Trenchless technologies play a major role in the installation and rehabilitation of the buried assets that form our water networks. Here, we’ve gathered a group of leaders within the water industry who are proudly ‘team trenchless’ – the people that are championing the benefits of trenchless technologies, and specifying their use on major projects around the country.

If you’re not familiar with trenchless technology, it’s a suite of construction techniques used for the installation and rehabilitation of buried assets such as water mains, gas mains, sewers and conduits for electrical and telecommunications cabling. As the name implies, ‘trenchless’ means that these technologies require minimal surface disruption when they’re used – which offers significant benefits to the surrounding environment and the community.

Trenchless technologies are used regularly around Australia, but given the benefits they offer, it’s sometimes surprising that these technologies aren’t specified more extensively.

To learn a little bit more about the role that trenchless technology is playing in the utility industries, we met with the influencers who are specifying these technologies on job sites around the country. Through these conversations we’ve gained an insight into the things they love about trenchless, the things that are holding them back from using more trenchless, and the things trenchless contractors can do to get in front of end users – and make a major impact.


Paul Plowman General Manager of Liveable City Solutions, Sydney Water


Paul Plowman was appointed General Manager, Liveable City Solutions at Sydney Water in June 2014 after joining the organisation in August 2013 as General Manager, Infrastructure Delivery. Before this appointment, Paul held the position of General Manager, Program and Portfolio Management at the Northern Territory’s Power and Water Corporation.

Prior to this, Mr Plowman worked in several senior positions with Melbourne Water, including Manager Capital Governance, Project Director and Manager, Infrastructure Efficiency. Mr Plowman is a qualified Civil Engineer and also holds a Masters of Business Administration.

Trenchless technology is often utilised across a broad range of projects by Sydney Water. “Sydney Water uses industry partners offering trenchless technologies widely across a range of asset rehabilitation and installation projects. Many of the trenchless solutions used have been leading practice for the industry,” said Mr Plowman.

“A good example is the Priority Sewerage Program delivered by Sydney Water, providing environmental improvements to previously un-sewered villages on the outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan region. The program has run for over a decade and has installed wastewater services into many villages in the Blue Mountains, the Hawkesbury area, the Illawarra, and to the west and south west of Sydney.

“Trenchless technologies have been used on the program to lay the many kilometres of small diameter pressure sewer networks that collect wastewater from houses. These networks run directly under the streets and private properties in the villages. Trenchless technologies often provide a cost-effective solution with minimal impact to the communities we work in.

“The program has also used trenchless technologies to install the larger transfer pipelines that take the wastewater collected in the village to our treatment plants. Trenchless solutions have helped tackle the challenges presented when these pipelines need to cross major rivers, transport corridors or environmentally significant lands.

For Mr Plowman, trenchless technology is effective and simple, providing great benefits to a wide range of projects.

“In many situations trenchless technologies have provided great value for Sydney Water. The technology offers the benefit of being able to go under or around significant features in the landscape, avoiding the need to cut trenches through those features.

“This can reduce damage and disruption as well as providing the best construction risk and cost solution for our customers. Using a trenchless solution can avoid damage to a site with significant archaeological value, can avoid delays to the community when a pipe needs to cross a major rail or roadway or could reduce the construction cost and risk associated with a tricky river crossing,” said Mr Plowman.

According to Mr Plowman, “The increasing use of trenchless technologies will definitely be driven by their ability to offer solutions that can allow our assets to be installed or rehabilitated with minimal disruption to the community, minimal environmental impact and at a cost that provides the best asset life cycle cost outcome for our customers. The solutions need to be both effective and reliable during construction and create assets that are functional and reliable during their operating life.”


Glenn Wilson General Manager of Infrastructure Services, Yarra Valley Water.

Glenn Wilson joined Yarra Valley Water in January 2000 and has extensive experience in engineering and management roles, including a deep understanding of water and sanitation networks, a track record of innovation, and a reputation for leadership and commitment. He currently holds the role of General Manager of Infrastructure Services at Yarra Valley Water. Always up for a challenge, in his spare time Mr Wilson is an avid swimmer, recently returning from an attempt to swim the English Channel.

