Leading the way

Leading the way

With a proud history of pioneering and innovative thinking, we continue to adopt inventive approaches to achieve better outcomes for our customers and the communities we work in.

This includes our contribution to the South Australian economy and jobs, and being a South Australian community partner. We build confidence with customers as a leader in innovation and technology, including contributing to building cities of the future.

A new Reconciliation Action Plan

Engaging with Aboriginal communities from across the state along with our people, we have this year developed our next Reconciliation Action Plan 2020-23 (RAP). To capture thoughts and ideas we held conversations, workshops and surveys with our people, remote communities, the broader South Australian community, our residential and business Customer Advisory Groups, and our RAP Steering Committee. The process was guided by Aboriginal leaders from across South Australia. In our new RAP we will continue to build and maintain:

  • economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and people
  • stronger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with improved liveability, and sustainability through water and wastewater services
  • a culturally respectful workplace and South Australian community.

The plan was endorsed by our Board and Reconciliation Australia in May 2020.

In 2019-20, key achievements include:

  • our highest Aboriginal employment rate of 2.76 per cent in April 2020, with an overall rate of 2.6 per cent for the year
  • a spend of more than $3.2 million with Aboriginal businesses, comprising a direct spend in excess of $500,000 and indirect spend of more than $2.7 million.

Sharing water wisdom

Our Water Wisdom video series continued this year with stories shared by the Adnyamathanha and Ngarrindjeri people.

This series aims to build understanding and appreciation of the significant innovations and technologies related to water and water management that have been developed and used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. Recording these stories enriches the knowledge and understanding of the broader community as well as within our business.

The community-directed stories highlight and celebrate the rich understanding of water management that was central to life for Aboriginal people, and still exists today. The project encourages respectful sharing of traditional and contemporary knowledge and has become an important part of our Reconciliation Action Plan, extending the understanding of Aboriginal knowledge beyond spiritual connections with water by sharing new ways to find, manage and understand fresh water opportunities across our state.

Completed videos from the series were shared with our people during National Reconciliation Week.

Outback footy oval powered up

More than 1,300 kilometres north-west of Adelaide in the middle of a vast red landscape, the green oasis of the Amata Oval was opened in November 2019 for the local football league and wider community to enjoy.

The oval in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands is irrigated using recycled water from our nearby wastewater treatment plant.

To celebrate the opening, students from schools in the region were joined by players from two football teams: the 2019 premiers the Amata Swans and Port Adelaide Football Club.

The objective was to provide Amata with a cool and functional open space that can be maintained in an environmentally sustainable way.

Each day about 70,000 litres of wastewater is treated at the plant and pumped to an underground irrigation system at the oval.

Building relationships with the local community to understand what would be valued was essential to ensuring the infrastructure delivers both public health and liveability outcomes for the people we are serving.

Skills shared build capability

Working with members of the Anangu community, we continued to deliver a plumbing course that empowers community members to fix water leaks and provides education on water and sustainability.

Two courses were offered in 2019-20 with more than 85 students and community members participating in the program to date, which we are now delivering to communities across the APY Lands.

At the heart of these relationships is the direct involvement of our frontline people who are driven by a desire to achieve access and outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities.

During 2019-20, we began delivering our first Twinning Program in partnership with two Aboriginal corporations, Tauondi College and Neporendi Aboriginal Forum. Five of our people partnered with these organisations to share skills in governance, strategy, communications, marketing and finance.

In this together

The 2020 National Reconciliation Week theme, in this together, acknowledged that everyone has a role to play in achieving reconciliation.

Using our infrastructure as a canvas for Aboriginal artwork is an effective way to acknowledge the rich culture that Aboriginal people bring to our state. In 2019-20, three art projects were delivered in partnership with communities.

1. Port Augusta

Working together with Port Augusta City Council’s Aboriginal Art Program, Aboriginal artists came together to create a vibrant welcome for visitors to Port Augusta on our pipeline. The artwork highlights the local Aboriginal culture and the area’s role as a place to gather.

2. Kadina

The Kadina Depot wall mural is the centrepiece of the newly landscaped garden, which was created together with a local Aboriginal landscaping business, and features all indigenous plants.

Emerging Narungga artist Tamika Gollan delivered her first commercial, largescale artwork. Tamika was mentored by established artist Samantha Gollan who provided guidance through the procurement and other formal processes involved.

The centrepiece of the mural is Narungga totem, the butterfish, with sacred fishing spots and techniques passed down through generations, making coastal waters a key part of Narungga identity.

3. Adelaide

Two large concrete pillars in the foyer of SA Water House were brought to life with Kaurna artwork and language. Working with Kaurna language expert Jack Buckskin, two of our own people, Bree Ah Chee and Sarah Smith, created artworks that celebrate and acknowledge the importance of bringing the Kaurna language to life, as well our respect for the people on whose land the building sits.

Creating and supporting future leaders

Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation (KYAC) sought our support to build a succession strategy for young Kaurna people to help shape their future. With a shortage of young leaders in many communities, this important work will help KYAC remain relevant and meet the needs of emerging and future generations and their leaders.

