Getting the basics right every time

Getting the basics right every time

Customers expect us to get the basics right so they can rely on the quality of our water (safety and aesthetics), and the availability of our water supply and dependability of sewerage services.  It is also about being responsive to incidents, fixing faults quickly and simply to minimise interruptions to service. By delivering this we meet our compliance responsibilities.

Lower prices for customers

Customers across South Australia will receive a total annual reduction in bills of  approximately $186 million in 2020-21.

The average residential customer in metropolitan Adelaide will benefit from an estimated annual saving of $200 or 15.9 per cent on their combined water and sewerage bills*, with average residential customers in regional areas estimated to save around $185**.

The water savings estimator was made available at sawater.com.au on 11 June 2020 and in the 20 days through to 30 June 2020, 36,145 residential customers used it to estimate how much they may save on their future water costs each year.

Business customers in the metropolitan area are also in line for significantly lower water and sewerage prices, with an estimated average annual combined  water and sewerage bill reduction of $1,350#, with savings for the average business in regional areas of $1,280##.

In the pricing announcement, made in June 2020, price movements will be limited to changes in the Consumer Price Index for the remaining three years of the regulatory period from 1 July 2021 through to 30 June 2024.

Statewide pricing means the majority of our customers pay the same price per kilolitre of water, no matter where they live or the actual cost of supplying that location. Sewerage prices, based on the capital value of a customer’s property as set by the Valuer-General, are also designed so that costs are as consistent as possible across the state.

Our pricing continues to compare favourably to our national peers, as measured in the Bureau of Meteorology’s National performance report 2018-19: urban water utilities, which was released in February 2020. Based on 200 kilolitres, our annual residential water and sewerage bill is mid-range among 15 similar-sized utilities around the country.

* Estimated saving based on 180kL of water use and a 2019-20 property value of $483,000 with water used evenly across the year.

** Estimated saving based on 180kL of water use and a 2019-20 property value of $256,000 with water used evenly across the year.

# Estimated saving based on 1,680kL of water use and a 2019-20 property value of $2,081,000 with water used evenly across the year.

## Estimated saving based on 1,680kL of water use and a 2019-20 property value of $993,000 with water used evenly across the year.

Providing safe, clean drinking water

Our drinking water supplies are registered with SA Health and we maintain risk management plans for all our supplies.

Both our drinking water supplies and Drinking Water Quality Management System have, in 2019-20, been audited and inspected through internal and external audit processes.

The Drinking Water Quality Act 2011 audit, conducted in November 2019, covered our Drinking Water Quality Management System (DWQMS) assets involved in delivering drinking water, as well as associated operational and maintenance processes and practices.

The audit found our DWQMS is complete, working, actively managed and current, with no urgent observations or significant non-compliances with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Water quality reports are provided to SA Health and are available publicly at data.sa.gov.au.

The Australian Water Quality Centre, accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities, provides our laboratory services.

Throughout 2019-20, SA Health provided confirmation quarterly that we were meeting the requirements for the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011.

Sustaining our networks

An independent review, commissioned by our Board, assessed our water mains management practices and capabilities against international leading-practice in 24 areas, determining that seven are leading international practice, 15 are in step with industry practice and two can be improved.

The review confirmed our water network performance compares favourably on both the rate of water main breaks and the amount of leakage against Australian and international peers, being in the best performing quartile for both measures.

In addition to our ongoing water main replacement program, and as recommended by  the independent review, we actioned several initiatives to improve our approach to water main management including installing smart sensor technology along mains under arterial roads.

Changes were made to how we capture information about temporary water supply interruptions. Using our Work Order App, field crews now capture the start of a temporary water supply interruption and when supply restoration has started. This enables quicker customer notifications when restoration of their supply has begun.

A new Asset Management Planning Assurance Framework was developed and implemented. It covers four lines of defence – management controls, management reviews, and internal and external audits – across all our asset management activities.

Our focus continued on finding ways to reduce the average length of temporary supply interruptions as well as community impacts such as traffic management.

Through our ongoing water main replacement and improvement program, we invested $362.5 million in the water network and infrastructure and $157.3 million in the wastewater network and infrastructure. Planning also continued for the expansion of our smart water network.

