Water security, water quality and sanitation

Water security, water quality and sanitation

Building resilience

As a step change to becoming a more resilient organisation, we merged our Emergency Management Policy and Business Continuity Policy into a single Organisational Resilience Policy. This single policy incorporates multiple areas across the business including IT continuity, physical security, risk management and cultural resilience.

The planning and consolidation of policy to develop an Organisational Resilience Policy proved beneficial and  effective during the storms of September 2016, and state-wide power outage. Through these events, we were able to continue to operate as a result of effective planning.  

As reflected in the Independent review of the extreme weather event South Australia 28 September – 5 October 2016, we were able to ensure the supply of water and sewerage services, avoiding service disruptions and any potential health risks. Impacts due to the power outage were managed. Close liaison with SA Power Networks enabled a co-ordinated approach to electricity management and restoration.

Continued collaboration between asset management and resilience teams to ensure better understanding of the Corporation’s critical functions and build-in resilience with existing and upgraded infrastructure will make resilience part of our future planning modelling.

“SA WATER’S BUSINESS CONTINUITY POLICY ARRANGEMENTS ENSURED THE SUPPLY OF WATER AND SEWER NETWORK, AVOIDING PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUES.”

INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE EXTREME WEATHER EVENT SOUTH AUSTRALIA
28 SEPTEMBER – 5 OCTOBER 2016

Meeting customer expectations

Customer expectations of our performance have shifted over the past 12 months. Our customer engagement team explored these expectations with customers in surveys and workshops and, from their feedback, we adjusted our performance targets.

Our main focus was for an improved level of service and reliability of our water services. To achieve new targets an additional $55 million was required to be invested to increase the renewal length on the pipe replacement program plus install additional shut off valves across the network.

The reviewed targets increased the delivery from 15 kilometres to 40 kilometres of water main renewal during 2016-17. The target length of water main renewal was increased by 250 per cent and time to delivery decreased by 35 per cent. The water main renewal program across all disciplines met the challenge, including planning, project management, stakeholder engagement, environmental services, engineering design, network operations, construction contractors and construction auditing.

The additional program focused on arterial road water main renewals with the aim to reduce the number of incidents with significant traffic impact. Historical poor performance was also assessed.

Decreasing rate of water main failures
Since beginning the acceleration of water main renewals in January 2017, the water network performance has significantly improved. The rate of water main breaks has steadily decreased to 18.2 failures/100 kilometres per year by June 2017, from 22.5 failures/100 kilometres per year as at late 2016. This rate is expected to continue to decrease while we deliver an accelerated program and we anticipate meeting our revised target of 16.8 failures/100
kilometres per year.

The reduction in water main breaks in 2016-17 has resulted in fewer service interruptions to our customers and subsequently improved attendance by our crews. This builds on our National Performance Report (NPR) 2015-16: urban water utilities ranking. In 2015-16 the national median for water main breaks was 21.4 per 100 kilometres of pipe. For the same period, our main break rate was 14.9 breaks per 100 kilometres of water main, ranking mid-range, including when compared with the 44 like utilities of the 86 across urban Australia.

Innovation for customer benefit
As part of our program we have trialled new methods and techniques including:

  • trenchless method of mains renewal on Grand Junction Road
    • reducing impact of construction works
  • water main lining technique for rehabilitation of water mains in Berri
    • reducing costs and impact of renewals.

Continued significant water main renewals across the state
The revised increase in the water main replacement program will continue for the next three years. In order to deliver this increased length a tailored framework model has been set up by procurement to increase efficiencies with a single contractor.

Bordertown's Poocher Swamp mysteries uncovered

A $500 000, six-year study into Poocher Swamp and the limestone aquifers it supplies has given us a unique understanding of how Bordertown’s fresh water source refills. The research was the largest study ever conducted into Poocher Swamp’s groundwater system, and confirmed the size of the aquifer and how it can provide Bordertown residents with a sustainable supply of drinking water.

