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Favourable weather conditions, as well as continued strong investment in water main management by SA Water, are being heralded as the reasons behind a 12 per cent reduction in South Australia’s water main incidents in 2020, compared to the previous year.

3,639 water main leaks and breaks were reported in 2020* across SA Water’s 27,000km network, compared to 4,139 in 2019, with last year also below the annual average for the past ten years.

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

SA Water’s Senior Manager of Capital Delivery, Peter Seltsikas, said the weather’s impact on South Australia’s reactive clay soils remains the key stress on the state’s underground pressurised water pipes, and therefore the main influence behind the number of water main breaks.

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

“These less challenging conditions, coupled with our sustained focus on reducing the impact of water main breaks on customers and the community, were what led to 2020’s improved water main incident rate.

“Last year, we installed around 36km of new water mains across South Australia – including under several key arterial roads in Adelaide. In 2020-24, we’re investing $155 million in improving water services for customers and maintaining South Australia’s water infrastructure.

“This program of work includes water main upgrades in metropolitan and regional parts of the state, the installation of additional valves, the expansion of our smart sensing technology to suburbs such as Clearview, Northfield and Edwardstown, and the deployment of sensors on major trunk mains including under North East, Brighton and Military Roads.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s annual National Performance Report (NPR): urban water utilities indicates that SA Water’s network is one of the best performing in Australia.

The 2019-20 results show South Australians experienced 13.5 water main breaks or leaks per 100km of pipe, which is far lower than the average of 22.3 and better than around two-thirds of comparable-sized Australian water utilities (with 100,000 or more customers).

*Figures for 2020 are for water main leaks and break up to 31 December 2020, based on the information available to SA Water at this time. Figures cited in this media release may change due to end of month variations and alterations to reporting processes.

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