SA Water is continuing to achieve positive outcomes for its 1.7 million customers, with some room to improve, according to an independent annual report released today on Australia’s water utilities.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s National Performance Report (NPR) 2017-18: urban water utilities analyses the performance of 80 organisations across the country, including SA Water.

The report shows SA Water performed favourably amongst its peers – the larger utilities with 100,000 or more customers – in areas such as customer service, recycled water supply and rate of water main leaks and breaks:

SA Water’s Chief Executive Roch Cheroux said the report reinforces the organisation’s focus on improving customer experience.

“We want to make things easier for our customers, whether they’re enquiring over the phone about their bill, or when our crews are replacing or repairing a water main on the street they live on,” Roch said.

“It was particularly pleasing to see a 12 per cent reduction in customer complaints from 2017-18 to the previous financial year (2.5 to 2.2 per 1000 properties).

“As reflected in the Essential Services Commission of South Australia’s (ESCOSA) latest annual review of our performance, between 2016-17 and 2017-18, there was also a 26 per cent drop (264 to 196) in the number of complaints made about SA Water to the Energy and Water Ombudsman of South Australia.

“This shows we are more effectively resolving complaints before customers feel they need the assistance of the Ombudsman.”

Recycled water supply increased on the previous year for most utilities across the country, with SA Water reporting a 23 per-cent rise on the amount of water provided through its various irrigation and domestic use schemes across the state.

“Demand rose in part due to lower than average rainfall experienced in South Australia during this period – which also lead to us having the biggest increase (14.6 per-cent) in the amount of water supplied to residential customers.”

The report also highlights areas for continuous improvement, such as reducing faults across SA Water’s almost 9000 kilometre sewer network.

“Keeping our sewers healthy is a shared responsibility, and for our customers, it’s as simple as remembering to flush the three Ps – poo, pee and (toilet) paper,” Roch said.

“Things which are put down the sink or flushed down the toilet – but shouldn’t be – such as cooking fats and oils, sanitary items and wet wipes are some of the main contributors to sewer blockages and overflows.

“We also need to keep doing our part – in addition to our ongoing sewer main renewal program we’ve begun piloting the use of smart technology in two targeted areas, with the aim of reducing the impact of sewer faults on our customers.

“In Stonyfell, the local network has been equipped with 88 level, 13 pressure and two water quality sensors to monitor the movement of sewage, to help detect pipe blockages and prevent overflows. In Gawler, we’ve installed 88 odour detection sensors and one weather station, to better understand the behaviour of odour in this part of the network and how we can better manage the issue over time.

“Full benefits of this new equipment are expected to be realised around mid–2019.”

The increased duration of water service interruptions is the result of changed safety procedures for work on cast iron mains, previously used extensively in South Australia, requiring the water supply to be shut down and area excavated before the pipe is repaired.

“Our crews will always work as quickly as possible to complete repairs and get water back on, however the safety of our crews on-site and community members nearby comes first and is not negotiable,” Roch said.

For a full copy of the report, visit http://www.bom.gov.au/water/npr/.

Lauren Butler

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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