To further improve reliable water services for customers, we installed 37.1 kilometres of new water mains comprising 11.8 kilometres in metropolitan Adelaide and 25.3 kilometres in country areas across the state.

Although South Australia experienced its driest year on record in 2019, the number of water main incidents last year remained steady, with month to month patterns following a similar seasonal cycle since records began in 1992.

Across our 27,000 kilometre water network, 3,721 water main leaks and breaks were reported in 2019-20.

In the Bureau of Meteorology’s National performance report 2018-19: urban water utilities, released in February 2020, our rate of breaks per 100 kilometres of water main was 15, which is below the national average of 19.9. This is a key measure to assess and compare the performance of water distribution networks and the Bureau analyses the performance of 85 water utilities across Australia. Among our peer utilities, more than half recorded an increase in the number of water and sewer main breaks in 2018-19, compared to the previous year.

Our valve installation and water main renewal programs, together with favourable seasonal conditions delivered a reduction in the number of properties experiencing three or more interruptions during a 12-month period. In 2019-20, 2,432 properties across the state experienced reoccurring temporary service interruptions, which was slightly above target and equates to approximately 0.31 per cent of connected water supplies.

Internal sewer overflow figures trended steadily downward with 161, the lowest achieved in the past six years.

Implementation of our smart sewer network sensors continue to help detect blockages before they cause an overflow. Targeted sewer cleaning is also part of our proactive approach.

To provide a better solution for customers who experience repeat issues with sewer blockages, we worked with 10 customers across a range of suburbs to use a tree root foaming treatment.

The treatment uses a herbicide that is pumped into the sewer to prevent the growth of  tree roots in the pipes. The foam has a root growth inhibitor that attaches to organic materials and sterilises the soil where the roots enter the pipes. This non-systemic herbicide does not harm plants or trees near the pipes. The foam only affects the root material it comes into contact with and travels just a short distance up the root.

This treatment slows intrusion of tree roots into our sewer pipes and the trial has helped determine that it can take up to two years for the roots to return. Maintenance can now be scheduled proactively to improve the dependability of the sewerage services we provide in these areas.

The customers welcomed the opportunity to be part of this initiative which supports our healthy sewers approach by encouraging customers to flush only the three Ps: pee, poo and (toilet) paper. Problems caused by tree roots can be compounded when the wrong things are flushed down the toilet or sink.

Port Lincoln digester delivers

The $18 million upgrade of the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant at Billy Lights Point reached a major milestone in February 2020, with the 20 tonne steel cover for the new anaerobic digester craned into place.

The digester’s construction included the structure’s round concrete walls and installation of internal stainless steel pipework.

The floating cover sits comfortably in a concrete channel, controlled by guide rails and rollers. It moves up and down depending on capacity within the digester, which is also sealed by water to prevent the escape of biogas generated during the digestion process.

Biogas is extracted and burnt to provide a source of heat for the digester, helping to hold waste at a constant 38 degrees Celsius to create an optimal environment for the bacteria inside.

When complete, the new infrastructure will reduce methane emissions, and improve odour management and the long-term operability of the treatment plant.

Throughout, our lead contractor worked alongside 25 Port Lincoln businesses including 13 local contractors and 12 local material suppliers.

The construction of the new digester is part of a broader upgrade of the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant and network which is expected to be complete before the end of 2020.

Kanpi connects to remote desalination plant

In 2019-20, Murputja, Kanpi, Nyapari, in the state’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, began to receive safe, clean drinking water treated through the Murputja Desalination Plant.

The solar and battery powered 60 kilolitre capacity plant, commissioned in July 2019, treats water sourced from local bores, before it is piped through about 12 kilometres of pipeline into homes and businesses across Kanpi, Nyapari and Murputja.

The construction of additional pipework to bring the water to Kanpi was completed in June 2020. To achieve this crews had to work a little differently due to various restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in South Australia’s remote areas. As an essential service, our work continued and on the ground we maintained strict hygiene and physical distancing measures where possible.

Yankalilla wastewater and Wirrina water networks transferred

On 1 July 2019, more than 2,000 property owners within the District Council of Yankalilla became SA Water customers when we took on responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the region’s wastewater network, plus the drinking water supply network servicing the town of Wirrina.

