SA Water is working to overcome the challenges of supplying safe and reliable drinking water to some of its most remote customers.
The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in the far north-west corner of the state, are home to about 2300 people who live in communities spread across 103,000 square kilometres of arid land.
SA Water has worked with nine of these communities since 2005, and took on the management of local water services in an additional four locations – Kanpi, Nyapari, Watinuma and Murputja – in late 2017.
At the time, drinking water for these communities was sourced from local groundwater supplies. There was no central management of water services, and they didn’t meet process requirements and health objectives of the SA Safe Drinking Water Act (2011), which is based on the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Since taking on the new locations, SA Water has completed a number of infrastructure projects aimed at improving the safety and reliability of drinking water.
At Watinuma, the utility replaced water storage, treatment and distribution infrastructure. It also upgraded two bores (one solar and one electric), installing smart meters to monitor water use, a new remotely monitored computer system, and a 10 kW solar and battery storage facility to provide back-up power.
SA Water General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation Anna Jackson said supplying water to such a vast, remote area brings unique challenges, which means the utility needs to think outside the box.
“In Adelaide, we have access to multiple sources to derive drinking water from, and if something needs to be fixed, a crew is never far away,” Jackson said.
“It’s not that simple in the Lands, so we’re making sure the water systems here are durable and sustainable.
“The use of solar and battery not only helps reduce our costs and environmental footprint, but when needed, it is a reliable alternative to conventional electricity supply, given the region’s usual warm climate and plentiful sunlight.”
In Murputja, work is underway on a new desalination treatment and storage plant, which will be powered by a 24 kW solar and battery system. The plant will also supply drinking water to the nearby communities of Kanpi and Nyapari through a planned 12 km of pipeline.
As in Watinuma and other APY Lands communities, smart meters and a computer monitoring system will also be fitted on-site.
Jackson said SA Water’s projects in the APY Lands are community driven, with the utility’s Remote Communities team working with local people during the engagement, planning, design and construction phases, and for ongoing management and maintenance.
“Building relationships between the communities and our team is fundamental to ensuring our water infrastructure works for the area and meets the needs of the people it’s serving,” she said.
“Water is essential for drinking and maintaining public health, but it’s also vital for sustaining opportunities for growth and development of the communities it’s supplied to.”