In this video series, we will explain how we manage the water treatment process - from catchment and sourcing until it reaches your tap!
Watch Jacqueline explain how we manage our catchments to provide quality drinking water for South Australians.
Our major catchments in South Australia consist of surface and ground water catchments. One of the biggest catchments is in the Mount Lofty Ranges and it supplies the city of Adelaide and rural communities.
The catchment is really our first treatment barrier in the chain from water from the catchment to the customer tap. So if we manage our catchment well, it filters the pollution through its soils and vegetation and so the cleaner the catchment the less we have to worry about how to treat that water in our treatment plants.
We only own a small portion of the entire supply catchments so the land we own is right around our reservoir reserves. So our biggest challenge is working with other agencies and landholders to make sure they manage their land well and reduce the pollution runoff into our water ways. So we work with those landholders to fence their creeks, have alternative water sources and manage their pastures and their landholdings.
Managing our surface and ground water sources is one of the first steps in providing safe, clean drinking water and maintaining public health. Hear from Maree and Greg about how we manage surface water to ensure our customers get quality drinking water at their taps.
Maree: SA Water has 150 bores across the State, the majority of these are on the Eyre Peninsula, in the South East, and in the northern area of the State extending upwards from the Flinders Ranges.
Every bore is different, so one of our challenges is to make sure that the customer gets a consistent water quality product every day.
Greg: Surface water is water that falls as rainfall. We capture surface water in our reservoirs. Managing our water supply sources and making sure that they’re free from contaminants is one of the first barriers in the multiple barrier approach to protecting public health.
The community can help us manage water quality. If they live in one of our supply catchment areas it’s very important that nutrients from our fertilisers don’t reach our source water.
Lauren is one of our water samplers. She is one of our many samplers who collect water from sites right across South Australia, including rivers, reservoirs, pipelines and customer taps. These samples are then tested by our laboratories, known as the Australian Water Quality Centre.
Lauren: We take and test water samples in order to gauge the water quality of the source water going into the water treatment plants so the treatment operators can treat it accordingly.
We collect various water samples from locations all around the State, from rivers, creeks, off pipelines, water treatment plants and also from customers’ taps – and these water samples are analysed to test the quality of the water.
Water sampling helps provide quality drinking water to South Australians by ensuring that the water delivered to the customers complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
My favourite part of my job would be travelling around the State. Obviously we do a lot of driving, but I have got to see many parts of the State that I wouldn’t necessarily see working in an office or doing any other type of job.
Andrew and Ardean explain our water treatment plant at Morgan treats water from the River Murray so it’s ready for customers’ taps.
Andrew: In South Australia, there’s a variety of different ways that we treat the water. It includes desalination, like in the metro space, as well as conventional treatment plants and newer technology like membranes.
Ardean: So at Morgan, the water treatment process is a conventional process where we rely on chemical dosing to have the particles throughout our sedimentation bays settle out on the bottom and take the clarified water off the top and put it through a dual-media filter, where we then disinfect and send it out to the customer.
Andrew: One of the biggest challenges here at a water treatment plant is the source water. We use an onsite laboratory where we make sure that the water is frequently tested.
Ardean: We could start the plant one day and have it run on the next day and the source water’s changed and you’re changing your dosing up or down. I love problem solving and, at a water treatment plant, no two days are the same.
Andrew: I work with a dedicated team who’s committed to world class water services for our community.
Ardean: I believe that my name is on the water the goes out to the customers. As operators we take a lot of pride in our work - there’s a lot of job satisfaction.
When treating water, disinfection is a critical step. Here Liam talks about the different ways we disinfect water to ensure the water is safe to drink.
Liam: Disinfection is important because it’s the critical step for us to ensure that water is free of any pathogens that could cause people to become sick.
We disinfect water using a few different methods. Chlorination - which is where we disinfect the water using chlorine. We use chloramination, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. And we also use ultra-violet disinfection at some of our sites.
So here at Morgan Water Treatment Plant we’re able to treat up to 2,300 litres of water every second.
So I love my job because it gives me an opportunity to make a real difference. It delivers a service that, you know, so many people rely on.
We monitor disinfection using chlorine analysers at our chlorine dosing sites. We need to set appropriate chlorine dose rates to ensure that we’ve got the right amount of chlorine but without dosing too much chlorine. And that allows us to continue to provide the best safe drinking water.
A ‘closed system’ prevents anything other than water getting into the water distribution system. Tijana explains how we maintain a closed system in South Australia.
A closed system does not allow anything external in. It is important we maintain a closed system to prevent contaminants which might be harmful to our health from entering the water distribution system.
We maintain a closed system across our state by making sure that our infrastructure such as storage tanks, bores and pipelines are sealed and secure.
The biggest challenges we face with managing a closed system are during construction and maintenance activities. For example, to prevent contaminants from entering when we fix a burst or lay new mains. One of the ways we prevent contaminants from entering our system is by making sure we excavate below the pipe before we do the repairs.