The aquifer is a precious resource for Bordertown, and an inspiring feature of the natural environment. The Poocher Swamp aquifer network is an oasis of fresh groundwater surrounded by brackish water. These new findings on the aquifer’s size and the limestone cavity networks will help us operate the borefield and plan the long-term security of Bordertown’s water supply, safeguarding it for future generations to enjoy.

Bordertown relies on a groundwater supply refilled by water draining through runaway holes in Poocher Swamp and flowing through a hidden, underground network of limestone cavities leading into the aquifer.

The extensive study also assessed how the flows from Tatiara Creek into Poocher Swamp impact both the security and quality of the underground supply. Bacteria and other microbes in the raw water bond to limestone particles and are removed from the water as it flows through the porous rock, allowing the aquifers to act as a natural filter. The limestone aquifers are a highly effective natural filter and complement the treatment processes that we follow to ensure our Bordertown customers receive high-quality, clean and safe water from the area’s bores.

We worked with local landowners with assistance from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural
Resources (DEWNR) and specialist geophysical contractors to complete the research into this groundwater resource.

Researchers used the NanoTEM technique, which sends an electromagnetic pulse into the ground and records the signals that bounce back. Comparing signals from the ground with data collected on rock formations in boreholes enabled us to build up a detailed picture of the underground water system.

Greening remote school oval

Instead of using potable water for irrigation of the school grounds in Amata Aboriginal Community, we investigated available technology and feasibility of the treatment and reticulation of used water for use on the oval.

A contract to supply a wastewater treatment plant, installation and civil works was awarded at the end of 2016, with tenders for installation and civil works starting in 2017-18. The Amata used water reuse project team is working closely with Department for Education and Child Development, Defence Housing Australia, Nganampa Health, and the Amata Aboriginal community to ensure the success in having the first grassed oval in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

Supporting Leigh Creek

The management of water and used water services in Leigh Creek was transferred from Flinders Power to SA
Water for five years. This is part of the State Government’s commitment to helping secure the social and economic
future of Leigh Creek and supporting the continuation of an essential service.

From 14 December 2016, we began operating for all related pipework, storage tanks, a series of bores, a used water treatment plant and a desalination plant.  

We have taken responsibility for providing bulk water to the Lyndhurst  Progress Association and the Outback Communities Authority for their separate provision of water to respective customers in Lyndhurst and Copley in the Leigh Creek region.  

We have an existing presence in the region, and have employed three new staff in the township to support operations at Quorn, Crystal Brook and Port Augusta.

Working together with communities

We engage with customers, communities and stakeholders in the planning and delivery of capital and business development projects. Some of the key engagements undertaken  during 2016-17 follow.

The Tod River dam safety upgrade included working with local government, property owners and other community
members on the Eyre Peninsula to identify and address potential issues in the lead up to and during construction of the safety upgrade. A number of community information sessions were held and a community reference group was established to exchange information, discuss issues of importance and to enable the community to have input to project outcomes.

With additional investment and an expanded schedule, the key focus for the delivery of the water main renewal program in the metropolitan area was early, ongoing and consistent engagement. Impacted customers were provided with timely information about upcoming works. Businesses were contacted to determine their water requirements and inform the scheduling of interruptions to minimise impacts. We worked closely with our alliance partner, Allwater, and contractors to provide construction updates in a timely manner and ensure stakeholder requirements were understood.

Engagement for the proposed Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme involved briefings with industry groups, government agencies and the Northern Adelaide Plains community. A key issue for community is the storage of recycled water to support the scheme. To address this, we established a community committee that had input to storage options and developed guidelines. These represent criteria that the community have requested be addressed for the establishment of recycled water storage in the Northern Adelaide Plains.

Planning for the Hope Valley tank upgrade saw a number of community information sessions held to inform residents of the upcoming works  including vegetation and construction impacts to nearby properties.Engagement gained support for the project and secured input into landscaping plans.

Engagement with the Sandy Creek community supported the construction of a new wastewater pump station that met acceptable noise levels. The community had influence on the building amenity, including noise mitigation, design and landscaping.

