Working together with its 1.7 million customers to shape its future plans has become an ingrained ethos for SA Water, and underpins the delivery of services that represent excellent value.

SA Water General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation, Anna Jackson

Building customer confidence and enhancing individual experiences by harnessing the power of innovation and technology is preparing the South Australian utility to respond as its customers and the world evolve.

A sustained focus on ensuring its water services are more accessible for thousands of customers living with a disability or medical condition has seen SA Water’s industry-leading project break new ground.

SA Water General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation, Anna Jackson, said it’s hoped their nation-first trial in the state’s mid north will make it easier for elderly customers to keep an eye on their water usage.

“Water meters are usually found hidden away at ground level where our network of water mains meet customer pipes, and this can make it tough for those with limited eyesight or restricted mobility to safely access their meter,” Ms Jackson said.

“After listening to local customer Frank’s concerns and ideas, our team in Peterborough challenged the status quo and adopted technology used in the United Kingdom, allowing Frank’s meter to be raised to eye level, making it easier to read.

“The innovative ‘groundbreaker’ box is made from recycled materials and is insulated, which means the meter can function as normal while protecting it from the region’s sub-zero winter morning frosts.

“Frank has so far provided great feedback on his new meter, and we look forward to continuing to work together on getting as much information as we can to assess the capabilities of this trial in the future.”

Taking water meter taps to the next level

Running parallel as part of SA Water’s Wider World Accessible Services initiative, new customer water meter taps are also being trialled with a select group of 20 customers in regional areas across South Australia.

The two types of meter tap are designed to be maintenance-free and significantly easier to turn. The new devices will be put to the test in towns with diverse climate conditions and differing water quality, such as the level of hardness.

“Designing products and services with accessibility at the core is a fundamental capability we’re embedding across our business, and our team identified the opportunity to investigate how we could improve our water meters after ongoing feedback from our customers about leaking and hard to turn taps,” Ms Jackson said.

“One of the taps we’re trialling is endorsed by Arthritis Australia – it’s significantly easier to turn and will remain pliable over time, which is extremely beneficial for customers and supports the one in four South Australians living with arthritis or another similar medical condition.

“Adopting universal design principles to drive adaptive services not only ensures all of our customers benefit, but satisfies key requirements of South Australia’s first State Disability Inclusion Plan.”

Instead of using a washer, the new tap harnesses the meter’s water pressure to turn off the seal, and its unique reverse thread pushes the sealing mechanism and seat together when operating – requiring less effort from the user.

Upon completion of the trial in March 2020, SA Water will remove the taps and analyse them for any degradation as well as perform product quality testing through its world-leading laboratory arm, the Australian Water Quality Centre.

“Engaging in constructive and meaningful dialogue is continuing to help drive the enhancement of our services, ultimately leading to an improved experience for all of our customers,” Ms Jackson said.

“We have worked closely with our customers over the past few years to understand what they value and expect from the services we provide, and as part of our upcoming regulatory business plan, Our Plan 2020-24, we’re focusing investment in our IT capabilities to help drive better customer outcomes.

“This includes our improved Customer Relationship Management system, which will help us provide more timely, relevant and accurate information to our customers in the event of a temporary service interruption, and simplify their interactions with us so we can resolve issues upon first contact.

“Through initiatives like this, we’re enhancing the experience our customers have when they are interacting with us, and improving the way our people work – again, so our customers receive a better service.”

SA Water submitted Our Plan 2020-2024 to independent economic regulator, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA), in November 2019. The plan outlines the way the utility proposes to operate and deliver water and sewerage services to customers over the four-year regulatory period.

ESCOSA is currently taking public submissions as part of its review process of SA Water’s business plan, with a final decision expected in May 2020.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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