A focus on getting the basics right has led to continual improvement for SA Water, with the utility’s latest report card showing an 8% drop in customer complaints.
In a review of SA Water’s performance during the 2017-18 financial year, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) found the utility met or exceeded 15 of its 18 service standards. The remaining three standards were considered “met on best endeavours” as they were within 1% or less of the target.
ESCOSA measured the business’ performance against its regulatory requirements, including customer service, the financial assistance provided to customers, and the reliability of drinking water and sewerage services.
SA Water General Manager of Customer Delivery Kerry Rowlands said the utility is improving outcomes for its 1.7 million customers by balancing the basics with innovation.
“We achieved some great results, and this was made possible through strategic investment, increasing our focus on learning more about our customers’ expectations, ongoing training of our people, and implementation of new and emerging technology,” Rowlands said.
Along with a 7.6% drop in customer complaints (from 1909 to 1763), the review showed a 26% reduction in the number of complaints made about SA Water to the South Australian Energy and Water Ombudsman.
Rowlands said this shows SA Water is resolving complaints before customers feel the need to approach the independent arbiter.
“Feedback from our customers is crucial to improving how we operate and do business with them, so while we’d naturally like to receive fewer complaints, when people do write or call us, it’s important their issue is resolved and they still have a good experience in the process,” she said.
Sewers get smart
The report also highlighted areas of improvement for the utility, such as reducing faults across its almost 9000 kilometre sewer network. SA Water attended about 7500 sewage overflow events in 2017-18, which it aims to reduce through a $5 million trial of smart sewer technology.
“We need to keep doing our part; in addition to our ongoing sewer main renewal program, we’ve also begun piloting the use of smart technology in two targeted areas, with the aim of reducing the impact of sewer faults on our customers,” Rowlands said.
This includes installing 88 level, 13 pressure and two water quality sensors to detect sewer pipe blockages in Stonyfell, an Adelaide suburb with higher than average rates of sewer overflows.
It has also set up 88 odour detection sensors and a weather station at Gawler to build a better understanding of odour behaviour and movement.
The introduction of smart sewer technology comes after the utility installed a smart water network in the Adelaide central business district in July 2017, which it said has so far prevented 30 water main breaks and leaks. The system has now been installed at four more locations across the state.
“As we learn more about the technology and how we can best use the data it produces, we expect benefits for our customers and the wider community to grow even further, including reducing the number of temporary disruptions to supply and inconvenience for commuters on arterial roads,” Rowlands said.
For a full copy of ESCOSA’s report, visit escosa.sa.gov.au.