Our performance in 2019-20
2019-20 was the second year we worked towards seven service outcomes customers told us they valued most and expected from us.
We set ambitious targets with our customers’ expectations in mind, and we’re very pleased to report that we met five out of seven outcomes. Climate change continues to put pressure on our network and the availability of water, but we’ll continue to strive for all targets and take action where we need to do more. Even where we didn’t meet our target, we’ve made considerable progress towards doing so. A summary of the work we did and how we went for each target is provided below.
We are committed to achieving all targets but if we don’t meet any, we established a world-leading commitment to voluntarily return funds to customers via an annual community rebate. For any unmet target, we will voluntarily return a $1.5 million community rebate to customers through prices in the following year. Therefore, we will offset prices in 2020-21 by a $3 million reduction.
The last four months of the financial year were marked by the unprecedented challenges of coronavirus (COVID-19). We organised ourselves rapidly to work remotely and our priorities were to continue providing essential water and sanitation services to customers, and to ensure we had appropriate support and flexibility options to offer residential and business customers financially impacted by coronavirus.
As well as our annual performance promise, we know that dealing with water and sewerage issues at home makes life harder, and is inconvenient and unpleasant, so we work towards guaranteed service levels every day. If we don’t meet them, impacted households will automatically receive a rebate on their next bill. Rebates are $50, $300 or $1,000 depending on what happened.
Our Price Submission commitments are measured from April 2019 to March 2020.
Outcomes we met
Safe Drinking Water
Target: 100% compliance with Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2015
Result: 100% compliance - achieved
Providing safe, high quality drinking water is our most important deliverable and we achieved 100% compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2015.
We have a comprehensive water quality monitoring program that ensures the water we supply is high quality, safe and pleasant to drink. An independent laboratory collected and tested over 7,000 water samples this year, and we monitored and tested the water from over 1,200 randomly selected customer taps in 32 different water quality zones – achieving 100% compliance.
This year we also:
- Installed an additional chlorinator to ensure we continue to maintain a multi-barrier approach to water quality
- Conducted routine inspections and maintenance of 14 water tanks
- Completed nearly 17,000 water audits in recycled water areas
- Cleaned over 500 kilometres of water mains, removing sediment that causes complaints
Drinking water in Australia is high quality and is well treated. While there is no evidence that coronavirus is transmitted by drinking water, or that drinking water will be affected by coronavirus,we reviewed all water quality controls to manage risk associated with the virus from source to customers.
We regularly report on water quality and more information can be found here
Timely response and restoration
Target: 91% of customers’ water or sewerage service was restored within four hours
Result: 95.1% – achieved
You expect a fast response and effective restoration of your water and sewerage services if they’re interrupted. Our goal is to turn your water and sewerage services back on as quickly as possible, and our benchmark is to do this within four hours.
The seasonal challenge of getting to, and fixing emergency bursts and leaks quickly is ongoing as Melbourne experiences greater climate variability. To get on top of this, we continued to focus on service improvements, adjusting processes and procedures to a best practice level and implementing further training and awareness to contractors and staff.
To meet this target, we also:
- Maintained an increased number of skilled works crews over summer, which helped to reduce the time taken to attend sites and do repairs
- Implemented a new continuous improvement focus for sewer blockages to reduce the risk of customers experiencing repeat blockages. This included improving the work scheduling of planned and reactive maintenance works.
- Sought customer insights to improve our communication to impacted customers and in turn, increase customer satisfaction with up to date information about faults. This included increasing the timeliness of information on our online faults map, focusing on field signage to ensure consistent, clear information in the community and continuing to proactively sms customers about faults they have reported or are impacted by.
- Established a seasonal escalation strategy to improve how we manage significant volumes of faults and the impact they have on customers. The strategy focused on the quality of field data to improve forecasting, and addressed logistics and workflow coordination.
- Continued to work closely with our emergency maintenance contractors to improve their performance, resulting in restoring customers’ water or sewerage services sooner
Fair access and assistance for all
Target: 89% of customers who have accessed our services believe we help customers experiencing difficulty paying for their water and sewerage services Result: 90% - achieved
Customers have told us they value extra support for customers who struggle to pay for their water and sewerage services. Customers also expect us to improve awareness of, and access to our services among customers experiencing financial difficulty. This year we received an extra $1.2 million a year to help meet this goal and to reach 150,000 customers over five years.
In 2019-20 we:
- Participated in a wide range of community events and networks to reach almost 50,000 customers who may not be aware of our support services due to language, isolation and physical and mental barriers
- Partnered with Councils, early learning centres and maternal child health centres to reach new parents with information about our financial support options
- Developed new communication material using Aboriginal artwork and imagery that our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can identify with
- Worked to raise community awareness of concession rebate eligibility and resolve barriers, making it easier for customers to register their concession
- Proactively identified and contacted customers who may be eligible to receive concession rebates on their bill
- Worked with 7,290 new customers experiencing financial difficulty
- Helped transition 3,916 customers back to mainstream payments after a period of hardship
- Worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to streamline access to the Utility Relief Grant to reduce outstanding bill amounts for eligible customers
- Eliminated outstanding debt balances for homeowners and victims of family violence, reducing financial burden
- Proactively called customers who had engaged with us in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Fast tracked the introduction of new support options for residential and business customers financially impacted by coronavirus.
Modern flexible service
Target: 86% of customers are satisfied with their most recent interaction
Result: 87% - achieved
It is incredibly important that our customers are satisfied with the services we provide and each interaction they have with us. We continue to work to resolve customers’ issues across all touchpoints by following through on our promises.