Between December 2019 and March 2020, we worked with KYAC and Coleman Consultants to host four community meetings for young Kaurna people, held in the south, north and west of Adelaide as well as the city.

The forums helped empower young Aboriginal people to have a say in their community and become involved in policy and decision making for the future.

While this work was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is set to continue in 2020-21.

Building a zero cost energy future

Our ambitious plan to use renewable energy and storage to create a zero cost energy future has made significant progress this year with 150,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed across the state in 2019-20.

With water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations being energy intensive, we are one of the biggest electricity users in the state. As at 30 June 2020, the panels installed have the capacity to generate up to 57 megawatts and 95 gigawatt hours a year.

Installation has been completed at Mount Pleasant, Heathfield, Queensbury and Port Lincoln with work progressing at 18 sites across the state including Adelaide, River Murray, the Adelaide Hills and Eyre Peninsula.

About 500,000 solar PV panels will be installed to generate 242 GWh of electricity per annum and be complemented by 34 MWh of battery storage, which will provide 70 per cent of our electricity requirements in an average weather and water consumption year.

While there will be times when we need to draw electricity from the grid, this project enables us to store and sell energy at other times while protecting our business from the volatility of the electricity spot market and therefore keeping operating costs down.

New wastewater treatment plant sets Australian sustainability record

South Australia’s newest wastewater treatment plant, at Murray Bridge, became fully operational in June 2020, bringing leading sustainability design to the facility that will process up to 4.5 million litres of sewage a day.

The $52 million project was awarded an ‘excellent’ design rating from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, the highest to date for a water or wastewater project in Australia. The rating is based on delivering cultural, social, environmental and economic benefits across the planning, design, construction and operations phases of infrastructure assets.

The new plant incorporates an odour control unit which consists of a biotrickling filter and activated carbon tanks, designed to remove 99.95 per cent of odour from the plant. It also has an advanced biological treatment process called a moving bed biofilm reactor, which helps to break down sewage into sludge in a more compact, efficient and adaptable way than conventional methods. This plant is one of the first non-industrial wastewater treatment plants in Australia to use this technology.

As with the previous facility, the plant continues to recycle 100 per cent of its treated wastewater for irrigation use at a Department of Defence training area and a nearby pastoral property, and the on-site solar array will ultimately generate 150 kilowatt hours a day, helping to power the treatment plant.

A big part of the project’s success was working with the local community in the lead-up to and during construction, with site tours and tailored education workshops for local school students.

An art installation incorporated into the pump station’s design is underway to share the culture of the region’s Traditional Owners, the Ngarrindjeri people, with the wider community.

Grassy woodland restoration at Millbrook

A 10-year plan to restore a former pine plantation to a grassy woodland ecosystem at Millbrook Reservoir is in its fourth year.

Through the revegetation project, we are partnering with the Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ Seed Conservation Centre, Trees for Life’s silver daisy-bush recovery project, Kersbrook Landcare Group and The University of Adelaide.

Drones bring new understanding of assets

Building on our long history of innovation, our seven licensed drone pilots, based in Berri, Port Pirie, Mount Barker and Adelaide, are maturing our capability and progressively using the technology at more of our water and wastewater facilities across the state.

Drones are enabling a safe working environment for our people and bringing benefits to our customers and the community.

Inspecting and maintaining our infrastructure is critical to ensuring reliable services for our customers, yet due to their size or location, access can be difficult.

Using drones for inspections improves safety outcomes, for example by reducing the need to climb to the top of an elevated water storage tank to complete an inspection of these vital assets.

Using drones also reduces the time taken to complete tasks, which in turn, is reducing operational costs.

Along with asset inspections, our drones are now capturing aerial and thermal photography and videography to provide greater perspective to large-scale ground operations, assess environmental health and evolution over time, and monitor the progress of our capital projects.

Our drone pilots combine terrestrial laser scan data with UAV imagery and Pix4D photogrammetry software to provide a full inside-and-out 3D model representation of our assets, and harnessing the technology to create Digital Surface Models which help inform engineering projects.

Bluetooth valves improve maintenance

In a South Australian-first process, we are improving water services for customers in regional areas with the use of Bluetooth technology.

Used by our major pipelines maintenance team, the technology connects with a hydraulically actuated, computer-controlled machine that remotely opens and closes water main valves, through a process known as exercising, to keep the supply of drinking water to customers flowing.

Valves are important in controlling the flow of water through the network and to our customers, including during any planned shutdown or responsive works, so we need to make sure they are always working to limit any temporary water supply interruptions.

Applying Bluetooth technology improves pipe operations with the help of a hand-held mobile device and makes exercising water valves a low-risk, one-person activity.

The trial is now being extended to test valves across the state.

Smart tech success in SA’s sewers

Following a successful start to a smart wastewater network trial in Stonyfell to June 2019, we installed additional types of innovative technology in more targeted locations.

