Water Workforce Toolbox

Empowering Our People

Demand Management

A permanent reduction in water demand is identical to an increase in supply.

Water demand management may be defined as managing the demand for water to achieve a balance between economic, social equity and environmental outcomes. Such programs incorporate measures that improve water use efficiency, offer the opportunity to reuse and recycle water and minimise water waste.

Effectively managing water demands involves:

understanding how and where water is used

consideration of the costs and benefits of each option and

development and implementation of a demand management program.

From the perspective of Water Service Providers and their customers, a permanent reduction in water demand is identical to an increase in supply. By reducing demand, the costs of transferring and treating water are reduced and the capital investment required to meet the needs of growing communities can be deferred.

Advantages of reduced water use extend beyond these direct supply and financial benefits. From the perspective of the community and business, water bills can remain manageable. The environment can also benefit if there is reduced extraction from rivers and aquifers leading to increased flows which can improve river health. Lower energy consumption also leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described demand management as a no-regrets solution to cope with future vulnerability of water supplies in the face of climate change impact (Bates, 2008).

Over the years, qldwater have produced a range of fact sheets and research papers on the topic. Funding through QWRAP also resulted in a report showcasing demand management programs from across Queensland and a range of tiles with waterwise tips designed to be easily shared by our members. Each tile consists of an interesting graphic designed to be shared on social media platforms along with additional information and tips for each topic. Click on the images to read more.

Asset Criticality

Developing a Statewide Network Asset Criticality Guideline

In early 2020, qldwater and Mackay, Whitsunday and Fraser Coast Regional Councils signed off on a joint research collaboration aimed at developing clear guidance for water service providers to assist in identifying critical assets, determining criticality ratings, and ultimately improve the risk management of critical assets. Leveraging off industry expertise, the three Councils agreed that they needed a consistent framework that was not overly complicated and could be aligned to each organisation’s risk appetite and their relative size.

The result is a Statewide Network Asset Criticality Guideline which allows the participating Councils, as well as other Queensland Water Service Providers, to take a risk-based approach in managing their assets. The joint approach helped to alleviate resource constraints often experienced by small and remote Councils.

What is Asset Criticality?

Asset criticality is a measure of the consequence of failure on a business. It is driven by the following factors:

Criticality is often confused with risk, where risk is actually a combination of criticality (consequence) and the likelihood of failure.

The project started out with a focus on network assets, with phase 2 expanding the asset base to include facility assets such as pump stations and water and sewage treatment plants. The three Councils tested 100 assets against the network assessment tool (Excel spreadsheet) after which it was distributed to volunteer councils along with draft guidelines in mid-November for further feedback. 

Each of the individual investing councils received a criticality assessment framework and customised tools to apply to their respective assets. Once assessed and aligned to a corporate risk framework, it helps target maintenance and renewal programs to better manage risk.

The project was delivered by Moira Zeilinga from Clear Idea - she provided this update as part of the qldwater Essentials Webinar Series:. 

Download the presentation

This project has been a great example of a co-investment model with shared benefits and we are looking forward to being able to share the results with our broader member base.

Asset Management

Using the ISO 55000 series of standards

In 2019 the qldwater TRG hosted a workshop on Asset Management in the urban Water and Sewerage sector. The meeting was attended by more than 60 delegates, with representatives from regional councils, SEQ water utilities and state agencies. The attendees included a delegation from the Solomon Islands.

A theme of the meeting was the trend among councils and utilities to develop their AM systems in line with the ISO 55000 series of standards for asset management, which was launched in 2014. The standard replaced the PAS 55 which had been in use since 2004.

The attractiveness of the ISO 55000 is that it is essentially a business plan, many aspects of which councils as businesses are already following. The ISO 55000 also recognises that people and culture are an important component of an AM strategy.

