Working together

Working together

As a team, our productive, respectful relationships with customers, regulators and other stakeholders are central to delivering valued services. Understanding and supporting our customers is vital.

Better understanding our customers

Our customer profile groups continue to be used across the business to help us plan, and tailor products, services and communication for our customers.

In 2018-19, we had a particular focus on understanding the needs of people living with a disability so we could better respond to and meet the needs of these customers.

Following discussions with the Department for Human Services and the South Australian Council of Social Service, we facilitated a survey plus one-on-one meetings with customers who live with disabilities and their carers.

Through this research we built an understanding of the challenges and experiences these groups face, and we mapped four focus areas where we can make changes to help make their lives a little better:

  1. customers with high needs
  2. communication challenges
  3. high information needs
  4. assistance with tasks.

Up to 15 initiatives have been identified to provide service solutions for these customers, with some already being implemented and others requiring investment over time. They range from a language aide program for customers using Auslan and other alternate languages, to investigating ways to reduce the anxiety that many people living with a disability face when answering the door.

This initiative was presented at Ozwater’19, the Australian water industry’s major annual conference, and awarded best paper, acknowledging its national significance.

Customer profile work continues to evolve and inform the services we provide. Work to expand profiles beyond residential customers began and we conducted extensive research of our business customers to better understand their water and wastewater service needs.

Digital services for customers

In 2018-19 we implemented a customer relationship management system which enables improved customer experience when people interact with us, including account inquiries and service issues.

Direct debit by credit card and self-serve payment arrangements are now available by simply calling us, in addition to the self-service offerings of mySAWater.

As at 30 June 2019, there were 91,787 customers across 100,847 properties registered for eBills, either as a direct arrangement or through mySAWater.

Our customers’ use of digital channels continues to grow with self-service transactions through mySAWater growing nearly 90 per cent up from 79,312 in 2017-18 to 150,368 in 2018-19.

Supporting customers with bill payments

The needs of our customers continue to change and we are committed to adapting and responding to deliver the services and support they need and value.

Through our Customer Assist Program we work together with people experiencing financial difficulties and agree a bill payment plan.

During 2018-19, there was an average of 1,770 customers per month participating in the program, with 954 customers successfully completing the program and returning to paying their bills quarterly.

Additional financial assistance was available to eligible customers participating in the program through incentive co-contribution payments.

This financial year we began work to automate this payment support program which helps customers to complete the Customer Assist Program and return to regular bill payments.

Customers inform future planning

Building on our customer research and engagement work in 2017-18, this year we worked with customers in two significant engagement phases. This customer feedback is informing Our Plan 2020-24 (Our Plan), which will detail how and what we plan to deliver for customers in the next four-year regulatory period.

Our customers have helped shape future focus areas, which are in addition to the services we are required to provide to meet our legislative and regulatory responsibilities.

From July to October 2018, our Customer Working Group, comprising 22 customers, focused on draft proposals we developed using feedback received in previous stages of customer engagement and workshops.

Insights from the What matters to you? survey, which ran from April to May 2018, were used to prepare business cases for initiatives which customers told us they value and support.

Working together with the Customer Working Group, we shared, discussed and deliberated items including service level priorities that were tested in What matters to you?, and proposed service standards to ensure Our Plan is aligned with our customers’ values and priorities.

Following this, from November 2018 through to May 2019 we did further work to understand where our customers want us to invest. Through the online survey – Would you invest in this? – in excess of 6,000 customers took the opportunity to have their say on five initiatives proposed for inclusion in Our Plan.

Survey responses helped us understand if customers were willing to pay for five proposed investment projects. This feedback informed the ongoing negotiation process being managed by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) and the final drafting of Our Plan.

As well as online engagement opportunities, in September 2018 we engaged customers at the Royal Adelaide Show, with more than 400 people completing our quick poll survey.

Our Plan will be submitted to ESCOSA in October 2019.

Building our reputation in the community

To ensure we keep our customers well informed, a series of training masterclasses were provided to nearly 200 of our people so they can provide more effective, meaningful and timely communication. In addition, we made information about the breadth of our operations behind the scenes and day to day more available to our customers and community through traditional and social media.

The Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) community education campaign got underway in 2018-19 to reduce reliance on expensive bottled water and reduce plastic waste. The campaign is supported by the beginning of the rollout of drinking water fountains, with the installation of six fountains at Adelaide Oval. In addition, numerous local councils have embraced the opportunity to install a fountain for the benefit of their local community and visitors, with more details below.

Development of a BYOB app is underway to help people more easily find locations to have a drink or refill their bottle with our clean, safe drinking water for free. Information from metropolitan and regional councils is expected to be released in the second half of 2019 with more than 1,000 fountains mapped around the state.

Field staff, project teams and contract partners have been supported to effectively build relationships, gather feedback and structure decision making processes. This enables genuine and meaningful opportunities for our stakeholders to understand community needs as we develop and deliver new projects and initiatives.

An increased understanding of our customers is helping us better meet their communication needs. Using developments from our customer relationship management system, we have begun  providing customers with more relevant and meaningful communication via their bill. This capability will continue to evolve.

New fountains provide more water for drinking

Our network of free drinking water fountains across the state has been expanded with 10 fountains installed in 2018-19, providing more options for South Australians and visitors alike to refill their bottles or stop for a quick drink.

The fountains are all connected to our supply network and feature a modern design ‘water window’ for easy filling of a reusable bottle. Many also feature a foot pedal-operated in-ground dog bowl which lowers and fills with water for single use, ensuring adequate drainage and clean water every time. They have built-in solar lighting making them bright and easy to find at night.

In December 2018, a drinking water fountain was installed in Kapunda’s main street in time for the town’s end of year party. It was the first to feature artwork created by Aboriginal artist Paul Herzich, which depicts waterholes specific to Aboriginal groups from across South Australia.

In partnership with Adelaide Oval’s Stadium Management Authority, we unveiled six water fountains at the start of the AFL season in March 2019, giving visitors access to free drinking water on the eastern plaza, at the Victor Richardson Gates on the southern side, in the western stand near the Sheffield Shield Room, and on the Northern Deck.

To support access to Myponga Reservoir Reserve, which opened in April 2019, two water fountains were installed with one in the reserve and one in the town’s park. In June a fountain was installed outside SA Water House in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga for people out and about in the city.

There are clear environmental and economic benefits of choosing tap water and with a growing network of drinking water fountains across the state, we are helping our customers build a healthy habit by bringing their own reusable bottles.

Community programs and events

In 2018-19, our community and education program provided learning opportunities including:

  • 11,912 students and their teachers participating in our Brainwave program learning about the importance of water as a resource, the water cycle, ways to overcome scarcity and how we can all contribute to sustainability.
  • 2,099 people toured the Adelaide Desalination Plant and Kauwi Interpretive Centre.
  • 677 people attended community presentations about water services and toured our treatment plants.
  • Our Quench Benches proved popular providing more than 120,000 litres of drinking water to about 1.8 million people at more than 150 public events across South Australia. This is equivalent to saving more than 210,000 single use 600ml plastic bottles.
  • More than 8,000 people stopped by and talked with us about water services as well as ask us questions at events including the Royal Adelaide Show; Eyre Peninsula, Riverland and South East field days; and the annual Science Alive! exhibition.

Partnering with the community

Through our Community Partnerships Program, we supported 17 grass-roots not-for-profit  organisations deliver programs in their local communities.

Among the initiatives delivered was Uniting Country SA’s Itchy Emu Clinic in Port Augusta. The clinic provides free head lice treatment for local children, tackling the problem of nits through a chemical-free treatment and a fun educational program to help inform parents and school-aged children about how to prevent infestations.

On the Eyre Peninsula, a 27,000 litre rainwater tank and guttering was installed as part of a water harvesting project at the Elliston Community Sports Centre. The captured water is used in the toilet and shower facilities. The centre hosts functions, community groups and more than 40 sporting and social teams so wanted to ensure its facilities could support a more sustainable water future.

In January 2019, more than 300 people took part in Can:Do 4Kids’ annual client end of year celebration which provides a safe and inclusive environment for children with sensory needs to improve their aquatic skills. As well as being the primary partner for the event, we provided portable drinking water fountains and re-useable water bottles.

Rosetta Street Greening, a group of West Croydon residents, came together to green the space alongside the train line on Day Terrace. Their Bee and Butterfly waterwise garden was planted in May 2019, with our support providing two new water connections to irrigate the garden.

