Water quality

Water quality

SA Health statement

In 2017-18, SA Water complied with all requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 (the Act) and maintained supply of safe drinking water to South Australia.

SA Water collected 42 799 samples from drinking water supplies to test for health-related compliance. Compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) (ADWG) for E. coli was achieved in 99.97 per cent of metropolitan Adelaide samples, 99.99 per cent of country samples and 99.00 per cent of samples from remote Aboriginal communities. Overall compliance with the ADWG for health-related parameters was 99.94 per cent for metropolitan systems, 99.84 per cent for country areas and 98.73 per cent for supplies to remote Aboriginal communities.

Operation of the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol was successfully maintained throughout the period. The total number of incidents reported by SA Water in 2017-18 was lower than in 2016-17. This was primarily due to a reduction in disinfection by-product and filtered water turbidity related incidents as a result of improved water quality in the River Murray.

Water quality incidents were notified by SA Water in a timely and prescribed manner. Appropriate responses and corrective actions were implemented in all cases and these prevented any risks to public health.

Safe drinking water legislation

The Act commenced on 1 March 2013. The audit and inspection schedule started on 1 July 2014 and in February 2018 we successfully completed the fourth annual audit meeting all legislative requirements.

The Act provides the regulatory framework for drinking water providers in South Australia and is administered primarily by SA Health with assistance from local government. Provisions in the Act are underpinned by the ADWG and stipulate requirements for drinking water providers, including:

  • registration of drinking water providers with SA Health
  • development and implementation of risk management plans
  • establishment of approved drinking water quality monitoring programs
  • notification of incidents or noncompliance
  • audits and inspections to determine compliance with the Act
  • use of National Association of Testing Authorities accredited laboratories for sample testing
  • reporting of water quality test results to SA Health and providing consumers with drinking water quality information.

We are registered as a drinking water provider and have approved monitoring programs and an incident notification protocol. SA Water provided water quality testing reports for metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities water supplied on a monthly basis with results showing a very high level of compliance. A number of representative SA Water drinking water supplies were audited to satisfy the requirement of the Act. We met the legislative requirement for all metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities supplies that we operate.

Further information on the Act can be found at sahealth.sa.gov.au/safedrinkingwateract

Additional water quality information is available on our website.

Remote Aboriginal communities

Water quality data has now been included for the 21 remote Aboriginal communities and one government facility across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY), Maralinga Tjarutja and Aboriginal Lands Trust lands that we manage. We commenced management of four additional communities from late 2017 which are also included in this data.

Catchment to tap

We manage drinking water quality from catchment to tap in line with our Drinking Water Quality Management System to ensure a consistent and reliable supply of high quality, safe drinking water for our customers.

This management system is based on the Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality outlined in the ADWG and endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The framework outlines good drinking water supply management, based on the best available scientific evidence that will assure drinking water quality and safety at the tap.

Water quality achievements

The successful outcome of SA Health’s annual Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 (the Act) audit found:

  • our Drinking Water Quality Management System is actively managed, there were no urgent observations or significant non-compliances and there is best practice water quality management in most areas
  • the audited sites and systems demonstrated improved compliance relative to the 2014, 2015 and 2016 audits and demonstrated positive responses to findings from those previous audits
  • our people and contractors consistently demonstrated compliance to the Act and regulations and an understanding of the need for such compliance.

The audit result demonstrates the good level of collaboration across our organisation, with our contract partners, and the Department of Health and Wellbeing.

Future improvements proposed for 2018-19 include:

  • additional work to further reduce drinking water safety and quality risks associated with power failures
  • accelerated program for inspecting bores to mitigate contamination risks
  • continually improving our water quality monitoring program for catchment areas.

Incident management

We are committed to applying the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality which includes two components for the management of incidents and emergencies:

  • communication
  • incident and emergency response protocols.

We have a Water Quality Incident and Emergency Management Protocol in place and a web-based incident management system to record and generate notification of water quality incidents. These are in line with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol that is maintained by SA Health to adopt the principles of the ADWG and satisfy requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 and Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2012.