We are pleased that over the year we improved our performance quarter on quarter to finish the final quarter at 94%. The improvement can be attributed to four key initiatives. We:
- Improved communications for customers impacted by water main renewal works, replacing text with iconography and visual aids to improve readability and recall – this contributed to a 13% increase in satisfaction for impacted customers
- Introduced direct debit by credit card as a payment option resolving a major cause of customer dissatisfaction – leading to a 17% increase in satisfaction for customers with online accounts
- Trialled new approaches to debt collection in response to customer feedback to improve customer experiences. Trials are ongoing, but early results are encouraging
- Implemented a new operating model and coaching framework for Customer Care consultants to improve the visibility of promises made to customers, and to remove barriers to attaining high performance levels.
In October 2019, our Customer Care team won the Australian Customer Service Organisation award in the Customer Service Institute of America (CSIA) Government / Not for Profit category. In March 2020, we went on to win the same award at Internationally.
Care for and protect the environment
Target: 14.5% reduction in carbon emissions (cumulative) compared to 2016-17 baseline of 34,083 tonnes CO2e
Result: 14.7% - achieved 10
We have pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 64% by 1 July 2025. This Emissions Reduction Pledge is our response to lessening the impact of our energy intensive core services, which have significant environmental implications.
To reach this year’s goal and work towards our Emissions Reduction Pledge, we:
- Progressed plans to build a second, larger waste to energy facility to process food waste to create electricity, which will transform up to 150 tonnes of waste per day into 33,000 kWh of renewable energy – around 30% of our energy needs
- Continued our association with Zero Emissions Water Ltd (ZEW) with 13 other water corporations, to source 25% of our future energy needs at a cheaper wholesale rate from a large-scale solar farm under construction in north west Victoria
- Completed an options assessment and feasibility study into a large-scale solar system at our Wallan Treatment Plant
- Conceptualised the installation of non-invasive large market ground mounted solar systems at five sites
Outcomes we did not meet
Reliable water and sewerage services
Target: Less than 0.96% of customers experienced three or more unexpected water or sewerage service interruptions this year
Result: 0.98% - not achieved
Our intention is to reduce service failures for customers who receive inconsistent levels of service. While we didn’t achieve the target, we targeted high fail areas and reduced the number of customers experiencing three or more unexpected interruptions by 21.5%. Our actions included:
- Renewed 45km of aging and poor performing water mains
- Renewed 43km of aging and poor performing sewerage pipes
- Installed 332 water valves to reduce the potential number of customers having their water interrupted
- Inspected 234km of sewerage pipes to assess their condition and identify potential blockages
- Inspected nearly 1,700 house connection sewer branches to check the integrity of the pipes
- Renewed more than 2,100 house connection sewer branches which were impacting customers
- Rectified 371 valves and 427 hydrants to reduce the potential number of customers having their water interrupted
- Proved the location of over 600 valves and 760 hydrants that had been buried or moved to reduce the potential number of customers experiencing interruptions to their water
- Implemented a new approach for fixing leaking hydrants
- Commenced field trials of a failure prediction model, using machine learning techniques to increase the likelihood of identifying assets to replace before they fail
Our customers told us that they wanted us to maintain service levels rather than increase bills by investing more to improve service levels.
We set the target of 0.96% based on a five-year historical average with performance measured on a rolling five-year average basis, to minimise the impact of annual weather variations. This year, due to the actions we took and favourable weather conditions - 0.91% of customers experienced three or more water and sewerage interruptions which equates to 0.98% on a rolling five-year average basis.
As we did not meet the rolling five-year average target, we will return $1.5 million to customers via 2020-21 prices as promised.
Water availability and conservation
Target: 217 litres of water used per person per day
Result: 221 litres per person per day – not achieved
This target reflects our customers’ expectations that we achieve ongoing efficiencies to help save water now for the future. Our ambitious annual target of saving 217 litres of water per person a day in 2019-20 is a holistic measure comprising the water we buy from Melbourne Water, the water customers use at home and at work, non-revenue water used for firefighting and water lost due to system leakage, bursts and leaking pipes.
While overall water use decreased significantly this year - from 233 litres in 2018-19 to 221 litres per day in 2019-20 - we didn’t meet our target. This is largely attributed to extended and hotter than average periods during the year.
We undertook the following programs and initiatives in support of meeting this target:
- Successfully launched the industry-wide Make Every Drop Count campaign to encourage simple water saving measures at home. Results from the campaign reveal awareness has significantly increased with over 50% of customers indicating they have taken or will take action
- Worked towards providing recycled water to over 30,000 properties
- Extended our recycled water main network by more than 84 kilometres
- Conducted almost 5,000 recycled water audits at customer properties, enabling greater access to recycled water to use in gardens, laundries and toilets
- Undertook 2,948 kilometres of proactive leak detection which saved 875 megalitres of water
- Installed 81 network flow and pressure monitoring devices in our water supply network to identify leaks which aren’t visible from the surface
- Piloted the use of the ‘water blade’ in a residential accommodation setting resulting in an 8% reduction in water use
- Produced 315 megalitres of recycled water for use on gardens, sporting ovals and in-house for non-drinking purposes
We will continue to strive for our ambitious water use target to support a secure water future for our community.
As this customer service performance target was not achieved, we will return $1.5 million to customers via 2020-21 prices, as promised in our Price Submission.