Mr Wilson’s most recent project involving trenchless technology was the undertaking of a new water main spray lining technology trial for Yarra Valley Water.

“Traditional techniques for water main replacement can include extracting and replacing the entire pipe, or by using a technique known as ‘pipe bursting’, where a new pipe is pulled through behind an expander head which breaks the existing pipe to make room for the new pipe.

“The new spray lining technology works by applying a quick-curing polyurea solution to the inside of the pipe. The coating is applied using a rotating applicator that moves up and down the pipe, effectively building a new pipe inside of the old one. A safe and effective solution, spray lining will reduce costs and disruption to both the local community and the environment when renewing water mains,” said Mr Wilson.

For Mr Wilson, trenchless technology in general also tends to be much quicker, therefore utilising the method in projects such as these is ideal.

“Trenchless requires minimal excavation and reduces both traffic disruption and the need for extensive traffic management, which can be expensive over an extended period of time,” said Mr Wilson.

Reducing the overall cost of works, as well as minimising the negative impacts on local traffic and our customers are both key benefits of trenchless technology, however Mr Wilson  reiterates that it is important to assess each project individually as trenchless technology may not be appropriate in every situation.

According to Mr Wilson, Yarra Valley Water is a company committed to delivering quality services at the lowest possible cost to its customers, therefore trenchless technology is often a great option for the company.

“We are constantly on the lookout for ways to innovate and improve the way we currently do things. If trenchless technology can help to minimise disruption to customers and reduce costs then I would advocate its use where possible,” said Mr Wilson.

Richard Petterson Executive Leader Operations and Service Delivery, Queensland Urban Utilities.

Richard Petterson
Executive Leader Operations and Service Delivery,
Queensland Urban Utilities.

As Executive Leader of Operations and Service Delivery at Queensland Urban Utilities, Richard Petterson plays a critical role in providing water and sewerage services to 1.4 million people across South East Queensland.

Overseeing a network of water and sewer pipes which spans more than 18,000km, this includes delivering responsive work, maintenance work, as well as a $2.76billion capital works program over ten years.

Mr Petterson has 15 years’ experience in the water industry, which began with an instrumental role in the merger of an acquired relining business into Thiess Services. Since then, he has held leadership positions with Kembla Watertech (recently acquired by Abergeldie), Sydney Water and Trility – before joining the team at Queensland Urban Utilities almost a year ago.

Mr Petterson has studied engineering at the University of Sydney and in 2012 graduated from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

A recent Queensland Urban Utilities project involving trenchless technologies is the rehabilitation of Brisbane’s oldest and largest sewer pipe, the S1 Main Sewer.

“In a technique called spiral winding, a polyethylene liner – reinforced with steel ribs – is fed down the manhole and wound inside the existing concrete pipe in one continuous piece. After installation, a cement grout is injected into the lining to secure it in place,” said Mr Petterson.

Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) is also being used to reline the curved sections of the S1 Main Sewer, and according to Mr Petterson, this shows a perfect example of the benefits of trenchless technologies.

“The pipe is more than 100 years old, with diameters up to 1.5m and it lays up to eight storeys below one of the busiest roads in the state. Trenchless technology allows us to undertake this enormous task with minimal impact to the community.

“In fact, traffic flows right above the worksite with many motorists oblivious to what’s going on underneath their wheels. Compared to conventional pipe laying methods, trenchless technology is generally faster, cheaper, safer and less disruptive,” said Mr Petterson.

“There’s a great need to upgrade our water and sewer systems to cater for a growing population, yet there’s also a need to deliver these works with minimal disruption to both the community and the environment. This is why Queensland Urban Utilities is keen to continue using trenchless technologies, especially where there’s cost efficiencies over conventional construction techniques,” said Mr Petterson.

Mark Leathersich General Manager Acquisition Group, Water Corporation.

Mark Leathersich
General Manager Acquisition Group, Water Corporation.

As the General Manager of Water Corporation’s Acquisition Group, Mark Leathersich utilises trenchless technology across a diverse range of water and wastewater projects.

