Aboveground and Elevated Storage Tanks: High-Visibility Return on Investment

FINDING CREATIVE ways to share the message of damage prevention amid a pandemic quickly took a turn last March for us at NC811. With no onsite meetings, we needed other ways to share the message while keeping everyone safe. The year prior, we had begun looking at aboveground and elevated storage tanks and how we could partner with our member utilities to share in damage prevention outreach to the masses.

So, what is in it for the water utility? And why is it such a benefit? There is no cost to the utility to paint their tank with the 811 logo, it promotes safe digging to their customers and keeps the water flowing. Unplanned outages impact their customers, so sharing the 811 message benefits and protects their investment.

Where should you begin your search to find the tanks?

• Identify the counties/areas with the highest damages within your state

• Have discussions within your local Utility Coordinating or Damage Prevention Councils

• Contact associations within your state:

– American Water Works Association

– Rural Water Association

– water tank maintenance and painting companies (tanks are generally repainted every 7-10 years)

Once a potential tank has been identified, make sure you have someone scout the actual location of the tank to ensure it is visible to passersby as water utilities do not focus on visibility when placing their water tanks. Visit your state DOT website to search for traffic counts for the annual average daily traffic in the area. This will quickly help you determine if the tank will generate enough impressions for a great return on investment.

When partnering with water utilities, base your proposal on how often the tank is painted. Our typical contract is for eight years. Some utilities may ask for a one-time rental fee while others only ask you cover the cost of the tank painting and logo. The cost for painting in North Carolina has averaged $6,500 – $8,500 depending upon the size of the tank. One of our targeted tanks has 136,000 daily passersby which equates to $2.91 per day over an eight-year period. Now that is a great return on investment!

Some proposals may require approval from the Town Commissioner or City Council prior to installation. Once approved, typically the water utility has a contracted company who handles maintenance and painting of their tank. Since we at NC811 have an on-staff graphic designer, he was able to design the artwork for the company to create a template for painting, saving us additional expense. The tank gets a base coat which usually has at least a two-week cure time. Once cured, the 811 logo with tagline is hand painted.

Be creative on funding. Do not be afraid to ask your water utility to split the cost. PHMSA offers a One Call grant to qualified applicants. One Call Executive Directors in each state receive emails each year when the grants open. Be thorough on your documentation to prove the benefit to safety for the public. Together, we are Partners in Protecting Everyone.

Ann Rushing is Education Manager of NC811. If you would like to learn more about our success, email me at

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