The 9.4 per cent reduction in water main incidents, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s 2016/17 National Performance Report, comes along with a conscious focus on efficiency and support by SA Water.
SA Water has seen success in minimising the impacts of water main breaks on customers with the application of new technologies and the introduction of a Community Support Team 18 months ago to assist South Australians during a water main incident.
The Community Support Team has been an integral part of the efficiency of water main repairs by bridging the gap between the customer and the repair itself.
“The aim of Community Support Team is to take the customer experience to the next level,” said Community Support Manager, Shannon Minagall. “We go door-to-door taking the time to address each customer’s needs and provide tailor-made solutions.”
The role of the support team is to inform all residents affected by a water main break or leak about the nature of the situation and provide a timeframe for when completion can be expected.
“We’ve assisted more than 74,000 customers who’ve experienced a water main break, loss of supply or sewage overflow and this includes organising a clean-up if overflows have spilled into customers’ yards or homes,” Minagall said. “If a customer’s property has been damaged, SA Water always provides a case manager to provide ongoing support and assistance, helping to reduce the burden and streamline the process for them.”
Customers that experience extended water outages due to a main break are provided with drinking water and a timeframe slip by the support team. Customers marked as ‘critical’ – such as hospitals, restaurants and schools – are treated as a priority and every attempt is made to supply them with a tanker to ensure that there is adequate supply for the duration of the repair.
A recent incident on Hume Street in the CBD saw the Community Support Team start knocking doors at 7am. Because the incident happened at a time when the majority of residents are using water, the team members provided casks of drinking water and information slips to over 30 properties around the area.
The repair teams and technicians also organised tankers of water for critical properties which, in this case, included a clinic and restaurant.
In the past, it had been the repair team’s responsibility to inform residents of any developments in the state of the break. Now, it is the Community Support Team’s job to provide information and answer the common questions relating to timeframe, water supply and potential clean up.
“SA Water has always helped customers experiencing main breaks and other emergencies,” Minagall said. “But having the Community Support Team now frees up our repair crews to focus on repairing damaged mains as safely and as quickly as possible.”
The time taken to fix a break differs based on its severity and the function of the surrounding properties. When a decision has been made to act on a break, the repair team is deployed to mark mains and any surrounding services before excavation begins.
“When a water main breaks, the repair work is always highly complex and potentially dangerous,” Minagall said. “Our crews must work below ground level on a pressurised system that’s often near other services such as, gas mains or electricity cables.”
Listening devices used by the technicians provide insight into the severity of the break using frequency pitch. Main disruptions that are located near gas and electrical services may need “hydro excavation” to avoid further damage.
“It is impossible to be sure of the repair needed without digging,” Minagall said. “Some leaks can be repaired with a band or a sleeve, while other breaks can need entire section replacements.”
SA Water’s use of a $4 million smart network has helped to identify anomalies within the system in the CBD before they can result in larger breaks or leaks. The network is comprised of new sensors to monitor pressure and water flow.
Leaks and breaks in South Australian commonly result from environmental factors that cause the soil to move including excessive rain or heat.Jump to next article