Water quality

Water quality

SA Health statement

SA Health and SA Water continued to work cooperatively and successfully throughout 2018-19 to ensure the protection of public health in relation to the supply of safe, clean drinking water across South Australia. SA Water complied with all requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 including the notification of incidents under the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol.

SA Water collected 46,118 samples from drinking water supplies throughout the state. Samples were analysed for compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) (ADWG) and results were reported to SA Health in line with agreed reporting protocols. Compliance with the ADWG for E. coli was achieved in 100 per cent of metropolitan Adelaide samples, 99.99 per cent of country samples and 100 per cent of remote Aboriginal community samples. Overall compliance with the ADWG for health-related parameters was 100 per cent for metropolitan systems, 99.90 per cent for country areas and 99.49 per cent for remote community supplies.

The total number of incidents reported by SA Water in 2018-19 was significantly lower in comparison to the previous financial year. A reduction was observed across a range of incident categories including detections of enteric protozoa and exceedances of ADWG values for health-related inorganic chemicals and disinfection-by-products. Incidents in relation to the detection of high numbers of cyanobacteria in source water also decreased significantly. A trend in decreasing numbers of incidents has been observed over the past few years and could be attributed to a number of factors including improvements in source water quality and enhanced treatment implemented by SA Water.

Water quality incidents were notified by SA Water in a timely manner. Appropriate remedial actions were implemented and ensured that the protection of public health was maintained at all times. No incidents required public notification during the reporting period.

Safe drinking water legislation

The Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 (the Act) provides the regulatory framework for drinking water providers in South Australia and is administered primarily by SA Health with assistance from local government. Provisions in the Act are underpinned by the ADWG and prescribe requirements for drinking water providers, including:

  • registration of drinking water providers with SA Health
  • development and implementation of risk management plans (RMPs)
  • establishment of approved drinking water quality monitoring programs
  • notification of incidents or noncompliance
  • audits and inspections to determine compliance with the Act
  • use of National Association of Testing Authorities accredited laboratories for sample testing
  • reporting of water quality test results to SA Health and providing consumers with drinking water quality information.

SA Water is registered as a drinking water provider and has established RMPs including approved monitoring programs and an incident notification protocol. SA Water provided water quality testing reports for metropolitan, country and remote community water supplies on a monthly basis with results showing a very high level of compliance.

Under the Act, SA Water is required to undergo an annual independent audit. In 2018-19, the fifth audit of SA Water was undertaken since commencement of the Act. A number of representative SA Water drinking water supplies were included in the audit. The audit outcomes were consistently positive and noted that SA Water was operating in compliance with the requirements and intent of the Act.

Compliance improved relative to the four previous audits and no significant non-compliances were detected.

Further information on the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 can be found at sahealth.sa.gov.au/safedrinkingwateract.

Additional information about water quality can be found at sawater.com.au.

Catchment to tap

We manage drinking water quality from catchment to tap in line with our Drinking Water Quality Management System to ensure a consistent and reliable supply of high quality, safe drinking water for our customers.

This management system is based on the Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality outlined in the ADWG and endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The framework outlines good drinking water supply management, based on the best available scientific evidence that will assure drinking water quality and safety at the tap.

Water quality monitoring and testing

To ensure the quality of our product, we have SA Health-approved drinking water quality monitoring programs across metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities of South Australia, from catchment to tap, including field and laboratory tests.

We monitor for health and aesthetic compliance and to optimise water quality. Samples are collected by our trained field workers to ensure they are taken correctly, and field results have a  high degree of integrity. Laboratory analyses are carried out by our Australian Water Quality Centre in accordance with ISO 9001 Quality Systems and the requirements of the National Association of Testing Authorities.

The following table summarises routine monitoring and testing activities in our SA Health-registered drinking water supply systems in 2018-19.

Number of sample taps and test analytes – statewide, metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities water supply systems, 2018-19

Drinking water systems

Statewide

Metropolitan

Country

Remote Aboriginal Communities

Supply systems

87

8

60

19

Customer tap sample locations

490

186

285

19

Catchment to tap sample locations*

1,439

372

950

117

Catchment to tap routine test analytes

372,352

72,279

289,997

10,076

* Includes drinking water customer taps

Drinking water quality and performance

To ensure the quality of our product, we perform extensive water quality monitoring across metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities of South Australia, from catchment to tap, including field and laboratory tests.

We monitor for health and aesthetic compliance and to optimise water quality. Samples are collected by our trained field workers to ensure they are taken correctly and field results have a high degree of integrity. Laboratory analyses are carried out by our Australian Water Quality Centre in accordance with ISO 9001 Quality Systems and the requirements of the National Association of Testing Authorities.

The following table summarises routine monitoring and testing activities in our water supply systems in 2017-18.