Improving our assets

We manage a range of large projects across South Australia. Projects are initiated for a range of reasons
including:

  • making sure our networks can support population growth and increased demand proactively 
  • maintaining and fixing our networks
  • improving the quality of the services we provide
  • reducing risks around flooding, safety or environmental impacts
  • reducing our impact on the environment through recycling and reuse.

The following projects are key projects from 2016-17

Western Adelaide Wastewater Network Upgrade Project
The Western Adelaide Wastewater Network upgrade during 2016-17 involved the installation of a new trunk
main to increase the capacity for Adelaide’s CBD and inner southern and eastern suburbs.

There were challenges delivering this project relating to stakeholder impact, safety and continuity of services. Stakeholder impact was managed through our stakeholder engagement group, particularly in the forward planning stages of the work. The safety and technical issues were addressed through the selection of an experienced contractor who was part of our panel of Tier 1 contractors. We also engaged an experienced construction manager to work closely with the contractor and monitor safety, quality, environmental and stakeholder issues on a daily basis.

The work to install the new pipeline was completed on schedule and with no significant safety, quality, environmental or stakeholder issues. The long term benefits include extending the service life of the used water systems for the CBD and southeastern suburbs by up to 30 years.

Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plan Inlet Works Upgrade
The construction and commissioning of the Glenelg WWTP inlet works, Anderson Avenue Pumping Station Refurbishment, and the Odour control plant was a significant project for 2016-17.

The completion of these works benefit our customers by:

  • reducing odour levels being emitted from the treatment plant
  • extending asset life
  • increasing reliability of the plant inlet works and pump station
  • reducing the risk of environmental overflow incidents due to improved operating conditions
  • reducing energy use and minimising greenhouse gas emissions at new inlet.

Continual performance monitoring of the completed works will occur to measure effectiveness.

Victor Harbor Wastewater Capacity Upgrade
The construction of the pipeline was critical to ensure the Fleurieu Recreational Aquatic Complex was able to open on time in March 2017 to meet community expectations.

The delivery schedule was tight with deep trench construction required in a number of places coupled with higher than average rainfall while works were undertaken which raised the water table and provided a difficult construction environment.

The Fleurieu Recreational Aquatic Complex is a valuable addition to the people of Victor Harbor. We have provided a reliable used water connection that is able to eliminate the likelihood of overflows and odour along the old coastal main. It has provided a long term solution to provide capacity to support residential and commercial growth.

Kangaroo Creek Project
The upgrade of the Kangaroo Creek dam will ensure the dam meets the current Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) safety guidelines, the security of water supply, and the long-term safety of the downstream community. The dam is being upgraded to withstand floods as well as earthquakes.

We worked closely with designers, reviewers and contractors to re-scope the project. Measures were taken to limit the impact of the floods and works continued on spillway excavation during this time to ensure that works were able to continue.

Our priorities for the Kangaroo Creek dam upgrade in 2017-18 are:

  • complete the rock excavation of the spillway
  • widen and improve the downstream spillway embankment
  • complete the outlet extension works
  • start concrete works in the spillway
  • install cofferdams to ensure the ongoing safety of the downstream public during construction

SA Health statement

In 2016-17 SA Water complied with all requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 (SDW Act) and maintained supply of safe drinking water to South Australia.

SA Water operated drinking water supplies were extensively tested for health related parameters to produce a total of 40 942 analytical results. Compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG 2011) for E. coli was  achieved in 99.91 per cent of metropolitan Adelaide samples and 99.95 per cent of country samples. Overall compliance with the ADWG for health-related parameters was 99.84 per cent for metropolitan systems and 99.66 per cent for country areas.  

Operation of the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol was maintained successfully throughout the period. The total number of incidents reported by SA Water in 2016-17 was higher than previous years.

Above average rainfall, warmer than average temperatures and poor water quality in the River Murray resulted in increased numbers of incidents due to detection of enteric protozoa, cyanobacteria, elevated concentrations of disinfection by-products and elevated filtered water turbidity compared to 2015-16.  