By maintaining a closed system we prevent harmful contaminants from entering our water supply and therefore are able to provide the highest quality drinking water to our customers.
At our laboratories we have two new machines which are leading the way with DNA technology. Gary and Lisa use the ION Chef and the ION S5 to look at DNA in water samples to detect contact with vertebrates, fish and bacteria. This helps us tailor catchment management and treatment processes.
Gary: At our Adelaide laboratories we’ve introduced two new instruments that are leading the way in DNA technology: the ION Chef and the ION S5.
They are highly advanced instruments that look at DNA in water samples.
Lisa: We’ll be using this technology to detect vertebrate contact with the water also native fish and bacteria.
Gary: The ION Chef does what all great chefs do: it cooks up a special storm called the ‘DNA Chip’.
Lisa: The ION S5 can then read these barcodes and give us information about all the different kinds of organisms that are present in that water sample. This DNA technology enables us to test water more efficiently. It’s faster, cheaper and gives us more information than our current methods.
Gary: The great thing about this new technology is that we can get all the information from one water sample. Then we can tailor processes like catchment management and treatment processes and that will improve the water quality and the quality of our service to our customers
Our laboratories in Adelaide are known as the Australian Water Quality Centre. They include biology, bacteriology, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. Each lab plays a different but important role in managing water quality.
Providing safe, high quality drinking water to South Australians is our number one priority. Lisa talks about how we respond to incidents, which is critical to maintaining safe drinking water.
Providing high quality, safe drinking water to South Australians is our highest priority so the way we respond to incidents is absolutely critical.
So like all water utilities, we deal with a variety of incidents caused by a number of things. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned. An example of that would be following rainfall events. Inflows come into water bodies such as the River Murray and our reservoirs, and often that can contain high levels of organic materials and nutrients. And that’s really hard water to treat and it can cause blue green algal blooms as well.
When an incident happens that becomes our highest priority. We will always ensure that we are liaising with the Department of Health so that they’re comfortable with what we’re doing and that the risk is being managed.
And I think the other thing to note is that we will always do a root cause analysis for any significant water quality incident.
It’s important for SA Water and SA Health to work well together. Daniel talks about the importance of being transparent and open with SA Health and this helps them assess that our water is safe for our customers.
The role of SA Health is to administer the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a drinking water provider, we adhere to the act and also its associated regulations.
It’s important that SA Health and SA Water work together for a number of reasons. Firstly, the more transparent and open and honest that we are, the better assessment that SA Health can make that our water is safe for customers.
Working together closely also ensures that we meet our health obligations in a way that also keeps prices for customers low.
SA Health assures that we provide high quality drinking water customers both by assessing our water quality management processes and also verifying our water quality data.
What I love about my job is working every day with water experts who are passionate about ensuring the safety of our drinking water for our customers.
Take the Tap Test is a blind water taste test. Kelly explains that there are five water samples to taste, including one commercial bottled water. Participants are asked to nominate their favourite water and to guess which is the bottled water. We then explain why water tastes the way it does.
So Take the Tap Test is a blind tap water taste test. We have five waters from around South Australia, four of them are SA Water tap waters, just taken from random locations around SA, one of them is a bottled water which we’ve purchased from the supermarket.
We then ask if participants can pick which one was the bottled water and which one was their favourite. And then we don’t leave them empty handed, we go through which water was which and why they taste the way they do. We also find that most people cannot pick the bottled water when asked to identify it. We have about 61% of people that completely pick the wrong answer and only 21% of people that can identify the bottled water.
It’s important for us to offer Take the Tap Test so we can answer all your questions about water quality, and we can also help you understand what it is we do at SA Water to deliver safe, clean drinking water, and of course to find out what it is that you like, or conversely, don’t like about your drinking water. And we can also help inform you and let you know why water tastes the way it does.
Research helps us stay ahead of challenges in the water industry and provide the most cost effective solutions for our customers –not just today, but into the future. Mike explains that research collaborations help us access the very best expertise to solve problems that are bigger than just South Australia so we can make the right investment decisions for the future.
Research is important to prepare us for the future, to stay ahead of the challenges, and provide the most cost effective solutions for our customers, not just for today, but for tomorrow.
The water industry has problems with water quality management, selecting the best water and wastewater treatment processes, but also picking the right infrastructure and asset management. But we also look at things like finding alternative sources of water (recycled water, desalination), understanding what our customers want in terms of water quality, and we also look to the future challenges of things like climate change and the impact on how we run our business.
We work with all the major water utilities around Australia because we have common problems, but we also work with all the local universities and water companies around the world in countries including France, USA, Taiwan, China, Austria, Brazil. That’s just to name a few.
Research collaborations allow us to get access to the very best expertise to solve problems that are bigger than just South Australia, and then we can be ready for the future to make the right investment decisions when we need to.