SA Health defines three types of health related incident classifications based upon a precautionary approach:

  1. Priority Type 1 incident notification. An incident that, without immediate appropriate response or intervention, could cause serious risk to human health and is likely to require immediate interagency meetings to consider responses. Procedures for Type 1 incident notifications also apply.
  2. Type 1 incident notification. An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, could cause serious risk to human health.
  3. Type 2 incident notifications. An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, represents a low risk to human health.

Following is a comparative summary of the Priority Type 1, Type 1 and Type 2 incident notifications reported against the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol.

Priority Type 1 and Type 1 incidents are immediately reported to SA Health, while all Type 2 notifications are reportable within 24 hours, in line with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol. In 2017-18, the numbers of incident notifications decreased significantly when compared with 2016-17. This can be attributed to a reduction in disinfection by-products and water treatment plant filtered water turbidity incidents, primarily due to improved source water quality in the River Murray.

In 2017-18, we continued our focus on early detection and reporting to external agencies, briefing the Minister for Environment and Water, ensuring prompt corrective action and addressing the causes of preventable Type 1 notifications, such as disinfection failures and filtered water turbidity exceedances. Strategies employed to achieve this include optimisation of our drinking water quality monitoring program, ongoing capital improvements, and continuous improvement of our Drinking Water Quality Management System.

The proactive water quality management of targeted individual water supply systems and detection and management of risks continued during 2017-18. Changes in reporting criteria issued by SA Health in the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol also occurred and contributed to a change in reporting requirements.

State-wide supplies (metropolitan, country, and remote Aboriginal communities)

Reporting period

Priority Type 1

Type 1

Type 2





















Note: these notifications do not include wastewater, recycled water and non-drinking supplies.

* Remote Aboriginal communities incidents included in our reporting, including six Type 1 and two Type 2 incidents.

# Impacted by River Murray blackwater event.

Incident Response Index

The Incident Response Index (IRI) drives and guides correct responses when a Priority Type 1 or Type 1 incident is detected. The IRI is assessed against a number of criteria, with each component in the IRI designed to assist the management of water quality incidents, including reporting, initial response and longer term preventive measures. The overall 2017-18 strategic target for the IRI is 85 per cent compliance.

Criteria used in the Incident Response Index (based on total reportable SA Health Priority Type 1 and Type 1 incident notifications)

Incident reported to relevant agencies by phone immediately (less than one hour)

Overall strategic 2017-18 target: 85%

Incident entered into the incident management system in less than two hours

Initial effective response taken within three hours

Written report to Minister for Environment and Water by 3pm next business day

Root cause analysis completed within 10 working days

Preventive actions implemented within agreed timeframes

The continual review and improvement of our incident management processes has positively impacted our overall water quality incident response and performance, maintaining an overall score well above our target.

The Incident Response Index achieved in metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities and overall for 2017-18 compared to 2016-17


IRI 2017-18

IRI 2016-17







Remote Aboriginal communities*



Overall* (weighted combined metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities)



* For 2017-18, remote Aboriginal communities incident response is included in our reporting.

Focus for 2018-19

In 2018-19 we will:

  • continue to improve our online incident management system for reporting and management of water quality incidents and hazards
  • conduct refresher training on the Water Quality Incident and Emergency Management Protocol for country, metropolitan and remote Aboriginal communities incident managers
  • continue to work collaboratively with SA Health in the review and update of the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol
  • maintain our high level of incident response performance
  • streamline reporting to the Minister for Environment and Water.

Water quality monitoring and testing

To ensure the quality of our product, we perform extensive water quality monitoring across metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities of South Australia, from catchment to tap, including field and laboratory tests.

We monitor for health and aesthetic compliance and to optimise water quality. Samples are collected by our trained field workers to ensure they are taken correctly and field results have a high degree of integrity. Laboratory analyses are carried out by our Australian Water Quality Centre in accordance with ISO 9001 Quality Systems and the requirements of the National Association of Testing Authorities.

The following table summarises routine monitoring and testing activities in our water supply systems in 2017-18.

