By Steph Barker, Utility Magazine

Yarra Valley Water services approximately 4,000 square kilometers and about two million people in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne, providing customers with drinking water, sewage services and recycled water supply. In March of 2023, Yarra Valley Water announced a new five-year partnership deal for its Pipes and Facilities Program, with the aim to improve the water, sewer, and recycled water infrastructure across the region. Here, we take a closer look at the program and how the new partnership will assist in the delivery of water services in Melbourne’s future.

With Melbourne’s population expected to grow to around seven million by 2026, the Growth Futures group is an integral part of the team at Yarra Valley Water. Led by General Manager – Growth Futures, Chris Brace, the Growth Futures team is accountable for the provision of water and sewerage services to new customers.

A key focus for Mr Brace’s role is partnering with the community to develop new urban water futures that generate greater shared benefits for all stakeholders. Mr Brace and the team are accountable for the procurement of new infrastructure to service growth, as well as the delivery of major upgrade projects for existing infrastructure.

As part of its strategic planning, the team relaunched its Pipes and Facilities Framework panel in March 2023. The panel, which had previously comprised up to eight members, was reduced to three key strategic partnerships – Jaydo, Aqua Metro and MFJ Constructions. Mr Brace explained,

“We really found that working more closely with a smaller number of players, we believe is a way to generate more efficiency and greater delivery certainty for our customers and to deliver our commitments and our pricing submission that we’ve just put into the Essential Services Commission.

This panel will service about $40 to $60 million worth of capital works every year, predominantly pipeline work, but also pumping stations, things like pressure reducing valves, et cetera, in both new and emerging suburbs.”

The initial term for the partnership is five years, with the possibility of extension for up to ten years. Mr Brace said that the panel features a combination of new and existing contractors with Yarra Valley Water.

“Aqua Metro is a new panel member, they haven’t worked with Yarra Valley Water previously but they have done a lot of work with Melbourne Water and Greater Western Water. JAYDO and MFJ have been on our panel for some time, and are trusted construction partners. We’re pleased that they were successful in getting on the panel to continue our partnership.

“We are taking a slightly different approach, in that we’re inviting these contractors in to work sort of like a virtual partnership as well. We had a governance meeting recently and we discussed how to deliver the program at the highest efficiency, lowest impact on the environment, best outcome for customers, minimising community disruption. And so it is a little bit of a different playing field for them, in that they are collaborating together as well as competing for projects on the panel.”

As Melbourne grows, a lot of areas will need new water, sewer and recycled water infrastructure. A lot of mediumsized capital projects, with costs ranging from low millions to tens of millions, will require new sewers, water mains and recycled water mains to service growth.

The Pipes and Facilities Framework panel will operate with each of the companies tendering for each project – but they will also be participating in the program management. “We will be looking at the pipeline of works that are coming and making sure that we’re in alignment on what it’s going to take to get the program done. Leveraging the skills of each other to optimise how we get the work done.

Working with the supply chain, pipeline supply, material supply, we’ll be looking at opportunities to synergise in that space, but essentially they’ll be tendering on a series of packages of work, either pipeline renewals or delivery of new water sewer and recycled water pipelines to growth areas,” Mr Brace said.

One of the key responsibilities of the partnership is to facilitate the successful delivery of commitments made to customers as part of Yarra Valley Water’s 2030 strategy. But what are these commitments, and in what ways will this partnership help deliver them?

Mr Brace explained, “Some of the key commitments in the price submission relate to reliable and timely services, minimising the number of interruptions that customers experience. This panel supports those outcomes by helping Yarra Valley Water renew the assets at the right time and with minimal disruption to the community when we do that.

In bringing the contractors in close, we can optimise the design and minimise the impact on the environment, with the panel providing advice around how we can minimise the loss of trees, minimise the disruption in roads and shutdown times, things like that.

We’ve got an approximately $1.9 billion capital works program, which is really about servicing that growth, supporting those reliable services and making sure we are providing reliable drinking water supply and reliable sewage services to prevent spills to the environment.

So, they’re really going to be helping us get the projects done on time and minimising costs.” This panel will support the renewal of quite a number of key infrastructure assets, water mains and sewers that either are reaching end of life or are reaching the limits of their capacity due to growth.

As Melbourne grows and assets age, Yarra Valley Water believes bringing partners in to work more closely will help the utility understand the construction landscape better so that designs can be optimised. We can’t wait to see how the projects pan out.


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