  • Chris Adams from Strategic AM Pty Ltd presented a case study on the Whitsunday Isaac Mackay (WIM Alliance) ISO 55000 readiness project. Each of the three WIM Alliance councils actively participated in the project. Pursuing the ISO 55000 has resulted in data sharing and cooperation across the WIM Alliance region, with some large-scale regional renewal projects (including sewer relining) under consideration as a result. It has resulted in other benefits including a consistency in system approaches across the region that range from risk management, levels of service, functional descriptions of the assets to asset valuations and asset lives.
  • Aneurin Hughes from the Logan Water Alliance (Cardno) spoke on the journey that Logan City council has taken to align itself to the ISO 55000 without seeking certification. The water and sewerage sector at Logan has a high level of customer satisfaction and is recognised as being among the most important services that the council provides. Under the direction of Daryl Ross (Water Business Manager) the council started four years ago to do their own readiness assessment, beginning with a state of the assets report, with strong engagement from finance division. From this beginning they analysed failures, repairs, sewer blockages and pumping station maintenance data, which had historically been largely overlooked. The new knowledge has been used to develop asset optimisation plans and asset risk ratings. The process is not complete, but there is now a solid framework for AM on which to build.
  • The journey to implement an AM system by the Mackay Regional Council was the subject of a presentation by Jason Cocker, who provided the context for the project and Jacqueline Stewart who spoke about the implementation. The council previously had an ad hoc approach to AM, with data held in spreadsheets, on paper and in diaries of operators. In order to maximise operational planning and proactive maintenance (for a total asset base of $4.3 billion, $1.5 billion of which are W&S assets) the Water Services section initiate a program of new activities. This required a cultural change that included the training of field operators in the use of tablets, a technology with which many were not familiar. After implementation, 50 service staff are now fully trained and engaged with the technology, which has resulted in: data capturing of service against specific assets; improved focus on relevant data collection; increased communication with staff including the improvement in access of staff to payroll and HR services; and increased engagement in AM by service operators. Planned future work includes data cleansing of the asset register and other system improvements and assisting other departments to implement the system.
  • Anna Scott from Gladstone Regional Council spoke about the big changes that the council has gone through to embed an AM culture in the organisation. Prior to the project the council had a traditional structure and there was a desire to improve staff engagement, safety (and audit results), consistency in approach to AM and risk visibility. Under the new structure the focus is strongly on AM with a strategic asset manager (leading a Strategic Asset and Performance team) with oversight across the organisation. The SAP team has a budget for 2019/20 of $12.8 million with 60 active positions, and plans to recruit 7 more, to be funded by efficiencies gained through the new processes.
  • Margit Connellan from Suez provided the perspective from an entity with a mature AM strategy. SA Water, in partnership with Suez and Broadspectrum (a maintenance service provider) sought to improve the maintenance of facilities associated with its pipe network (comprising more than 39,000 pieces of equipment). The team developed a facility level preventative maintenance approach that considered each facility (e.g. a pump station) as a “black box”, without considering detailed equipment. The project resulted in $1.5M/y savings allowing SA Water to improve the understanding of operational risks associated with the assets, establish a common awareness of criticality between operational, maintenance and asset management teams and to challenge existing PM plans against risk to the organisation.
  • Gagneet Serai from Unitywater presented on Unitywater's asset management planning. The Suez model of criticality and condition assessment work forms a major input for sewage treatment plant renewals. The team is seeking to assess the proportion of costs that are spent on reactive maintenance, and the reliability of critical assets. By tracking these monthly, the team can assess if the preventative maintenance is being conducted in time to reduce reactive maintenance. Maintenance and performance data is made available to all staff, from operators to business analysts, through a Power BI dashboard which can be used as an agreed basis for root cause analysis that can feed back into the AM plan. The data has enabled Unitywater to develop financial models for renewal investment based on the differing level of service scenarios (breaks and leaks), and to understand the risk distribution across its W&S network.
  • Troy Kasper from Logan City Council's presentation spoke to the second key theme of the meeting: the looming infrastructure cliff. In 2014 the council examined the failure of AC mains over the previous two years and examined the pipe age at the time of renewal. They found that the frequency of pipe failure was strongly correlated with the reactivity of the soils in which they were laid. Since then, opportunistic condition assessments of AC pipes have been undertaken during the replacement of main tee joints installed prior to 1980, consisting of hardness tests and phenolphthalein penetration tests, which show the degree to which the concrete in the pipe has disintegrated. Analysis of 328 samples yielded poor correlation between pipe age and effective thickness. This has been followed more recently by burst pressure testing of unlined AC pipe samples recovered from the replacement program. The results were widely variable, with as an example of the two extremes: a pipe with 40% effective thickness that burst at 589 metres of head; and a pipe with 100% effective thickness that burst at 209 metres of head. Analysis of failure modes in the AC pipes showed that 47% of the failures were pressure related.
  • Historical research undertaken into the manufacture of the AC pipes showed that the manufacturing process was known even at the time to result in variable product quality. Given this knowledge, the Logan City Council will undertake pressure management to prolong the life of the mains and base their replacement program on main failure rates instead of main age, while continuing to perform condition assessment on replaced pipes. Based on the outcomes of this study, Logan believe that the projected life of some of their AC mains could possibly exceed 100 years.
  • Stuart Wilson from WSAA spoke on the wider implications of the infrastructure cliff, which he referred to as the bow wave. In real terms there has been negative growth in W&S prices since 2013. The annual revenue required by a business is made up of three components: return on assets, operations and maintenance and regulatory depreciation. Future costs and prices are driven in a large part by capital costs which constitute nearly 60% of total costs. These in turn are disguised by the current environment of unprecedented lows in interest rates. There is continuing population growth in Australian cities, exacerbated by the common failure to realise the full costs of providing services to new developments.
  • The financial theme was also taken up by Chris Adam from Strategic AM Pty Ltd who spoke on demystifying the accounting/engineering interface by busting a few financial “myths”. Business costs of commercialised water businesses are divided into four quadrants: depreciation, operations and maintenance, interest and redemption on loans, and tax equivalents and dividends. Capital investment drives depreciation and underpins operations and maintenance spending and is the source of the debt that interest and redemptions. In Queensland 70-80% of operational costs are capital related, thus an error in capex spend can affect ongoing costs for decades. These errors can be reduced by conducting long term financial modelling and having a good understanding of the business' cost structure.
  • Engineers and accountants typically also have a different view of the meaning of depreciation. Accountants understand depreciation as being the decline in the economic value of the assets, which for simplicity is often expressed as a linear or curved relationship whereas engineers think of this as the physical degradation of the asset, which can be a logarithmic or more complex relationship. The consequence of this is that the renewals cost does not equal the depreciation cost, and thus the business financials may not provide a true picture of the value or state of the assets. This confusion adds to the complexity of managing assets to provide adequate levels of service while optimising costs.

Emergency Management

Useful Links

State Disaster Management

State Emergency Service

Queensland Reconstruction Authority

QPS Disaster Management - links to Queensland Police Service website