-
Sydney Water Annual Report 2009
Sustainability indicators
 
Water and wastewater system performance targets were met.
-

In this section:

 

 
-

-

Customer satisfaction
Performance: Customer satisfaction with service delivery remained high. There was a reduction in billing complaints related to meter reading issues. The number of noise and odour complaints increased by 23%. Complaints began to decrease after measures to better manage odours were put in place.

-

Indicator: Average rating of the overall quality of service delivered by Sydney Water, through customer surveys

Sydney Water measures its quality of service through the annual Customer Relationship Study. More than 1,300 customers were interviewed for this study in 2008–09. Some were chosen at random and others had recently interacted with Sydney Water staff. Customers in the latter group had either contacted Sydney Water about a service fault or with a general enquiry, taken part in water saving programs or rebate offers, or lived close to construction activity.

Customers were asked: ‘Taking into account all aspects of what they do, how do you rate the overall quality of service delivered by Sydney Water?‘ and requested to allocate a score ranging from zero (‘extremely poor‘) to 10 (‘excellent‘). The results showed that customers have a positive view of the overall quality of Sydney Water‘s service, with an average satisfaction rate of 7.3, compared with 7.2 out of 10 the previous year.

Average customer rating of the overall quality of service

 

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

Average customer rating

6.9

7.2

7.3

 

Indicator: Total number and the number per 1,000 properties of complaints received

During 2008–09, Sydney Water‘s Customer Contact Centre received more than 862,000 calls. Of these, 12,363 were complaints. This was about 18% less than the previous year and equal to 7.05 complaints per 1,000 properties.

The decrease in complaints was largely due to improved performance by Sydney Water‘s meter reading contractor. For further details, please refer to the indicator on account complaints below.

If a customer is dissatisfied with Sydney Water‘s proposed solution or the action taken to resolve a complaint, they may contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW (EWON). EWON has an independent and alternative means to review customer complaints. This indicator includes complaints made to EWON.

Total number and the number per 1,000 properties of complaints received 2003–04 to 2008–09

Indicator measure

2003
–04

2004
–05

2005
–06

2006
–07

2007
–08

2008
–09

Total number of complaints  (including those received by EWON)

8,736

8,762

9,313

9,643

15,165

12,363

Total number of complaints per 1,000 properties

5.26

5.20

5.46

5.60

8.73

7.05

 

Indicator: Total number and number per 1,000 properties of complaints relating to account payments, billing errors or overcharging

Billing complaints generally relate to estimations or errors in meter reading, payment details, water usage and service charges.

During 2008–09, Sydney Water received 7,342 billing complaints (59% of total complaints), which equals 4.18 complaints per 1,000 properties. This is a 21% reduction from 2007–08, although still 74% higher than in 2006–07.

There were fewer complaints in 2008–09 largely because the company contracted to read meters improved its performance. When the new contract began on 1 October 2007, a high turnover of meter readers led to increased reading errors and adjustments. As staffing levels stabilise and meter readers become more familiar with their territory, fewer reading errors will occur and fewer meters will be listed as unable to be read.

Total number and number per 1,000 properties of billing complaints 2003–04 to 2008–09

Indicator measure

2003
–04

2004
–05

2005
–06

2006
–07

2007
–08

2008
–09

Total number of billing complaints

3,538

4,758

4,165

4,219

9,246

7,342

Total number of billing complaints per 1,000 properties

2.13

2.82

2.44

2.45

5.32

4.18

 

Indicator: The percentage of complaints received by Sydney Water that were resolved within 10 days

Sydney Water aims to resolve customer enquiries and complaints quickly, efficiently and to the customer‘s satisfaction.

In 2008–09, 91% of complaints were resolved within 10 days, a slight improvement on previous years. Sydney Water is developing a new customer management system to more accurately capture and report on how complaints are managed.

Percentage of complaints received by Sydney Water that are resolved within 10 days 2003–04 to 2008–09

2003–04

2004–05

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

92.9%

93.3%

89.7%

89.5%

89.9%

91.0%

Note: Complaints to the Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW are not lodged with Sydney Water and are therefore not included in this indicator.