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

South Australia’s SDW Act took effect from 1 March 2013. The audit and inspection schedule started from 1 July 2014. We successfully completed the third yearly audit and met all legislative requirements.

The SDW 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 SDW Act are underpinned by the ADWG (2011) 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 SDW Act
  • use of National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA) 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. We provide water quality testing reports for metropolitan and country water supplies on a monthly basis with results showing a high level of compliance. In April 2017, we successfully completed the third yearly audit. A number of representatives of our drinking water supplies were audited to satisfy the requirement of the SDW Act. We met the legislative requirement for all metropolitan, country and remote community supplies.  

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

We also provide additional information regarding water quality which can be found on our website.

Delivering safe, clean water

We demonstrated robust management of water quality by consistently providing safe, clean drinking water to our customers despite the challenges posed during 2016-17, by the water quality in the River Murray as a result of flooding and the blackwater event.

The following table provides a summary of our performance for health-related parameters of routine samples at customer taps during 2016-17.

State-wide, metropolitan and country drinking water supply systems health related performance (2016-17) 

Health related ParametersState-wide systems (number of test analytes)Metropolitan systems (number of test analytes)Country systems (number of test analytes)
Samples free from E.Coli99.94% (11 211)99.91% (3 340)99.95% (7 871)
Samples compliant with ADWG health parameters *99.97% (40 942)99.84% (12 204)99.66% (28 738)
2016-17 target: 99.8%100%99.80%

* includes performance against E. coli

Note that direct exceedances of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines were used rather than the 95th percentile for compliance of individual chemical parameters. 

Our water quality performance against the ADWG health parameters was marginally below target for the state-wide, metropolitan and country measures. This result can be largely attributed to disinfection by-product (DBP) exceedances. In systems fed from the River Murray a short term increase in DBP exceedances were seen as a result of the blackwater event. DBP’s also exceeded across a number of other metropolitan and country systems as a result of challenging source water conditions.

The ADWG recognise that occasional detections 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 SA Water and corrective actions implemented as agreed, including providing information to our customers as appropriate.  

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

During the year, we identified systems where we were below target and proactively implemented management strategies to address these situations. Such measures included flushing of systems, additional disinfection, immediate follow-up sampling and close communication with SA Health.

Catchment to tap

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

This management system is based on the Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality outlined in the ADWG that is endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). 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.

Achievements in 2016-17:

  • successful outcome of SA Health’s annual SDW Act audit
  • overall finding indicated that SA Water and its contract partners consistently meet the requirements of the SDW Act, Regulations, SA Health audit report and ADWG
  • we demonstrated extensive and comprehensive water quality management planning. The standard of supporting systems was high, and all twelve elements of the ADWG Framework were fully implemented

Key highlights of the SDW Act audit include:

  • our detailed Risk Management Plans for all water supply systems, supported by monitoring program inclusive of all relevant microbial, physical, chemical and radiological parameters
  • national best practice for water quality verification monitoring and reporting
  • continuous on line monitoring for water filtration, sedimentation and disinfection with additional treatment such as augmented coagulation, powdered activated carbon, MIEX, and aeration, at some locations to remove organic matter
  • robust operational checks at critical control points, e.g. continuous on line monitoring at primary chlorination and ultra-violet disinfection systems.

We achieved our performance measure targets against the 12 elements of the ADWG Framework for the  management of drinking water quality. We improved our ADWG water quality management framework implementation percentage from 94.3 per cent (2015-16) to 95.1 per cent during 2016-17, exceeding the
2016-17 target of 95.0 per cent.  

The performance was measured through AQUALITY, the ADWG performance evaluation tool developed by the Water Services Association of Australia.

The SDW Act auditor commented that a management score of 95 per cent indicates a mature DWQMS for a water utility.

We have worked toward improving and developing new documentation to manage water quality hazards and risks; ensure customer feedback is responded to in a consistent and equitable manner; provide direction to operators in relation to customers who are dialysis users; and to achieve water quality target objectives.

