A review of SA Water’s performance shows improved outcomes for its 1.7 million customers, with all service standards met during the 2017-18 period.
The Essential Services Commission of South Australia’s (ESCOSA) annual report details SA Water’s performance against its regulatory requirements, relating to customer service, financial assistance provided to customers and the reliability of drinking water and sewerage services.
A total of 15 of the 18 service standards were met or exceeded, with the remaining three considered met on best endeavours for being within one per cent or less of the target.
These instances related to SA Water’s response to water or sewer network faults where getting the job done safely and to customer requirements meant the work took slightly longer or the incidents were attended just outside of service standard timeframes.
SA Water’s General Manager of Customer Delivery, Kerry Rowlands, said the corporation will remain focused on getting the basics right, while exploring innovative ways to enhance its operations.
“We achieved some great results, and this was made possible through strategic investment, increasing our focus on learning more about our customers’ expectations, ongoing training of our people, and implementation of new and emerging technology,” Ms Rowlands said.
“It was particularly pleasing to see a 7.6 per cent reduction in customer complaints from the previous year (1909 to 1763), with the majority of written and telephone complaints responded to in a timely manner.
“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, which shows we are more effectively resolving complaints before customers feel they need the assistance of the Ombudsman.
“Feedback from our customers is crucial to improving how we operate and do business with them, so while we’d naturally like to receive fewer complaints, when people do write or call us, it’s important their issue is resolved, and they still have a good experience in the process.”
The report also highlights areas for continuous improvement, such as reducing faults across the almost 9000km 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,” Ms Rowlands 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, wet wipes, and even kids toys or sprinkler heads, 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 also 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.”
Following a successful trial in the Adelaide CBD, SA Water’s world-leading smart water network technology has also been rolled out to four more locations around the state. Since the equipment in the city centre went live in July 2017 it has prevented 30 water main breaks and leaks.
“As we learn more about the technology and how we can best use the data it produces, we expect benefits for our customers and the wider community to grow even further, including reducing the number of temporary disruptions to supply and inconvenience for commuters on arterial roads,” Ms Rowlands said.
The duration of unplanned water interruptions in metropolitan Adelaide increased from 195 to 239 minutes, which is a result of safety measures introduced in 2015 for repairing cast iron mains, which can mean longer temporary disruptions to mains–supplied water.
“Pipes of this material make up around 30 per cent of our water main network across the state, however new cast iron pipes haven’t been installed since the 1990s, so over time, the related challenge will decrease,” Ms Rowlands said.
For a full copy of the report, visit escosa.sa.gov.au.
Lauren Butler is the assistant editor for Utility Magazine. She’s based in Melbourne, Australia.