In 2019-20, the technology enabled us to address 17 blockages before they could impact customers. This was achieved through analysis of data sent from network sensors to our Operations Control Centre, providing an advance warning and making it easier for us to know where and when to send our crews to unblock a pipe.

This type of technology is ground-breaking and we are one of the first utilities in Australia to use it in a comprehensive whole-of-suburb approach.

Similar types of technology are now being tested to potentially complement existing smart sensors.

Smart water network awarded

At the Australian Water Association’s 2019 Water Awards in South Australia, our world leading smart water technology received the Research Innovation Award.

The award recognises the step change in customer experience we have achieved after rolling out smart water and wastewater networks to manage water and sewer mains.

By using research to better understand smart technology we are detecting cracks in our pipes based purely on acoustic noises. The technology is now a key feature of our water network in the Adelaide central business district.

The smart water network uses acoustic sensors, pressure and flow data, high-speed transient pressure sensors, smart meters and water quality sensors to monitor the underground pipe network for faults. Results are assessed in our Operations Control Centre to identify any abnormalities in the network, and ensure we continue to deliver services for our customers.

Network resilience awarded

At the inaugural iTnews Benchmark Awards in Sydney in early March 2020, our project to centralise SCADA control won Best Resilience Project.

Our Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is used to monitor and control our network and assets right across the state to deliver reliable services for customers. This winning project used new technology and operating opportunities to centralise the system on a virtual platform in one secure data centre.

The new approach improves security and supports quicker operational response and recovery, which was proven during our response to the bushfires on Kangaroo Island. The robust, resilient and cost-effective centralised system enables us to monitor, control and upgrade our critical infrastructure delivering essential services – on demand and with minimal temporary service interruptions for our customers.

Double success at development industry awards

In late 2019, we were recognised at the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s SA Awards for Excellence.

Account Manager of Development Services Debbie Snoswell  received an individual honour winning the Institute’s Public Sector Award for achievements in the development industry during her 16-year career with SA Water.

Seen as a voice for land development customers, Debbie’s focus is on delivering cost effective solutions which bring benefits for both developers and SA Water.

Our focus on reconciliation and gender diversity saw us receive the Diversity in Development Award. The recognition demonstrates real progress we have made in both reconciliation and increasing job opportunities for women in the water industry.

Achieving trust

Our new approach to resolving complex customer issues was recognised in August 2019 by the Australian Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, with our Customer Advocacy and Resolution team runners up in the Constellation Achievement Award.

The award acknowledges the significant contribution the team has made to improving the status of consumer affairs, complaint prevention and handling in our industry.

Mapping cool, green parks

A new program aimed at increasing liveability through hot, dry summers in the urban environment using nano satellite technology saw us partner with 19 South Australian councils and Fleet Space to track the temperature at local parks and playgrounds using

real-time data.

More than 200 air temperature sensors were installed in 2019-20 at public spaces and playgrounds. They have demonstrated temperature differences of an average three to seven degrees Celsius between green irrigated sites and non-irrigated spaces in the same suburb.

Available on our website, the data forms colour-coded maps indicating where the temperature is cooler and warmer.

In addition to community benefits, there are significant advantages for local councils needing to make cost-effective decisions about their irrigation practices, with more diverse and higher volume community activation driving increased value from the water already invested in maintaining green spaces like sporting ovals.

Dry ground can be just as hot as bitumen and artificial grass can be even hotter, so using water efficiently and in a cost-effective way can further reduce the creation of urban heat islands.

The data is provided to councils to compare irrigation patterns to any temperature reductions achieved, informing decisions on future park upgrades or investments.

Swan Reach declared top drop

Water produced from Swan Reach Water Treatment Plant in the Murraylands was awarded best tasting tap water in South Australia at the annual awards run by the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia.

The awards, held in Murray Bridge in early August 2019, saw more than a dozen samples from water treatment facilities across the state judged on colour, clarity, odour and mouthfeel.

Water at the Swan Reach plant is treated using a disinfection process called chloramination, an alternative to chlorine, which results in a less detectable taste and odour. Once treated, water from Swan Reach is provided to about 32,000 customers, including towns in the Murraylands region, and the Barossa and Clare Valleys.

A further 28,000 homes and businesses, some as far as Yorke Peninsula, are supplied a mix of water from our Swan Reach and nearby Morgan water treatment plants via a long, mostly above ground pipeline.

SA expertise testing Melbourne water quality

In 2019-20, the Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC), our national laboratory service, signed two new contracts in Melbourne.

In November 2019, the AWQC began water sampling and field testing services for Victorian bulk water provider Melbourne Water.

Early in 2020, a three-year contract was secured with Yarra Valley Water, the largest of Melbourne’s three retail water companies. AWQC will undertake sampling, laboratory testing, analysis and reporting services and expects to collect more than 7,000 water, wastewater and recycled water samples, and perform about 60,000 tests each year.

Both are three-year partnerships and expand the national service which AWQC provides the water industry, including Tasmanian water utility TasWater and Wannon Water in south-west Victoria.

With laboratory facilities in Adelaide and Melbourne, the AWQC provides a range of expert services to clients within Australia and internationally.