A tool that will help record and manage actions relating to quality hazards, incidents and operational improvements  has been implemented. The tool strengthens our risk based water quality management in line with the SDW Act.

The above achievements were met in collaboration with business services, asset, operations and delivery,
communications and engagement, people and safety, our contract partners (Allwater, TRILITY) and Department for Health and Ageing.

Future improvements proposed for 2017-18 include:

  • developing enhanced strategies and initiatives, in line with the SDW Act, to meet regulatory requirements including operational procedures, validation and revalidation of control processes, training and reporting.
  • continuing use of the AQUALITY tool to determine strategies that will help us to continue to meet our customers’ expectations.

Battling blackwater

Blackwater is a natural phenomenon that can occur after heavy rainfall when organic material such as leaves and
wood from floodplains is washed into waterways, like the River Murray. As the organic matter starts to decompose,
the water becomes dark in appearance and has a strong unpleasant smell.

Throughout November 2016 to January 2017, South Australia experienced a blackwater event. There have been
three blackwater events in the past six years, with the most recent event being most severe.

The blackwater event of 2016-17 presented significant challenges to water treatment and maintaining the integrity of drinking water quality. To minimise the impacts to our drinking water customers, we undertook a number of proactive measures both prior to, and during the event.  

Initially, we closely monitored the development of the blackwater event in New South Wales and Victoria. We maintained contact with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), who together with Water NSW provided us with updates on the River Murray water quality, specifically dissolved oxygen, within the eastern states and associated tributaries.

Once it was determined the blackwater would reach South Australia, proactive management strategies were
enacted. An action plan was formed and communication with relevant stakeholders who were critical in managing the impending event were involved

Key actions taken to manage the event were:

  • water treatment process changes to reduce risks of nitrification and disinfection by-product formation. Process changes were also made to improve the aesthetic quality of treated water (taste and appearance)
  • network modifications such as temporary dosing facilities and reducing water age to improve disinfection and minimise potential health risks to customers
  • communication channels were established between interstate agencies, including upstream Victorian WTPs, the Production and Treatment team and South Australian WTPs, to rapidly share operational water quality information
  • intensified monitoring at WTPs and strategic locations upstream to enable rapid process changes at treatment plants.

Our implementation of these strategies meant that despite this blackwater event being the most severe in the past
decade, nitrification was minimised to isolated pockets which recovered rapidly; barriers to microbiological contamination were maintained (no major incidents reported); and disinfection by-product formation was minimised.

This is a significant achievement given the source water challenges presented, and ensured health risks to customers
were minimised throughout the event.

Managing water quality

We are committed to work within the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG 2011) Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality. The framework includes two components for the management of incidents and emergencies; communication and incident, and emergency response protocols.

We have a Water Quality Incident and Emergency Management Protocol. This is in line with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol that is maintained by SA Health to adopt the principles of ADWG 2011 and satisfy requirements of the SDW Act and Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2012.

SA Health defines three types of health related incident classifications based upon a precautionary approach as
outlined below.

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.

Type 1 incident notification
An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, could cause serious risk to human health.

Type 2 incident notifications
An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, represents a low risk to human health.

Below 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.

Reporting periodPriority Type 1Type 1Type 2
2016-17*248159
2015-1643274
2014-1514384
2013-1433487
2012-1346789
2011-12288121
2010-11*5111172
2009-10988135

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

* Impacted by River Murray blackwater event

All Priority Type 1 and Type 1 notifications were immediately reported to SA Health, while all Type 2 notifications were reportable within 24 hours, in line with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol.

In 2016-17 the numbers of incident notifications increased overall when compared with 2015-16, primarily as a result of the challenges associated with the blackwater event within the River Murray. However, incident numbers remained lower than 2010-11 when a blackwater event of similar magnitude occurred. This was due to the implementation of more proactive water quality management strategies and knowledge gained from previous events.

