Managing water main breaks

Managing water main breaks

What causes water mains to break

In Adelaide, the most common reason for water main breaks is reactive clay soils moving during the transition from hot and dry seasons to wet and cool. Adelaide’s reactive soils combine with an arid climate to dry out and wet far deeper than any other urban area in the country.

Other causes include sudden changes in water pressure, accidental damage during excavation and roadworks, and corrosion.

The ageing of our infrastructure is inevitable, however contrary to belief, a pipe’s age is not always an indication of its quality. Both younger and older pipes have the potential to fail.

Accidental damage by a third party undertaking works around water mains accounts for more than five per cent of water main failures in the metropolitan area. To minimise any potential interruptions to the community, it is important to Dial Before You Dig and ensure there aren't any underground pipes in the area you are working in. You can call 1100 during business hours to request information on our underground pipe locations.

A monthly comparison of the number of water main breaks across the state*

 JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneTOTALAVERAGE
2017-18 296 286 206 189 221 244 315 357 401 327 452 448 3742 312
2018-19 407 330 280 239 216 250 331 376 423 373 407 353 3985 332
2019-20276 274 191 160 169       1070214

*Figures cited may change due to end of month variations and alterations to reporting processes.

Comparison to other water networks across Australia

Water main breaks and leaks aren’t unique to South Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) National Performance Report 2017-18: urban water utilities confirms the rate of water main breaks and leaks within our network is actually among the lowest in Australia, despite having the longest network in the country.

Data in this independent report shows SA Water customers experienced 13.6 water main breaks per 100 kilometres of main, well below the national average of 22.3, and only bettered by four of 15 comparable water utilities (utilities with 100,000 plus customers) across Australia.

Supporting the community during water main incidents

Our Community Support team helps our customers across metropolitan Adelaide affected by water main breaks and leaks by providing temporary supplies of drinking water, organising any clean-up required and providing information about the progress of repairs.

This is in addition to our operational crews whose focus is to repair main breaks and leaks as quickly and safely as possible. Chiefly through contractors, the crews also arrange site signage and traffic management.

We're fully committed to reducing both the incidence and effects of breaks or leaks on our customers and the work of the Community Support team is vital to helping SA Water reduce the impact of water main incidents on customers.

Since the team was established in 2016, they’ve provided support and assistance to more than 110,000 SA Water customers (as at July 2019) at around 3100 incidents.

The team was created in response to community feedback that we needed to do better and work harder to keep our customers informed on water and sewer main incidents affecting them, and provide more support through these events. Now the team is considered ‘business as usual’ and we continue to receive positive feedback from our customers and the wider community on the great work they do.

Managing our network

Despite the environmental challenges our water main network faces, we’re making positive steps towards our objective of minimising the interruption and inconvenience of main breaks and leaks on our customers and the wider community. This includes:

  • our ongoing water main replacement program – we’re investing $137 million to replace around 375 kilometres of water main across South Australia between 2016 and 2020
  • supporting the continued evolution of pipe manufacture and design, and integrating the best contemporary pipe materials that are increasingly better suited to challenging soil profiles
  • the implementation of smart technology in several areas across the state.

Further information

Follow our #WaterMain101 series on your preferred social media platform, where’ll you find interesting facts, photos and videos on topics such as pipe materials, how to report a main break or leak, clearing your taps after nearby pipe repairs and relieving pressure during water main works.

  • Major faults

  • Underway

  • Anzac Hwy
  • Glenelg East
  • 15/12/2019
  • Water Supply On
  • 15/12/2019 05:15 PM - We are attending to an incident in Glenelg East with no interruption to the water supply. The safety of our crews and customers comes first, and we always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as quickly as we can. Reference Number WO: 07254795.
  • See all major faults

  • Scheduled works

  • Underway
  • Sprod Av
  • Toorak Gardens
  • 15/12/2019
  • Temporary Supply Interruption
  • Estimated start time and water supply off: 17/12/2019 09:00 AM
    Estimated restore time and water supply back on: 17/12/2019 06:00 PM

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


  • See all scheduled works