The transition to our management delivered reduced sewerage service rates for most residential wastewater customers in the broader council area and lower ongoing water charges for people in Wirrina through our statewide pricing structure.

Working closely with the District Council of Yankalilla and residents in the leadup to the management change-over ensured a smooth transfer.

Upgrades at the Wirrina Cove reservoir and treatment plant were undertaken during 2019- 20 as part of continued improvements to the Wirrina Cove drinking water network and the quality of water supplied to local customers.

The water supplied to Wirrina Cove customers remains safe to drink, and we are committed to improving supply in a timely and cost-efficient way.

Community updates continue as further investigations and improvement work progresses.

Improving water quality aesthetics

Customers’ overall satisfaction with water quality increased steadily this year and our technical improvements for aesthetic drinking water quality included:

  • optimising powdered activated carbon dosing to better manage taste and odour compounds caused by algae
  • improved management of chlorine residuals across metropolitan Adelaide, in particular those areas supplied by the Adelaide Desalination Plant
  • ongoing chloramination of the supply to Myponga
  • targeted mains flushing in metropolitan Adelaide to remove pipeline sediment.

To engage and educate our customers we:

  • provided the community with opportunities to readily access tap water at major events as well as taste a variety of tap waters from across the state
  • developed and delivered school programs and teacher test kits
  • installed 18 drinking water fountains in support of our Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) initiative
  • continued proactive media to provide messages and engagement opportunities for customers about drinking water quality and the benefits of drinking tap water.

New look bill brings simplicity

In March 2020, our new look bill replaced all existing residential and non-residential bills, including eBills, bringing consistency across our entire customer base.

The new design was developed through a series of face to face customer workshops and extensive online testing across all our customer groups. With a simple layout, it is now easier for customers to find the information they need. This initiative also reduced printed residential bills from four A4 pages to just two.

Protecting the environment

In 2019-20, we achieved 98.1 per cent compliance with our legislated environmental responsibilities.

This measure tracks formal notifications from regulators of breaches under nine

pieces of legislation:

  1. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  2. Water Act 2007
  3. Natural Resources Management Act 2004
  4. Environment Protection Act 1993
  5. Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988
  6. Heritage Places Act 1993
  7. Native Vegetation Act 1991
  8. Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007
  9. Development Act 1993.

A faulty water meter at Beachport Bore 4 in October 2019 led the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) to issue a Direction Notice to repair/replace the meter as a condition of our licence to take water through a meter. The meter was replaced and is operational with no further action taken by the department.

In June 2020, DEW issued a formal warning for failing to submit a meter reading within the timeframe specified in the conditions of the water licence. No penalty was incurred.

Regulatory performance standards achieved for 2018-19

In March 2020, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) reported on outcomes against our performance standards for 2018-19, with all 18 service standards achieved, improving on the previous year’s results.

As shown in ESCOSA’s review of our performance, 17 of the 18 service standards were met or exceeded outright. The remaining service standard was within one per cent of the target and considered to be in the expected performance range. Mitigating circumstances for several events that missed the target timeframe were considered under a best endeavours review.

ESCOSA’s annual Regulatory Performance Report details our performance against regulatory requirements relating to customer service, financial assistance provided to customers, and the reliability of drinking water and sewerage services.

The targets are based on average historical performance, and while attainable, are set high to match our customers’ expectations.

In 2018-19, we exceeded targets for phone and complaint responsiveness, and the number of complaints decreased for a second year in a row, from 1,763 in 2017-18 to 1,568 in 2018-19.

A key area of improvement identified in both ESCOSA’s report and the Bureau of Meteorology’s National performance report 2018-19: urban water utilities (released in February 2020) is the frequency and duration of unplanned water interruptions, with around 2,700 reported last year in metropolitan Adelaide at an average duration of 243 minutes.

In response we have trained more field crew members to operate shut-off valves as part of water main repairs, investigated innovative ways to isolate, repair and restore the water network, and optimised resources for repairs in regional areas. This is supported by our smart water network technology which helps us detect water main leaks and breaks to enable proactive repair before they impact customers and commuters.

For a full copy of the 2018-19 SA Water Regulatory Performance Report, visit escosa.sa.gov.au.