During 2016-17, we continued our focus on early detection and reporting to external agencies, briefing the Minister for Water and the River Murray, ensuring prompt corrective action and addressing the causes of preventable Type 1 notifications, such as disinfection failures, turbidity failures and disinfection by-products. Strategies employed to achieve this include optimisation of our drinking water quality monitoring program, and capital improvements such as upgrades to filters and filter control systems.

The proactive water quality management of targeted individual water supply systems and detection and management of risks continued during 2016-17. 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.

Incident Response Index (IRI)
The purpose of the IRI is to drive and guide 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 with the management of water quality incidents, including reporting, initial response and longer term preventive
measures. The overall 2016-17 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
2016-17 target: 85%
Incident entered into the incident management system (IMS)
in less than two hours
 
Initial effective response taken within three hours 
Written report to Minister for Water and the River Murray
by 3 pm 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 on our water quality incident response and overall performance, maintaining a score well above our target.

THE INCIDENT RESPONSE INDEX ACHIEVED IN COUNTRY AND METROPOLITAN AREAS AND OVERALL
FOR 2016-17 COMPARED TO 2015-16.

SystemIRI 2016-17IRI 2015-16
Country92%92%
Metropolitan99%97%
Overall (weighted combined country and metropolitan)94%93%

During 2017-18, we will:

  • continue to improve our new 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 and metropolitan 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.

Monitoring and testing Water Quality

To ensure the quality of the water we provide to our customers, we perform extensive quality monitoring across South Australia, from catchment to tap, including field and laboratory tests. 

The purpose of this monitoring is for health and aesthetic compliance as well as operational monitoring to optimise water quality.

Samples are collected by trained field staff to ensure they are taken correctly and field results have a high degree of integrity. Laboratory analyses are carried out by AWQC in accordance with ISO 9001 Quality Systems and the requirements of NATA.

The following table summarises routine monitoring and testing activities in our water supply systems during 2016-17.

Number of sample taps and test analytes – metropolitan and country water supply systems (2016-17)

Drinking water systemsMetropolitanCountryTotal
Supply systems86068
Customer taps195295490
Catchment to tap sample taps *3809281 308
Catchment to tap routine test analytes80 530292 534373 064

*Includes drinking water customer taps

Growth for Australian Water Quality Centres (AWQC) Laboratories

The AWQC Melbourne laboratory celebrated its first full year of operation, having opened for business in February 2016.

During the first year of operation, focus has been on growing the testing capabilities of the Melbourne laboratory to better serve AWQC’s eastern states customers and building relationships with the Victorian water industry. During the year AWQC further expanded both the microbiological and chemical testing services provided through its Melbourne laboratory.  

Two contracts with major interstate water utilities were secured via competitive tendering process, helping
create new jobs and further showcase AWQC’s expertise. Through the signing of contracts with TasWater and southwestern Victorian utility Wannon Water, AWQC is supporting the continued supply of safe clean water to
240 000 plus customers. 

A four year contract with TasWater began in November for the provision of laboratory testing services covering Tasmania’s water and sewerage systems. Analysis of water, recycled water and trade waste
samples for Wannon Water began in March and will continue for the next nine years. These contracts have enabled us to expand our Melbourne and Adelaide laboratory operations.

The new business contracted as a result of opening our Melbourne laboratory has generated a total of seven new jobs across AWQC’s Adelaide and Melbourne operations, helping to support state economic development and jobs growth for scientific staff in Victoria and South Australia. The opportunity to work closely with two major interstate water utilities to deliver valued services, and to share and build our collective knowledge and skills ultimately supports positive outcomes for our customers.

Our focus is very much about working together in partnership with the water industry to support the delivery of safe drinking water and management of used water systems for community benefit across Australia. We aim to deliver further value to the industry through the expansion of our Melbourne laboratory operations and testing capabilities and capacity.