Number of sample taps and test analytes – metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities water supply systems, 2017-18

Drinking water systems

Metropolitan

Country

Remote Aboriginal Communities

Total

Supply systems

8

60

20

88

Customer taps

188

291

20

499

Catchment to tap sample taps*

373

950

117

1 440

Catchment to tap routine test analytes

79 102

288 743

5 104

372 949

* Includes drinking water customer taps

Drinking water quality and performance

In 2018-19, we demonstrated robust management of water quality by consistently providing safe, clean drinking water for our customers.

The following table summarises our performance for health-related parameters of routine samples at customer taps.

Statewide, metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities drinking water supply systems health related performance, 2018-19

Health-related parameters

Statewide systems

(number of test analytes)

Metropolitan systems

(number of test analytes)

Country systems

(number of test analytes)

Remote Aboriginal Communities

(number of test analytes)

Samples free from E. coli

99.99% (10,560)

100% (3,309)

99.99% (7,151)

100% (100)

Samples compliant with ADWG health parameters*#

99.92% (46,118)

Target: 99.90%

100% (13,408)

Target: 100%

99.90% (32,126)

Target: 99.80%

99.49% (584)

Target: 99.80%

* Percentage of routine results at customer taps within drinking water systems which comply with the ADWG health limits (including E. coli).

# Direct exceedances of the ADWG were used rather than the 95th percentiles for compliance of individual chemical parameters.

# Prior to calculating per cent compliance for health-related chemicals, individual results are rounded to the same number ­of significant figures as the guideline value in the ADWG (as prescribed in the ADWG and agreed with SA Health).

We analysed 46,118 routine test analytes from our drinking water supplies throughout South Australia to determine health related compliance.

  • We achieved 99.99 per cent E. coli compliance across customer taps with an exception in one country system.
  • Compliance with ADWG health-related parameters across customer taps was above target at 99.92 per cent.

Although we aim for 100 per cent compliance, the ADWG recognises that occasional exceedances may occur. In accordance with the guidelines and the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol, all detections were immediately communicated to SA Health, investigated by us and corrective actions implemented as agreed with SA Health.

SA Health has confirmed that drinking water provided to customers by us was safe and appropriate responses and corrective actions were implemented in all cases and these mitigated any risks to public health.

The greatest challenge to country compliance is disinfection by-products due to several South Australian source waters containing high amounts of natural organic matter. We have identified these systems and are proactively implementing management strategies to address these situations.

In 2018-19 we successfully changed how we disinfect the filtered water delivered to the Myponga township from chlorine to chloramine. This change is the first step to convert the entire Myponga drinking water system, which serves a large proportion of the Fleurieu Peninsula, to chloramine which will help mitigate the disinfection by-products challenges faced in this system, as well as having the added benefit of improving the taste and smell of the water.

In late 2017 we took on the Aboriginal communities ground water supply systems of Kanpi and Murputja. At that time, these supplies did not meet all the process requirements and health objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 and have naturally occurring fluoride above the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011). A water supply upgrade project is underway which will see Kanpi, Murputja and Nyapari water supplies merged, and the installation of a reverse osmosis treatment plant to remove the elevated fluoride. This project will improve the compliance and reliability of drinking water for the people living in these communities.

Incident management

We are committed to applying the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) (ADWG) Framework for Management of Drinking Water Quality which includes two components for the management of incidents and emergencies:

  • communication
  • incident and emergency response protocols.

We have a Water Quality Incident and Emergency Management Protocol in place and a web-based incident management system to record and generate notification of water quality incidents. These are in line with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol that is maintained by SA Health to adopt the principles of the ADWG and satisfy requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 and Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2012.

SA Health defines three types of health-related incident classifications based on a precautionary approach:

  1. Priority Type 1 incident notification

    An incident that, without immediate appropriate response or intervention, could cause serious risk to human health and is likely to require immediate interagency meetings to consider responses. Procedures for Type 1 incident notifications also apply.

  2. Type 1 incident notification

    An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, could cause serious risk to human health.

  3. Type 2 incident notifications

An incident that, without appropriate response or intervention, represents a low risk to human health.

Following is a comparative summary of the Priority Type 1, Type 1 and Type 2 incident notifications reported against the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol.

Statewide supplies (metropolitan, country, and remote Aboriginal communities)

Reporting period

Priority Type 1

Type 1

Type 2

2018-19

1

24

54

2017-18*

2

42

90

2016-17#

2

48

159

2015-16

4

32

74

2014-15

1

43

84

Note: these notifications do not include wastewater, recycled water and non-drinking supplies.

* Remote Aboriginal communities incidents included in annual reporting from 2017-18. In 2018-19, there was one Type 1

and no Type 2 incident reported in remote Aboriginal communities.