Cyber security

The risk of a cyber security incident is a real threat to our ability to supply water services for our customers. In 2019-20 we strengthened our data protection and recovery capabilities by:

  • upgrading and extending data network security, including in our regional centres
  • improving our detection and desktop monitoring capability with a new event detection and response tool, adding another line of defence to our virus and malware protection
  • ensuring up to date software and operating systems are in place with a complete upgrade to Windows 10.

In addition, we benchmark ourselves against our peer Australian water utilities and other critical infrastructure providers such as the electricity industry. Our performance fares well in the global independent ratings.

Ongoing and extensive collaboration continues with the Office of Cyber Security within Department of the Premier and Cabinet and the Australian Cyber Security Centre to prepare and respond to the ever changing cyber threat landscape.

Kangaroo Creek Dam upgrade reaches finish line

After nearly four years of construction, the $94 million safety upgrade of the Kangaroo Creek Dam in the Adelaide Hills was completed in November 2019.

Work began in January 2016 and focused on significantly widening and strengthening the dam’s concrete spillway. The spillway, which carries water safely to the River Torrens if the water level exceeds the dam’s full supply, was widened by about 45 metres. The project also increased the height of the rock-fill embankment and reused rock material from the blasting activities to raise the dam wall by five metres.

These works have strengthened the dam structure against earthquakes and improved its flood protection capacity, aligning it with updated safety guidelines set by the Australian National Committee on Large Dams.

The Kangaroo Creek upgrade was one of our largest projects in recent decades having required:

  • about 34,000 cubic metres of concrete
  • more than 500,000 construction hours worked
  • more than 1,250 people to work on the project
  • the removal of 330,000 cubic metres of rock
  • 35 pieces of heavy machinery
  • the removal of 11 tonnes of carp.

Hydroseeding of the construction site compound and access road shoulders was completed in May 2020 closing out work for this project.

Mount Bold Reservoir emptied ahead of safety upgrade

In May 2020, the state’s largest reservoir was gradually emptied ahead of a major dam safety upgrade at the Mount Bold site, south of Adelaide. Water from Mount Bold Reservoir supplies Happy Valley Reservoir via the Onkaparinga River and to minimise waste, water continued to be diverted in this way as Mount Bold was emptied.

Works undertaken in 2019-20 included replacing some of the equipment used to isolate the dam’s valves and pipework, and a detailed condition assessment of parts of the structure that would usually be underwater. This condition assessment complements other project planning and investigations.

The water level at Mount Bold was last lowered to near zero per cent of capacity in 1994, making this only the second time in the reservoir’s history that it has been emptied.

The forthcoming upgrade will keep it in line with updated safety guidelines set by the Australian National Committee on Large Dams.

The bulk of the upgrade works are expected to start in 2022-23.

Northern Adelaide irrigation begins to flow

Construction of the first six gigalitres of capacity, including treatment, underground and above ground storage, and distribution, has been delivered for the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme.

The scheme, which provides treated wastewater to horticulture and other businesses operating on the Northern Adelaide Plains, is funded by the federal government through the National Water Infrastructure Development fund, as well as contributions from wastewater and recycled water customers.

The federal Department for Health and Wellbeing gave approval in April 2020 to use the water for producing commercial food crops.

Contracts to access water through the scheme are in place with 23 customers, who typically grow tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers and other vegetables.

When complete, the scheme will deliver 12 gigalitres of treated wastewater to growers every year.

Supporting national drought relief

An agreement reached between the state and federal governments resulted in additional production of drinking water from the Adelaide Desalination Plant, freeing up the equivalent release from the River Murray to help drought-affected farmers.

In 2019-20, the Adelaide Desalination Plant produced 40 gigalitres of drinking water for the Water for Fodder program.

The Adelaide Desalination Plant operates in a mode known as hot standby, where it is brought online intermittently at high production levels to make sure the vital asset is able to produce the required volumes of drinking water when needed. This innovative approach meant we were able to increase production within days of the Water for Fodder program being announced. The plant met the progress milestones set by the federal government while maintaining a seamless supply experience to our metropolitan customers.

The state and federal government agreement ensured no adverse impact on flows to South Australia, water prices or Adelaide’s water security.