 

-

Social assistance
Performance: The number of short-term payment extensions increased. Sydney Water continued to support customers experiencing difficulties.

-

Indicator: The total number and number per 1,000 properties of contacts received by Sydney Water that are requests for instalment or deferred payment plans.

Sydney Water can offer extended terms or instalment plans to customers who are finding it difficult to pay their bills. Most customers offered assistance pay within agreed timeframes.

In 2008–09, there was a 25% increase in the number of requests for instalment or deferred payment arrangements. Most requests were for short-term extensions of time to pay.

Requests for instalment or deferred payment plans

Indicator measure

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

Total number of requests for instalment or deferred payment plans

85,448

105,549

111,138

139,312

Total number of requests for instalment or deferred payment plans per 1,000 properties

50.08

61.32

64.00

79.39

 

Indicator: The total number and number per 1,000 properties of instalment plans continuing for two or more consecutive quarters (classified by residential and non-residential customers)

In 2008–09, there were 52 residential customers who paid their bills via instalment plans that continued for two or more consecutive quarters. No non-residential customers paid via extended terms.

The numbers are relatively low and have been decreasing gradually since 2006–07 for residential customers.

The total number and number per 1,000 properties of instalment plans continuing for two or more consecutive quarters 2005–06 to 2008–09

Indicator
parameters

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

Number of residential customers

12

58

55

52

Number of residential customers per 1,000 properties

0.008

0.036

0.034

0.032

Number of non-residential customers

0

2

3

0

Number of non-residential customers per 1,000 properties

0

0.016

0.023

0

 

-

Service quality and system performance
Performance: Water and wastewater system performance targets met.

-

Indicator: Frequency of planned and unplanned water interruptions

In 2008–09, the average number of properties experiencing planned and unplanned water interruptions was 0.24, the lowest result in the past four years. A planned interruption means that a customer has received notice that their water supply will be interrupted, in accordance with Sydney Water‘s customer contract. Planned interruptions are necessary to maintain and renew the water network. The number of properties affected by a planned water interruption depends on the amount and type of work needed.

Sydney Water‘s Operating Licence requires that no more than 32,000 properties be affected by planned interruptions lasting more than five hours in a financial year. In 2008–09, 10,923 properties were affected, down from 16,576 in 2007–08.

Unplanned water interruptions can be caused by water main breaks and leaks, damage caused by third parties carrying out construction work near Sydney Water infrastructure, and power failures.

The Operating Licence requires that no more than 35,000 properties be affected by unplanned water interruptions for more than five hours a year. Sydney Water met this requirement in 2008–09, with 25,656 properties affected.

The number of properties experiencing an unplanned interruption of more than five hours has generally increased since 2004–05. The inclusion of response times for water main breaks in the 2005–10 Operating Licence has meant more properties are affected by unplanned water service interruptions for more than five hours each year.

For information on Sydney Water‘s water main break response times, see the indicator Response times for water main breaks and leaks.

planned water interruption

unplanned interruption

 

Indicator: Response times for water main breaks and leaks

Water main breaks and leaks are prioritised according to severity. The priority system ranges from 1 (least urgent) to 6 (most urgent). Sydney Water‘s Operating Licence sets targets for the percentage of jobs to be finished within set response times for Priority 4, 5 and 6 breaks and leaks.

Response times are measured from the time Sydney Water receives notification of a break or leak to the time Sydney Water stops the loss of water.

In 2008–09, Sydney Water complied with all response time targets with the exception of the requirement to stop the loss of water from all Priority 4 leakage-related jobs within five days. However, the Operating Licence recognises that this requirement is not achievable and requires that Sydney Water provide the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) with a breakdown of the cause of any non-compliance.

To reduce impact on customers from water main breaks and leaks, Sydney Water:

  • allocates maintenance crews to the areas of highest workload
  • supplements maintenance crews with other staff from lower priority project-based work
  • uses contractors for low risk repairs.

