…..an explosive noise: the ‘report’ of a rifle.
…..an account or statement describing details or observations of an event, situation or other
A document plops into your inbox, you’re about to present these water quality results to your board, you’ve been waiting for them all day and you need to understand the content quickly.You’re hoping for the latter definition of report, but do you feel like you’ve just received the former? Here we look at what makes a good report, in particular, for water quality.
What makes a good water quality report?
A good water quality report should:
- Be concise and address a particular purpose.
- Be ‘digestible’ for a particular audience.
- Contain meaningful, value-adding information and not just a sea of water quality data.
- Help the reader find the information that is relevant to them, rapidly and effortlessly.
- Start with the customer and work back.
So, who is the customer?
Water quality has many stakeholders, so before you get cracking on your report, we need to know who the report’s ‘customer’ will be, there may be a wide audience – so how do we get it right?
Water quality stakeholders vary from corporate to coalface[i], depending on the operating context. Our report’s customers could include local government councillors, board direc
managers, water quality compliance officers, operators and end users – all with differing urban water literacy. The ‘need to know’ and frequency of reporting requirements will vary depending on those users, their (and your) reporting obligations and the water quality circumstance.
[i] Davison et al (2011) Duties and obligations of directors in public utilities. How well do you understand water quality? Water (Journal of the Australian Water Association) Volume 38(7): 44-46.
What will the report’s audience want to see?
And finally – how do you know that your water quality report was effective? Don’t let your ego get in the way of communication – just because you’re a great scientist, it doesn’t automatically make you a great report writer. Testing your format and seeking feedback should both be part of the reporting process and used to improve the way that you undertake your water quality reporting. Make sure you’ve turned the water quality data not just into information, but ended up with the knowledge to better manage your water supply system.