Intelligent water testing

The AWQC Adelaide laboratory investigated the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and placed into service two world class pieces of robotic laboratory equipment – the Ion Chef™and Ion S5™. The technology works by placing the entire DNA from a water sample on a single chip in the Ion Chef™ where each organism’s DNA is given a barcode. The Ion S5™ then reads all the barcoded DNA to tell us all organisms that have been or are in the water, from bacteria to vertebrates.

Transitioning and adapting technology, which has previously been used in cancer genetics, now provide results in a way that can be applied in the water industry and used effectively for making water quality management decisions. This challenge was overcome by AWQC Molecular Scientists developing special DNA fragments called ‘amplicons’. A comprehensive DNA database containing all Australian animals was curated, and also included all animals that are of
interest from a water quality management perspective. This allows us to track them if required.

With this cutting edge analytical technology the AWQC Adelaide laboratory has developed DNA testing that is a first in the Australian water industry, being able to read the DNA of all bacteria and animals that have been in contact with water. It is faster, cheaper and delivers more information to customers than conventional methods.

Knowing more about what is in  source waters enables us to make more informed decisions on how to treat the water before it is supplied to our customers. With this information we can better tailor treatment processes and initiatives such as catchment management, ensuring we provide highest quality drinking water to South Australians.

Key highlight:
In 2016-17 we processed several hundred samples for NGS diversity profiling, including samples to assist with the
search for endangered Platypus in the Adelaide Hills, and recent interest in investigations on the status of the
Thylacine.

Leading the way with research

We undertake research to generate and implement new technology to drive efficiency, performance improvement and innovation for the benefit of our business and ultimately our customers. 

This supports infrastructure and capital investment decisions; developing new ways to deal with water quality issues, environmental and public health risks; and evaluation, development and transfer of new technologies intooperational outcomes.

Below are some key research projects from 2016-17.

Modelling of coastal discharge impacts
This modelling supported our environmental improvement program (EIP) negotiations with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the Glenelg and Bolivar WWTPs. EIP negotiations required clear communications with
service providers and stakeholders (EPA and DEWNR) to prioritise activities and to meet deadlines.

Final delivery of the calibrated and validated Adelaide Receiving Environment Model provides a world-class modelling tool that will allow us to make the best investment decisions to support better environmental outcomes for Adelaide’s
coastal waters. The reduction of nitrogen inputs to the Adelaide coast in the order of 1 200 tonnes since 2011 (half from Penrice, half from our wastewater treatment plants) is expected to result in water quality suitable for seagrasses over approximately 75 per cent of the area from which seagrasses were originally lost.

Sodium percarbonate (stabilised hydrogen peroxide) as an alternative algaecide
We developed the use of sodium percarbonate (stabilised hydrogen peroxide) as an alternative algaecide to copper sulphate, which is currently used in Happy Valley Reservoir, and as a potential cyanobacterial control option in the Torrens River.

The evaluation of sodium percarbonate as a new algaecide was tested successfully through field trials in Happy Valley Reservoir and Torrens River. Both trials required organisation and installation of large pieces of equipment in the reservoir and timing this with reservoir algal blooms.

Several in-situ trails of sodium percarbonate were successfully completed providing important information which will be used to develop its use as an algaecide. This knowledge will be used in further trials planned for this financial
year at both locations.

Sodium percarbonate as an algaecide will:

  • reduce the high disposal costs associated with copper contamination of treatment plant sludge
  • potentially oxidise dissolved organics, such as compounds that impair the taste and odour of water and would reduce treatment costs
  • in the River Torrens it could potentially reduce the need for environmental flows from Kangaroo Creek, which are currently used to flush cyanobacterial blooms from the city area of the river.

Conducting desktop reviews
As part of our energy strategy, we conducted a desktop review on energy storage to identify technologies that
may form part of an appropriate energy storage solution for use with our assets.

A review was also conducted on the management of fats, oils and grease in sewer networks.

This review will be used to set new targets for trade waste customers and has identified an opportunity for using
public education to reduce the amounts of fats, oils and grease being added to the sewer network. This will reduce
sewer network blockages and benefit customers through improved services