Response times for water main breaks and leaks

Priority

Work orders
2008-09

Response Times

Target

Compliance
2006–07

Compliance
2007–08

Compliance
2008–09

6

249

<=2hrs

70%

86.9%

77.9%

78.3%

<=3hrs

90%

94.2%

91.6%

90.8%

5

5,020

<=3hrs

65%

71.0%

72.1%

73.1%

<=6hrs

85%

92.6%

92.9%

93.7%

4

1,985

Before next working day

50%

79.6%

76.4%

80.5%

<=5 days

100%

96.0%

96.6%

98.3%

Total

7,254

         

Indicator: Low water pressure

Water pressure is a measure of the force by which water moves from mains into customers‘ pipes. Sydney Water‘s Operating Licence requires that it monitor and report the number of properties affected by low water pressure, and specifies that no more than 15,000 properties should experience water pressure below a set level.

Water pressure is considered low if less than 15 metres pressure head is measured for a continuous period of 15 minutes or more where a main connects to a property.

In 2008–09, 1,093 properties experienced low water pressure compared to 345^ in 2007–08, but this figure was still well below the Operating Licence limit. More than 90% of these properties lost pressure due to two unusual events:

  • A booster pumping station had a faulty pressure gauge which gave a false high reading (affecting 731 properties in the Potts Hills system).
  • Some customers were temporarily rezoned to an area with reduced pressure to allow repairs to a large trunk main at Illawarra (affecting 219 properties in the Potts Hills system).

The number of properties affected by low water pressure has been consistently well below the Operating Licence standard of 15,000 properties since 2004–05 and has trended downwards from 2004–05 to 2007–08.

Low water pressure can occur during maintenance of water assets or as a result of system design constraints, particularly when properties are:

  • connected to a temporary water service during water main repair work
  • located too high relative to the supplying reservoir
  • at the end of the customer supply system, where pressure may drop during higher demand periods.

^Correction: The 200708 Sustainability Indicators Report stated that 368 properties experienced low water pressure. This figure should have been 345.

 

Indicator: Frequency of sewer main breaks and blockages per 1,000 properties

The number of sewer main breaks and blockages per 1,000 properties decreased from 8.96 in 2007–08 to 7.04 in 2008–09. Sydney Water‘s proactive works programs contributed to the reduced number of chokes and blockages.

Tree roots cause 75% to 80% of all sewer breaks and blockages. In dry years, tree roots seek moisture more aggressively and enter pipes through joints and cracks. There are an estimated 23,000 km of private sewer lines connected to Sydney Water‘s sewers. Tree roots entering via private sewer lines cause approximately 30% of chokes in Sydney Water‘s sewers.

Sydney Water‘s 2005–10 dry weather choke management strategy continues to improve long-term system performance. The strategy aims to:

  • reduce sewage overflows to waterways and on large multiple occupancy properties
  • reduce the impact on customers of repeat sewage overflows inside homes and on properties generally.

More than $34 million was spent in 2008–09 to improve the wastewater system‘s dry weather performance. This included sums spent on cleaning ($7.9 million reactive and $1.8 million planned), repairing ($1.4 million reactive and $4.3 million planned) and relining pipes ($18.7 million).

Sydney Water will continue to focus on managing sewer main breaks and blockages over the coming years.

 

Indicator: Properties affected by uncontrolled sewage overflows

To protect public health, the wastewater system contains about 3,000 points designed to dispose of storm overflows. However, overflows sometimes occur from other points not designed for this purpose. These events are known as uncontrolled overflows.

Uncontrolled sewage overflows occur primarily in dry weather as a result of sewer chokes and blockages in the wastewater system.

In 2008–09, 16,028 private properties were reported as affected by dry weather uncontrolled sewage overflows. This figure is below the Operating Licence limit of 25,000 and about 12% less than in 2007–08.

The number of private properties affected by sewage overflows is closely linked to the number of sewer chokes. The decrease in properties affected in 2008–09 is consistent with Sydney Water‘s reduced sewer choke rate, which was 51 per 100 kilometres of sewer in 2008–09 compared to 65 per 100 kilometres in 2007–08.