Building our state’s women in STEM

In March 2019, we announced an important partnership with the University of Adelaide to support career and development opportunities for women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Our sponsorship of the University’s 2019 Women in STEM Careers Program, helped 100 women throughout the year through access to workshops focusing on leadership, career development and entrepreneurship.

Supporting one of the largest leaderships for female STEM students in Australia aligns with our ambitious target on the number of female graduates joining our business – 60 per cent by 2024.

This goal is within reach with women making up more than half of our current STEM graduates and 43 per cent of total graduates.

Crystal Brook students have the smarts on water

Crystal Brook Primary School is one of 10 South Australian schools participating in our Smart Water Schools program.

Through the program, students have access to a secure portal gathering real-time information from loggers attached to their site’s smart water meter.

Students from Crystal Brook Primary School showed they have the smarts on water management when they presented findings from their smart water meter study to members of our executive team in August 2018.

The school’s smart meter began delivering water and cost savings shortly after it was installed, helping find a malfunctioning water timer on the school’s irrigation system, which was always on and unnecessarily using up to 11,000 litres a day.

Popular with both students and teachers, the smart meter project links to the Australian Curriculum across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Improving customer service for developers

To better support developers and growth in South Australia, in 2018-19 we made improvements to account management services and access to our people and information. These include:

  • A single point of contact for major developer customers providing a quick response when they need help.
  • A new process for disinfection of assets constructed by developers which resulted in better understanding of the responsibilities of everyone involved.
  • Case managers allocated to land development applications giving customers a direct relationship with our people who deal with their application.
  • Improved access to AquaMap – a system that provides map-based information about our network – is now available making it easy for developers to access network information as they undertake preliminary design work.

In addition, an online service for developers has been scoped ahead of further work in 2019-20.

Land subdivision billing changes

This year we worked with conveyancers and the development industry to change how customers are billed following the subdivision of land.

Acting on feedback from customers and developers, we reviewed the practice which resulted in charges remaining on one billing account through to the end of the financial year, regardless of when a subdivision had taken place. This system was based on the timing of land valuation information received from Land Services SA.

Conveyancers play an important role in calculating settlement payments when a property is subdivided and sold, yet customers who sold newly subdivided blocks would continue to receive SA Water bills with charges that no longer belonged to them.

Our Billing team re-engineered the process to ensure property owners who sell do not receive a bill for the property for the remainder of the financial year after they sell. It also enables the new owners to monitor their water use from the time they buy the property instead of from the next financial year. All process and system changes were made, ready for full implementation from 1 July 2019.

Outback towns join our supply network

The drinking water supply to Copley and Lyndhurst in South Australia’s far north came under our management from August 2018.

Migrating the full provision of water services to our operations followed ongoing engagement with the previous water providers and the local communities. Residents and businesses in both towns were supported through the transition to becoming SA Water customers.

Ongoing water use charges for the 73 new customers in Copley and Lyndhurst have moved to our statewide price, which enables most of our customers to pay the same price regardless of where they live or the actual cost of providing the service.

As with all our residential customers across the state, these communities now benefit from a 24/7 customer response service, access to bill payment support when necessary, and network maintenance provided by a locally-based crew.

Drinking water for both communities continues to be sourced from an existing series of bores near Leigh Creek, which is then desalinated and treated to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Future water supply for Eyre Peninsula

In 2018 we reactivated plans to enhance the Eyre Peninsula’s drinking water supply network with a proposed new seawater desalination plant.

A new seawater desalination plant was identified as the preferred option to supplement future supply in a long-term plan developed with the local community and Natural Resources Management Board in 2008. Community engagement was integral to the development of this plan.

This financial year we have worked with the region’s residents to share details of the plans and receive their feedback to help us as we develop the proposal. Community open days were held in November 2018 in Port Lincoln, Ceduna, Wudinna and Cowell.

Water produced from the proposed desalination plant would supplement groundwater from the Uley South Basin, and may help improve water aesthetic issues such as hardness, a natural characteristic of the region’s groundwater.

A site at Sleaford Bay was identified as the preferred location for a stand-alone desalination plant, based on a number of factors including its proximity to the water supply network, strong ocean currents and accessibility.

Targeted community meetings with traditional and local property owners began in late 2018 to share our planning and investigations associated with the proposal and to talk through site-related issues.

