Our environmental performance

Our environmental performance

Sustainable practice and good environmental management helps us:

  • effectively manage sewage (wastewater) overflows
  • minimise discharges from wastewater treatment plants
  • effectively manage biosolids and hazardous wastes
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions

We monitor and review our environmental performance, and continue to develop new ways of reducing the impact of our work.

To understand how we safely manage our wastewater treatment plants, or to join the conversation and share your ideas, visit our Wastewater Treatment Plant WaterTalks page.

Our commitment to the environment

Through our strategy and planning, we are responding to climate change with a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to a changed climate, and contributing to climate change research. We identify ways our water supplies and infrastructure could be at risk because of climate change, helping us to protect and sustain services for our community.

With the aim to identify and assess the potential environmental impacts of our projects and activities, we complete environmental and heritage assessments to identify potential impacts on the environment during project design and construction.

Asbestos in cement pipes

About 42 per cent of our water network has cement pipes that contain bonded, non-friable asbestos. These pipes are widely used for water supply throughout Australia and across the world.

The World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Drinking Water Guidelines confirm presence of asbestos cement pipes within water networks does not pose a public health risk.

Environmental compliance

Compliance with Environmental Protection obligations 

(including water resources)

This measure tracks formal notifications from regulators confirming breaches under 9 pieces of legislation. These include:

  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999
  • Water Act 2007
  • Landscape South Australia Act 2019
  • Environment Protection Act 1993
  • Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988
  • Heritage Places Act 1993
  • Native Vegetation Act 1991
  • Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007
  • Development Act 1993

In the 2020-21 period SA Water achieved a result of 99.1% compliance against environmental legislation relevant to the business.

During this period SA Water received a formal notification from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) following a wastewater discharge incident at the Normanville WWTP in September 2020.

In November 2020, the EPA issued a notice of intent to investigate SA Water in relation to the incident, alleging SA Water failed to comply with condition 1.3 of the EPA licence for the site which states: The licensee must take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent wastewater or contaminated stormwater from discharging onto land/or into waters.

The EPA have since concluded SA Water contravened the EP Act 1993 and have invited SA Water to negotiate a civil penalty in lieu of criminal prosecution.

Environmental performance

Environment Incidents

An environmental incident is an accident, spill, emergency or a near miss that causes or threatens to cause environmental harm.

An environmental incident may be classified as a Type 1, Type 2 or Type 3.

Type 1 Environmental Incidents are incidents that cause or threaten to cause serious or material environmental harm.

Type 2 Environmental Incidents are incidents that cause or could cause environmental harm but are not of high impact or on a wide scale.

Type 3 environmental incidents have potential to cause environmental nuisance but are minor in nature and require no or minimal remedial action to be taken. Type 3 incidents are not required to be reported to EPA.

Type 1 and 2 incidents are reportable to EPA.

The majority of environmental incidents are caused by:

  • accidental spillages from the sewerage system that impact on water courses; or
  • the uncontrolled discharge of chlorinated water that impact on water courses.

There are a range of criteria that differentiate Type 1 and Type 2 incidents that are agreed by EPA and Department of Health and Wellbeing based on the volume of discharge and the location of the impacted environment.

Total Type 1 and 2 Environmental Incidents over the past 5 years

 

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

2019-20

2020-21

Total Type 1 Environmental Incidents

10

7

15

17

7

Total Type 2 Environmental Incidents

136

185

200

186

203

Environmental Incidents that result in emissions to the environment

The failure or blockage of mains and pump stations may result in treated water or untreated effluent entering watercourses causing environmental harm. Environmental incidents of this nature are recorded and reported to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) where required. Details of these incidents can be seen in the table below.

Environmental Wastewater Incident Type

Result

2016-17

Result

2017-18

Result

2018-19

Result

2019-20

Result

2020-21

Wastewater network overflows and spills entering water courses or stormwater systems (including wastewater pumping stations)(Types 1 and 2)

104

100

124

142

137

Overflows from wastewater pumping stations in Adelaide (including SA Power Network failures)

11

3

6

4

1

Overflows from wastewater pumping stations in country (including SA Power Network failures)

3

5

3

8

1

Environmental Water Incident Type

Mains water discharges (unplanned) (Types 1 and 2)

25

79

81

49

51