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2021 saw South Australia record the lowest number of water main disruptions for the past four years, thanks to favorable weather conditions and ongoing water network management.

3,614 water main leaks and breaks were reported in 2021 across SA Water’s 27,000km network, compared to 3,749 in 2020. 

These figures include everything from major breaks to minor pipe leaks, damp patches and trickles on the road.

SA Water General Manager of Sustainable Infrastructure, Amanda Lewry, said in Adelaide in particular, the number one cause of water main incidents was reactive clay soils moving during the transition from hot and dry seasons to wet and cool, and the stress this causes on underground pressurised water pipes.

“Similar to 2020 and 2017, we saw relatively mild transitions between seasons last year, resulting in more stable levels of moisture in the soils and therefore fewer water main breaks,” Ms Lewry said.

“This is compared to 2018 and 2019, when the state experienced searing hot temperatures and below average rainfall. 

“So when it did rain, the abruptness of the event had an increased impact on water mains, with break rate figures in these years closer to 4,000.

“The less challenging conditions in 2021, coupled with our sustained focus on driving customer outcomes by reducing the impact of water main breaks, were what led to an improved water main incident rate.

“Last year, we installed around 59km of new water mains across South Australia – including under several key arterial roads in Adelaide.

“Across 2020-24, we’re investing $155 million to improve water services for our customers and maintain South Australia’s water infrastructure, including by expanding our use of smart technology.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s annual National Performance Report (NPR): urban water utilities continues to confirm SA Water’s network as one of the best performing in Australia.

The 2020-21 results show South Australians experienced 13.3 water main breaks or leaks per 100km of pipe, which is lower than the average of 18.9 and better than more than half of comparable-sized Australian water utilities (with 100,000 or more customers).

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