Such projects include the installation of new pipelines and the refurbishment and renewal of existing pipelines. For Mr Leathersich and his team, trenchless technologies also aid in the management of difficult restoration work.

“Water Corporation has used trenchless technology to reline sewer mains over the past few years in Northbridge, Mt Lawley, Fremantle and the Perth CBD. Most recently, it has been used in Inglewood, Collie and Midland.

“Utilising this technology allows us to extend the life of vital wastewater infrastructure by 50 to 70 years, without the need to dig up streets in urban areas to access wastewater pipes.

“Trenchless technology also allows Water Corporation to minimise disruption to stakeholders and residents by removing the need to excavate land. This allows work to be completed with minimal traffic management, clearing and disruption to land.

Mr Leathersich believes in a positive future for trenchless construction, and as advances in technology and cost management increase, so to will Water Corporation’s adoption of such methods.

“Water Corporation follows the industry closely to monitor the emergence of more cost effective technologies and improvements in risk management, and it is advancements such as these that encourage our use of trenchless technology.”

Jim McGuire General Manager of Commercial and Business Development, SA Water.

Jim McGuire
General Manager of Commercial and Business
Development, SA Water.

Jim McGuire is SA Water’s General Manager of Commercial and Business Development. This role includes overall responsibility for the delivery of SA Water’s substantial capital program and also focuses on business growth for the organisation.

The Australian Water Quality Centre reports to Mr McGuire and provides globally-recognised water testing services to both SA Water and many other clients across Australia and overseas.

Mr McGuire joined SA Water in 2011, initially as Senior Manager of Procurement, and led a significant transformation of the procurement function. Prior to his role at SA Water, Mr McGuire has held key leadership roles in both the private and public sector, including in energy, banking and consulting.

Mr McGuire has also been active in building broader professional capability across Australia and championed reform initiatives which saw the creation of a new global standard procurement professional body and other key joint collaborative activities bringing together private and public sector organisations for common good.

The Hawthorndene River Crossing, which involved directional drilling under Brownhill Creek, was the most recent project utilising trenchless which Mr McGuire was involved with.

“The project to replace a DN250 MSCL water main was located just out of the Adelaide CBD,” said Mr McGuire. “The water main was a critical piece of infrastructure due to it being the only feed to the Hawthorndene Tank. The main had a leak, which was slowly getting worse. A material test was carried out and determined this section of main under the creek was required to be replaced.

“Due to the main’s location within a high traffic area, with a step retaining wall supporting the river bank, an open cut method was not an option.  A bridge option was also not feasible due to the 100 year flood design of the creek and the risk of floating objects hitting the aboveground pipe.

“In the Hawthorndene River Crossing project, trenchless technology became the best solution, as the directional drill allowed the pipe to be installed under the river and the retaining wall. This minimised the impacts to the local community and traffic in the area. Potential issues were also deemed minimal, compared to the open cut option,” said Mr McGuire.

For Mr McGuire, the benefits of trenchless are that no excavations are needed for rehabilitation with access via maintenance holes. The technology also helps to reduce costs when compared to excavating in relation to labour, traffic management, groundwater management and bypass pumping.

“Currently the many available trenchless technologies are relaying water pipes at a higher cost per metre. However in situations where critical crossings occur, trenchless technology has shown to be a real advantage.”

Mike Stokes Program Manager, South East Water.

Mike Stokes
Program Manager, South East Water.

Mike Stokes has 20 years of experience in the UK water industry, starting as a trainee technician at 17. He has worked for both the privatised water industry and major contractors, covering the water and sewer mains rehabilitation market.

His work spans across build only contracts through to full alliance contracts involving strategic program development and implementation via a design and build framework, on contracts delivering in excess of 200km per year of rehabilitation predominantly by trenchless techniques.

Mr Stokes has now been working for the past four years in Australia at South East Water, with some of his latest projects including the backlog sewer program and the reticulation renewals program.