Number of sample taps and test analytes – metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities water supply systems, 2017-18

Drinking water systems



Remote Aboriginal Communities


Supply systems





Customer taps





Catchment to tap sample taps*




1 440

Catchment to tap routine test analytes

79 102

288 743

5 104

372 949

* Includes drinking water customer taps

Drinking water quality and performance

In 2017-18, we demonstrated robust management of water quality by consistently providing safe, clean drinking water to our customers.

The following table summarises our performance for health-related parameters of routine samples at customer taps.

State-wide, metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities drinking water supply systems health related performance, 2017-18

Health related parameters

State-wide systems (number of test analytes)

Metropolitan systems (number of test analytes)

Country systems (number of test analytes)

Remote Aboriginal Communities (number of test analytes)

Samples free from E. coli

99.97% (11 086)

99.97% (3 314)

99.99% (7 672)

99.00% (100)

Samples compliant with ADWG health parameters*#

99.85% (42 799)

Target: 99.90%

99.94% (12 558)

Target: 100%

99.84% (29 769)

Target: 99.80%

98.73% (472)

Target: 99.80%

* Percentage of routine results at customer taps within drinking water systems which comply with the ADWG health limits (including E. coli).

# Direct exceedances of the ADWG were used rather than the 95th percentiles for compliance of individual chemical parameters.

# Prior to calculating % compliance for health related chemicals individual results are rounded to the same number of significant figures as the guideline value in the ADWG (as prescribed in the ADWG and agreed with SA Health).

We analysed 42 799 routine test analytes from our drinking water supplies throughout South Australia to determine health related compliance.

  • We achieved 99.97 per cent E. coli compliance across customer taps with one exception each in metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities systems.
  • Compliance with ADWG Health related parameters across customer taps was marginally below target at 99.85 per cent.

Although we aim for 100 per cent compliance, the ADWG recognises that occasional exceedances may occur. In accordance with the guidelines and the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol, all detections were immediately communicated to SA Health, investigated by us and corrective actions implemented as agreed with SA Health.

SA Health has confirmed that drinking water provided to customers by us was safe and appropriate responses and corrective actions were implemented in all cases and these prevented any risks to public health.

The greatest challenge for metropolitan and country compliance is disinfection by-products due to a number of South Australian source waters containing large amounts of natural organic matter. We have identified these systems and are proactively implementing management strategies to address these situations.

In 2017-18 we commissioned a granular activated carbon filtration plant within the Barossa Water Treatment Plant system. We continued to actively manage chlorine residuals in our drinking water systems without compromising disinfection, and optimised treatment processes and the length of time water is in pipes or tanks before it is used.

We also finalised planning for a staged conversion of the Myponga Water Treatment Plant system from chlorine to chloramine over 24 months starting with the Myponga township in October 2018.

In 2017-18, three of the four additional

supplies we took on in remote Aboriginal communities do not currently meet all process requirements and health objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011. Having taken on the management of these supplies, and with planned investments in infrastructure upgrades during the coming three years, we are planning to improve the compliance and reliability of drinking water for the people living in these remote communities. As an interim step, in Nyapari we are now supplying cask water for drinking.

  • Major faults

  • Reported

  • Adamson Av
  • Belair
  • 12/11/2019
  • Water Mains Leak
  • Last Updated: 12/11/2019 04:07 AM - We have a report of an incident in Belair and the water supply nearby may be impacted. Traffic management may be in place. Reference Number WO: 07205029.
  • See all major faults

  • Scheduled works

  • Underway
  • Lawrence Hargrav Way
  • Parafield
  • 12/11/2019
  • Temporary Supply Interruption
  • Estimated start time and water supply off: 15/11/2019 05:30 PM
    Estimated restore time and water supply back on: 15/11/2019 08:30 PM

    We’re improving your services and undertaking maintenance work in Parafield. Sometimes our crews need to temporarily interrupt the water supply to our customers and/or manage traffic while they are working. Temporary traffic management may remain in place until reinstatement of the impacted road is complete. We always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as safely and quickly as we can.

  • See all scheduled works

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