# Impacted by River Murray blackwater event.

Priority Type 1 and Type 1 incidents are immediately reported to SA Health, while all Type 2 notifications are reportable within 24 hours, in line with the interagency Water/ Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol. In 2018-19, the numbers of incident notifications decreased significantly when compared with 2017-18. This can be attributed to a reduction in cyanobacteria, disinfection by-products and enteric protozoa incidents, primarily due to improved process monitoring and control systems at water treatment plants and improved source water quality in the River Murray.

In 2018-19, we continued our focus on early detection and reporting to external agencies, briefing the Minister for Environment and Water in accordance with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol, ensuring prompt corrective action and addressing the causes of preventable Type 1 notifications, such as disinfection failures and filtered water turbidity exceedances. Strategies employed to achieve this include optimisation of our drinking water quality monitoring program, ongoing operational and capital improvements, and continuous improvement of our Drinking Water Quality Management System.

The proactive water quality management of targeted individual water supply systems and detection and management of risks continued during 2018-19. Changes in reporting criteria issued by SA Health in the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol also occurred and contributed to a change in reporting requirements.

Incident Response Index

The Incident Response Index (IRI) drives and guides correct responses when a Priority Type 1 or Type 1 incident is detected. The IRI is assessed against a number of criteria, with each component in the IRI designed to assist the management of water quality incidents, including reporting, initial response and longer term preventive measures.

The overall 2018-19 strategic target for the IRI is 85 per cent compliance.

Criteria used in the Incident Response Index (based on total reportable SA Health Priority Type 1 and Type 1 incident notifications)

Incident reported to relevant agencies by phone immediately (less than one hour)

Overall strategic 2018-19 target: 85%

Incident entered into the incident management system in less than two hours

Initial effective response taken within three hours

Written report to Minister for Environment and Water by 3pm next business day, in accordance with the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol

Root cause analysis completed within 10 working days

Preventive actions implemented within agreed timeframes

The continual review and improvement of our incident management processes has positively impacted our overall water quality incident response and performance, maintaining an overall score well above our target.

The Incident Response Index (IRI) achieved in metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities and overall for 2018-19 compared to 2017-18

System

IRI 2017-18

IRI 2018-19

Metropolitan

97%

99%

Country

92%

97%

Remote Aboriginal communities

65%

67%

Overall (weighted combined metropolitan, country and remote Aboriginal communities)

90%

96%

Focus for 2019-20

In 2019-20 we will:

  • Continue to improve our online incident management system for reporting and management of water quality incidents and hazards.
  • Conduct refresher training on the Water Quality Incident and Emergency Management Protocol for country, metropolitan and remote Aboriginal communities incident managers.
  • Continue to work collaboratively with SA Health in the review and update of the interagency Water/Wastewater Incident Notification and Communication Protocol.
  • Streamline our incident management procedures to support our incident managers in their response.

Safe Drinking Water Act audit

In November 2018, we were audited under the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 (the Act) and successfully met all our legislative requirements. The successful outcome of the audit found:

  • We operate in compliance with both the explicit requirements and the implied intent of the Act, Regulation, SA Health audit report template and the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) (ADWG). Our people and contractors consistently demonstrated this compliance and understanding of the need for such compliance.
  • The audited sites and systems demonstrated improved compliance relative to the four previous audits (2014 to 2017) and showed positive responses to findings from those previous audits. The result was evidence of continual improvement in the spirit of the ADWG.
  • The expertise in water quality management of our people was impressive and the auditor had confidence in how we discharged our responsibilities and showed our genuine organisational commitment to water quality management.
  • The standard of our supporting systems was high and all twelve elements of the ADWG Framework were fully implemented.

Overall it was concluded that our water quality management planning was mature, embedded, extensive and comprehensive.

The audit result demonstrates the good level of collaboration across the business, with our contract partners, and SA Health.

There were no significant non-compliances from the audit, however several observations or opportunities for improvements were identified. These included actions such as further reducing drinking water safety and quality risks associated with power failures. We will take formal and systematic steps to review and address these opportunities in addition to the many other  improvements we have planned.

  • Major faults

  • Underway

  • Anzac Hwy
  • Glenelg East
  • 15/12/2019
  • Water Supply On
  • 15/12/2019 05:15 PM - We are attending to an incident in Glenelg East with no interruption to the water supply. The safety of our crews and customers comes first, and we always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as quickly as we can. Reference Number WO: 07254795.
  • See all major faults

  • Scheduled works

  • Underway
  • Sprod Av
  • Toorak Gardens
  • 15/12/2019
  • Temporary Supply Interruption
  • Estimated start time and water supply off: 17/12/2019 09:00 AM
    Estimated restore time and water supply back on: 17/12/2019 06:00 PM

    We’re improving your services and undertaking maintenance work in Toorak Gardens. Sometimes our crews need to temporarily interrupt the water supply to our customers and/or manage traffic while they are working. Temporary traffic management may remain in place until reinstatement of the impacted road is complete. We always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as safely and quickly as we can.


  • See all scheduled works