His most recent project involving trenchless technology was the Peninsula ECO project, involving the installation of a 235km reticulation pressure sewer by horizontal directional drilling (HDD) on the Mornington Peninsula from Rye to Portsea. According to Mr Stokes, this is one of the largest pressure sewer projects of its kind in Australia to be delivered in an accelerated timeframe.

“The project was delivered by two contractors, Zinfra and Interflow, in 18 months of actual construction, against an original anticipated program of 30 months. HDD was selected for a number of reasons, but predominantly due to the low environmental impact and significant cost savings when compared to traditional open trench techniques.

“As an area of high environmental and cultural heritage importance, the HDD technique significantly reduced the impacts on both, while providing rapid installation in the narrow residential streets of the Peninsula with minimal surface disturbance.

“The construction impact was often so minimal and quick, home owners hadn’t even noticed the sewers had been installed. By delivering the project as one, rather than the traditional 15 year rollout, significant cost savings of $150million have been realised, resulting in this being returned to customers in the form of lower priced property connections,” said Mr Stokes.

Trenchless construction is also a part of South East Water’s ongoing renewals program. “This renewals project involves the replacement or rehabilitation of existing reticulation water and sewer assets across the South East Water region. Approximately 35km of water mains and 20km of sewers are replaced under our renewals program per year, with 98 per cent of those being completed using trenchless techniques. Water mains are predominantly renewed by pipe bursting, slip lining or HDD, with a very small percentage being carried out by traditional highly disruptive open trench works.

“Sewers are rehabilitated with either a spiral liner or CIPP technology; and due to the limited impact on the operational network and rapid installation that can be achieved, most sewers are returned to service the same day. Open trenching is very much the last resort technique and is very ‘old school’. Our customers expect minimum disruption and most efficient use of funding to deliver renewals, this can only be achieved by use of trenchless techniques,” said Mr Stokes.

For Mr Stokes, trenchless technology is a solution with endless benefits that is quickly becoming the norm on many pipeline projects.

“We use trenchless technologies all the time and are actively working on the development of other trenchless technologies with our partner contractors.

“They provide safe, low cost solutions that can be delivered quickly when used by experienced contractors in the right scenario and have limited impact on our customers and other stakeholders. They’ve become the norm, rather than the exception,” said Mr Stokes.

Andrew Moorhouse Project Manager, Melbourne Water.

Andrew Moorhouse
Project Manager, Melbourne Water.

Andrew Moorhouse has worked with Melbourne Water for more than 40 years, with the past 20 years spent working in construction as a Project Manager. He has been involved with the development of the major lagoon systems at Melbourne’s Werribee Treatment Plant, upgrades to the Winneke Water Treatment Plant, and the design, construction and rehabilitation of numerous sewers around the metropolitan area. His numerous construction and rehabilitation projects have utilised slip lining, cast in place lining, spiral winding, pipe cracking, pipe ramming, horizontal directional drilling, pipe jacking and tunnel boring machines.

Mr Moorhouse was most recently involved in trenchless works as part of the Alphington Sewer Project, a $50million project to replace sections of both the North Yarra Main Sewer and Kew North Branch Sewer. Both sewers were laid early last century and had reached the end of their useful lives. The project employed trenchless technology for a significant portion of the new sewers, including a 590m drive of 1500mm RCP laid on a curved alignment. All in all, just on half of the new pipeline was installed using trenchless methods and had absolutely no impact on the areas above the alignments.

According to Mr Moorhouse, the benefits of trenchless technologies are significant, and as the industry grows, so too will the adoption of trenchless technology across utilities and councils.

“Trenchless technologies minimise disruption in built up areas, allow pipes to be installed in the vicinity of other services without disturbing them and can be used to preserve features that would otherwise be damaged by open trenching, such as significant trees,” said Mr Moorhouse.

Where rehabilitation and installation projects are concerned, Mr Moorhouse believes that the modern public is getting less tolerant of the disruption and loss of amenity that can be caused by the older installation methods such as trenching.

“There is a greater community expectation of infrastructure projects causing minimal disturbance which will drive the adoption of trenchless methods in many cases.