When there is a sewer choke near multiple occupancy properties, each flat or unit is counted as an affected property, as required by Sydney Water‘s Operating Licence. In 2008–09, an average of 14% of all choke events affecting private properties affected multiple occupancy properties. These events accounted for more than half the reported number of private properties affected.

Sydney Water investigates overflows from its assets to plan required rehabilitation work. For more detail on sewer main breaks and blockages and Sydney Water‘s dry weather choke management strategy, see the indicator Frequency of sewer main breaks and blockages per 1,000 properties.

For information about Sydney Water‘s controlled sewage overflows, please see the Sewage treatment system discharges section of this report.

 

Indicator: Repeat sewage overflows

Sydney Water measures the number of properties affected by more than one sewage overflow in dry weather each year. Repeat sewage overflows mainly occur when tree roots regrow and cause another blockage in a short period of time.

In 2008–09, 750 properties experienced two overflows in dry weather, 214 properties (22%) less than in 2007–08. This was due to fewer chokes and the continuation of the dry weather choke management strategy.

The number of properties experiencing three or more overflows doubled over the same period. This increase was mostly due to a new multiple occupancy property that experienced four sewage overflows at the end of 2008–09.

Sydney Water‘s repeat overflow program, which is part of the dry weather choke management strategy, investigates each single overflow event that affects multiple occupancy properties of greater than 50 dwellings.

The number of private properties affected by sewage overflows is closely linked to the number of sewer chokes or blockages that occur in the wastewater system. The percentage of total chokes or events affecting private properties has followed a consistent pattern over the years (average 62% over five years).

For more detail on sewer main breaks and blockages and Sydney Water‘s dry weather choke management strategy, see the indicator Frequency of sewer main breaks and blockages per 1,000 properties.

Repeat sewage overflows 2005–06 to 2008–09

Indicator measure

Indicator parameters

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

The number of private properties experiencing more than one uncontrolled sewage overflow in dry weather:

on two occasions

1,566

1,702

964

750

on three or more occasions

232

157

164

328

Indicator: Response times to sewage overflows

Sydney Water‘s Operating Licence requires it to respond quickly to high priority sewer breaks and overflows. Response times are less than one hour for Priority 6 (most urgent) events and less than three hours for Priority 5 events.

Priority 6 sewage overflows are assessed as events that are:

  • a public health concern
  • likely to cause significant damage to property
  • likely to have a significant environmental impact
  • interrupting sewerage services.

Priority 5 sewage overflows are assessed as events that are likely to:

  • cause minor property damage
  • have a minor environmental impact (including unpleasant odours) while not posing a significant health risk.

The total number of Priority 6 and 5 overflows fell by more than 6,500 (25%) compared to last year.

Sydney Water responded to more than 80% of Priority 6 jobs in less than one hour, an eight per cent improvement on the previous year. The response to Priority 5 jobs also improved, with 91% receiving attention in under three hours, up from 82% in 2007–08 and 65% in 2006–07.

Compared to 2005–06, the number of Priority 6 events in 2008–09 has risen by about 67%, yet compliance with the response time target of less than one hour has improved. These results show Sydney Water‘s strategy to improve response times is working. It includes better categorisation of events, private sewer choke diagnosis, technology improvements and resource flexibility.

 

Indicator: Customer contract rebates

Sydney Water provides customers with a rebate of fees charged for certain services if they are not provided to the standards as set out in Sydney Water‘s Redress Policy.

Sydney Water paid 271,220 customer rebates in 2008–09, 23,378 (eight per cent) less than in 2007–08. The value of rebates paid totalled more than $5.12 million, an average of $18.88 per rebate customer.

Favourable climatic conditions and strategies to address water continuity issues meant fewer customers experienced water interruptions. Planned water main shutdowns were also lower in 2008–09, due to Sydney Water‘s water mains renewal and leakage reduction programs.

The dry weather choke management strategy 2005–10 contributed to a reduction in the number of rebates paid for sewer overflows.

Customer Contract Rebates

Note: From 2006–07, reported figures are based on the date the rebate is credited to the customer‘s account. Previous reporting was based on when the credit was paid.