Maryland’s largest water utility will spend $850,000 to “rebrand” itself from WSSC — the common name for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission — to WSSC Water, utility officials said Wednesday.
The new name will better promote its mission of providing safe water, they said.
WSSC spent $360,000 on consultants who led focus groups with employees and the public to develop the utility’s “brand story,” which also includes a new logo and motto, General Manager Carla A. Reid said at a meeting of the WSSC’s board of commissioners.
On Wednesday, the commissioners, who are appointed by leaders in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, unanimously approved an additional $491,400 to replace the name, logo and motto on vehicles, buildings, signs, hard hats, safety vests, business cards and employee IDs. The money will be spent over three years.
Of that, $190,000 will be used to replace the large white water drop with the new logo — a blue-and-green “W” — atop the utility’s 12-story headquarters along Interstate 95 in Laurel.
The utility will also change its motto from “Where water matters” to “Delivering the essential.”
WSSC provides water and sewer services to nearly 2 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s.
Reid said the changes will improve the utility’s “visual identity” as it continues to modernize, including implementing a new billing system. Adding “water” to the name will make WSSC’s mission more apparent to its customers, she said, though it will continue to operate officially as the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
“We work 24/7, 365 to produce safe, reliable water,” Reid told the board. “Just imagine the Maryland Transit Administration not having ‘transit’ in its name.”
The spending has caught the attention of some employees, who question its necessity at a time when WSSC has repeatedly raised customers’ rates to repair and replace aging pipes, pumps and other decaying infrastructure. Rates have increased by 3.5 percent to 5 percent in each of the past three fiscal years.
“Everyone is asking why?” said one employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the change. “They keep asking for rate hikes but have money to spend on this?”
WSSC spokesman Chuck Brown said changing the name, logo and motto “will not deter our efforts to replace and repair our aging infrastructure.”
The rebranding, he said, will receive $141,000 of the utility’s overall $1.5 billion budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.
Four of the six commissioners present didn’t express any reservations about the cost. Instead, several praised WSSC leaders for saving money by designing the new logo in-house and by gradually replacing uniforms as needed, rather than buying new ones upfront.
The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority changed its name from D.C. WASA to D.C. Water in 2010 amid a congressional inquiry and national attention into unsafe lead levels found in the tap water of many city homes in the early 2000s. The agency had been widely criticized for being slow to inform the public. Changing the name and logo on D.C. Water vehicles, signs and uniforms was estimated to cost $160,000, according to media coverage at the time.
WSSC customers will see the changes this fall, Brown said.