“The pressure to drive down costs is already having increasing influence on how things are constructed in this age, and any technological improvements that reduce trenchless costs will go a long way towards making them the preferred construction method,” said Mr Moorhouse.

Rex Dusting Leader, Infrastructure Group, South East Water.

Rex Dusting
Leader, Infrastructure Group, South East Water.

Rex Dusting has 40 years’ experience in the water industry, having worked for many water authorities and engineering consultants, including national and international roles in water industry management, planning, design and construction.

One of Mr Dusting’s strong interests is promoting sustainable asset management for the water industry. He currently is a member of the Water Services Association of Australia’s national Asset Management Committee.

In Mr Dusting’s current position as head of the Infrastructure Group at South East Water, he is responsible for ensuring that the company’s assets meet the ongoing service needs of its customers and stakeholders.

“The group uses its expertise to research and identify trends in service delivery and environmental policy, asset performance and future urban development needs, as well as develop management systems, master plans, budgets and projects for its assets,” said Mr Dusting.

According to Mr Dusting, South East Water has also been undertaking observation of a reduced area for Greenfield development as the Urban Growth Boundary has changed little over recent years.

Open trench techniques still predominate in Greenfield areas, where it is generally accepted that there will be a high level of disruption when developing land with new infrastructure such as roads, sewers, drains, water mains, gas mains and telecommunications. However according to Mr Dusting, trenchless techniques are being considered as an alternative within these areas.

For Mr Dusting, trenchless technology provides a solution to significant disruption caused during asset construction and rehabilitation works.

“Times are changing as we are now seeing over 50 per cent of new development occurring within inner city areas, activity centres together with a general trend of converting single detached dwellings to multi-unit developments. Clearly there is a significant disruption element to the community when augmenting or renewing pipe infrastructure and this is where we see the compelling case for adopting no-dig technologies.”

Theo Vlachos Manager of Water and Sewer Projects, City West Water.

Theo Vlachos
Manager of Water and Sewer Projects, City West Water.

Theo Vlachos is a civil engineer with over 20 years experience in detailed design, construction, project management, operation and preventative maintenance of water, sewer and sewage treatment assets. Prior to joining City West Water in 2003 he worked at Melbourne Water, Goulburn Valley Water, Deloitte Consulting and Standard Roads.

In 2000 he moved to the UK and worked in the civil service for the Highways Agency and as a consulting engineer at Parsons and Atkins Global. Mr Vlachos has a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Master of Business Administration.

In recent projects undertaken by City West Water, Mr Vlachos and his team adopted trenchless technology for the full range of projects including the water main renewal programs, sewer rehabilitation programs and construction of the water, sewage and recycled water mains in growth areas. The specific trenchless technologies used include cured-in-place pipe and expanded pipe lining techniques, pipe cracking, slip lining, directional drilling and microtunnelling.

According to Mr Vlachos, trenchless technologies provide City West Water with an effective solution for the protection of the environment during construction.

“Trenchless technologies minimise the disruption in roads and streets where much of our renewal and rehabilitation programs are undertaken. They also allow City West Water to construct mains across creeks, rivers, roads, rail and avoid areas with flora, fauna and cultural sensitivities,” said Mr Vlachos.

For City West Water to utilise trenchless technologies further, improvement in the technology to allow for a wider range of bores and soil conditions would be a must.

“City West Water has embraced trenchless technology for most of its construction activities.  However, there would be further utilisation as the technology improves allowing larger bores to be implemented and boring through mixed ground conditions (clay and rock),” said Mr Vlachos.

Utility will talk to members of team trenchless in electricity, gas and communications utilities in a future edition.


Are you proudly #teamtrenchless too? Share a photo of yourself, your equipment or your job site where trenchless technology is being used on LinkedIn and Twitter with the hashtag #teamtrenchless to show your support for this innovative industry. Utility will be posting a range of images and quotes across social media too – so keep an eye out for our posts, and don’t forget to share them too to spread the word about the benefits utilities can experience by using trenchless technologies.

The Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT) is the official body representing the trenchless industry in Australia and New Zealand. For more information on the society, or to join, visit the ASTT website.

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