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The Bureau of Meteorology’s National Performance Report (NPR) 2018-19: urban water utilities has found that SA Water continues to perform favourably in areas such as customer service and recycled water supply amongst other large utilities with 100,000 of more customers. 

The independent annual report was released 2 March 2020 and analyses the performance of 85 utilities, councils and bulk water authorities across Australia.

SA Water continued a downward trend in the number of customer complaints in 2018-19, with a 9.1 per cent decrease from the previous year. It also consistently reports one of the best results in responding to customer calls, with close to 90 per cent of calls in 2019 answered within 30 seconds.

The report showed there is room for improvement in SA Water’s management of water and sewer main faults, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

SA Water’s General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation, Anna Jackson, said SA Water’s current and planned investment in energy and network management is well aligned to improve performance for its customers and the environment.

“Our initiative to achieve a zero cost energy future is recognition of the need to reduce our environmental footprint while sustainably lowering operational expenses,” Ms Jackson said. 

SA Water is working towards this goal through various projects aimed to increase renewable energy generation and storage, drive efficiencies and make smarter decisions around energy use.

“A key component of the initiative is the installation of 500,000 solar panels at around 35 SA Water sites across the state, with 113,000 of these panels already ground or roof-mounted,” Ms Jackson said. 

“Our high electricity bill in 2018-19 – $83 million – is attributed to more energy-intensive pumping and treatment required for increased water demand and lower reservoir inflows during last year’s dry summer and winter.

“For the factors within our control, we continue to use renewable energy to sustainably reduce both our environmental impact and operational expenses, and as part of the Zero Cost Energy Future program, we aim to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 89,000 tonnes per year.”

Record high temperatures and below average rainfall experienced across most of Australia last financial year also impacted several other areas of operation for many water utilities.

“With residents and businesses using more water for irrigation during warm weather, we supplied our highest volume of recycled water in the past five years – more than 32 million litres – with our 2018-19 total second only to Sydney Water,” Ms Jackson said.

“Amongst utilities of similar size to SA Water, more than half recorded an increase in the number of water and sewer main breaks in 2018-19, compared to the previous year.

“The primary influence was consistently dry conditions resulting in more ground movement impacting underground pipes, and the report shows this was experienced across Australia.

“As recommended through a recent independent review commissioned by the SA Water Board, we are actioning several initiatives to improve our approach to water main management, such as installing smart sensor technology on arterial roads.”

In 2020-24, SA Water plans to expand its smart water and wastewater network of sensors and loggers, which are currently operating in seven targeted locations around the state.

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.

©2020 utilitymagazine. All rights reserved

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