Engagement with the Eyre Peninsula community will continue throughout the planning and construction phases to ensure their interests are being accounted for and opportunities for local knowledge is identified to add value to the delivery of the project.

Water main move supports King William Road renewal

To help facilitate the City of Unley’s redevelopment of King William Road, we relocated about 200 metres of water main under the Hyde Park strip during May and June 2019.

Overnight works kept community impact to a minimum enabling the free flow of traffic during the day and avoiding peak trade periods for businesses on Friday and Saturday nights.

Key to this project’s planning was working with businesses in the area and understanding their individual water needs.

The relocation enables the City of Unley to install new kerbing without damaging our infrastructure and ensures safe access to the water network for any future maintenance.

Recycled water supporting economic growth in the Adelaide Hills

Recycled water supply in the Adelaide Hills is providing great economic and environmental value, while ensuring security of supply and underpinning local business growth.

A new supply of recycled water from our Gumeracha Wastewater Treatment Plant is supporting the expansion of businesses in the Adelaide Hills.

Leading South Australian apple grower Joyson Orchards harvested their first premium Rockit apple crop in autumn 2019, just four years after expanding, enabled by recycled water.

By adapting existing vineyard infrastructure with industry-leading growing techniques, and direct drip feed irrigation, the business is building a resilient and sustainable food production system to meet local and national demand. Growth in the business resulted in two additional full-time jobs and up to 45 seasonal positions.

In 2018-19 we also began working with the community in Hahndorf to explore prospective uses for high quality recycled water from the Hahndorf Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The local community was invited to participate and submit ideas through our Water Talks website as we look to expand our already extensive recycled water network.

The public responded positively with many parties keen to explore the opportunity in more detail. A sustainable approach to the reuse of water is important to South Australians and we will continue to work with customers to develop options for recycled water use in the Adelaide Hills.

Any reuse scheme from the Hahndorf treatment plant will likely be operational within the next four years.

Port Pirie sports new odour dome

A collaboration with the Port Pirie Regional Council has helped ensure the success of the town’s reinvigorated Memorial Oval sporting complex, thanks to the installation of an innovative fibreglass dome above the site’s wastewater ventilation.

With the oval’s proposed two-storey function centre to be built just 15 metres from an existing wastewater vent, the team at our Crystal Brook workshop found an innovative solution to ensure visitor comfort.

To minimise potential odour impacts and ensure visual amenity, a unique one metre green fibreglass dome which uses charcoal to filter odour and gas from the wastewater system, proved the best solution.

Council installed a timber fence around the perimeter of the dome which helps screen the facility while still providing full and easy access for us to maintain the equipment.

Working closely with Council, having early discussions and understanding what we each needed to achieve was key to delivering the best technical solution, and great outcomes for the complex and its thousands of visitors every year.

Car retrieved from Blue Lake/War War

In September 2018 our Mount Gambier-based team, together with crane and diving experts, safely removed a partially-submerged vehicle from the south-east’s iconic Blue Lake/War War.

The car had been floating in a secure, sectioned off part of the reservoir, following an incident in early August.

The retrieval was a complex and delicate process which required considerable planning. The safety of the community and our people was at the forefront during the process.

A dive crew floated the vehicle around 200 metres to the retrieval area, before it was lifted out of the water by a 220 tonne crane with a 71-metre arm, which was situated on a higher level within our pumping station site.

Mount Gambier’s drinking water supply was switched to being sourced from the local bore field during the retrieval as a precaution.

Quick response ensures customer supply on Eyre Peninsula

In February 2019 crews from across the state responded when a truck damaged a water pipeline near Poochera on the western Eyre Peninsula.

A road train collided with an aboveground water pipeline on the Eyre Highway causing damage to about 170 metres of pipeline that delivers water to Ceduna and Streaky Bay. Our crews acted quickly, working together to ensure the situation did not affect supply to these major towns.

Water stored in tanks near Ceduna, Smoky Bay and Streaky Bay ensured ongoing water supply to customers in the three townships, with an alternative water supply available for our approximately 100 farming and residential customers in Poochera.

The repairs proved a large and complex job, with crews coming from a number of our Eyre Peninsula depots and welding teams mobilised or on standby from Crystal Brook, South Para and the Riverland.

About 25 people worked safely and swiftly throughout the weekend to ensure local customers could access water.