SA Water has put forward its next four-year plan to the independent economic regulator. Our Plan outlines how the utility will deliver reliable water and sewerage essentials, and implement new initiatives to benefit customers.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) has already begun public consultation as part of its process to review the 2020-24 plan to ensure it is prudent and efficient, and in the best interests of customers, with its decision expected in May 2020.

Our Plan includes price reductions of 1.8 per cent for water and 3.2 per cent for sewerage, or a $26 price reduction for the average metropolitan residential annual combined water and sewerage bill, from July 2020.

Updates from the government’s inquiry into the setting of SA Water’s regulated asset base are expected in early 2020 and may result in additional reductions to water prices.

From 2020 to 2024, SA Water intends to invest $1.8 billion in capital infrastructure and spend $1.9 billion in operating expenditure to meet essential regulated responsibilities, drive efficiencies, and maintain, improve and expand the state’s water and sewerage infrastructure.

SA Water General Manager Customer Delivery, Kerry Rowlands, said efficiency and operational costs savings of 12 per cent per annum would offset increasing fixed costs, while enabling a price reduction for customers.

“Our customers have consistently told us that low and stable prices are important to them and that key principle is flowing through to every decision we make,” Ms Rowlands said.

“Through our ongoing focus on smart technologies, maximising productivity of our assets and containing the costs of an expanded capital program, we’re now leading the efficiency frontier in Australia and have made the biggest efficiency gains of our peer water utilities.

“We’re now in a position to deliver a real price decrease, while still covering all of the fundamentals that protect public health and the environment, as well as pursuing initiatives that will deliver sustainable experience improvements for our customers.”

Initiatives covered in Our Plan were developed in response to insights gathered through SA Water’s most extensive customer research and engagement program to date.

More than 12,000 people from across South Australia participated as individuals and in groups through a variety of digital and face-to-face activities, with the program assessed as industry best practice by the regulator’s independent expert consultant.

Among the flagship programs proposed for the next four years are investments to improve the taste of drinking water in Adelaide and the quality of some regional supplies.

“Our customers told us they would like to see, and are willing to pay for, water treatment upgrades that improve the taste of drinking water,” Ms Rowlands said.

“By upgrading metropolitan water treatment plants and completing changes to the vital disinfection processes used across the metropolitan region, we will achieve a noticeable and sustainable improvement to the taste of tap water.

“Our customers also demonstrated a very strong sense of fairness and prioritised improving the quality of supplies in regional areas that currently have aesthetic challenges like saltiness or hardness, as well as wanting 19 small regional non-drinking systems currently only suitable for irrigation and cleaning to be progressively upgraded to drinking quality.”

In keeping with customer feedback, investment to further reduce the impact of water main breaks and temporary supply interruptions will continue with $144 million to be spent renewing water mains and implementing smart technology, and $128 million on major pipelines and trunk mains.

“Expansion of our world-leading predictive smart networks of sensors, installation of more valves to reduce the number of customers included in shut off areas and pressure management techniques, will deliver long-term sustainable decreases to the number of customers who experience multiple interruptions during a 12-month period, at no additional cost to customers,” Ms Rowlands said.

Already the second largest recycler of water in Australia, SA Water will look to increase the amount of water recycled from 28 to 50 per cent through expanding schemes like the Glenelg to Adelaide Pipeline which sends 3.8 billion litres of high-quality recycled water back towards the Adelaide CBD each year to green the parklands.

“Our customers strongly supported investment to increase the supply of recycled water, which contributes to water security, drives economic growth in primary industries and reduces our environmental footprint,” Ms Rowlands said.

Mrs Rowlands said SA Water planned to hold itself accountable to customers through a new set of performance measures that were shaped around customer feedback and tested throughout its engagement processes.

“We want to continually improve the way we do things and have put forward nine new service commitments covering the reliability of our services, the way we respond and resolve issues, and satisfaction with our customer service, and may look to evolve these even further.”

Full details of the new service commitments and overviews of all initiatives proposed for delivery over the next four years are outlined in Our Plan, available to view at sawater.com.au.

ESCOSA’s consultation on Our Plan is open until 20 December 2019, ahead of their draft determination in February 2020, and final determination in May 2020.

Siobhan Day is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and Pump Industry magazine, and has been part of the team since early 2019. With a background in management in the non-profit sector, Siobhan has extensive experience in communications, professional writing and client management. She holds a Bachelor of Business and Communications and is currently completing a postgraduate degree.

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