Smart water transformation passes forward lessons

By The Mandarin

Monday June 27, 2016

Mackay Regional Council in Queensland has won the 2016 National Award for Excellence in Local Government for its work in improving the management of community water resources.

The council’s project — Transforming a Water Business — was selected for the premier award of the National Awards for Local Government from a pool of 10 different category winners previously announced earlier.

Under the project, the council’s water and waste service unit designed and implemented a water-use strategy which has succeeded in meeting the challenges posed by a growing local population.

Using a consumer-centric approach, the project’s demand management program features ground-breaking automated metering infrastructure, which includes a freely accessible online portal to provide both the council and residents with detailed information about water consumption patterns.

This intelligent use of data has changed the way the Mackay Regional Council manages the local community’s water resources, resulting in reduced residential water usage and associated costs for consumers.

David Brooker, chief operating officer for Mackay’s water and waste services, says the council changed the way that they collected data to fundamentally change the cost of delivering services:

“Council recognised that the cost to providing services was escalating and it just wasn’t sustainable to keep doing business the same way that it’s always been done, and so council’s approached looking at changing the way that we do business … really focused on reducing the cost of infrastructure, which then leads to cost of providing water services to the community.

“All of our 40,000 customers have an automatic water metre reading device on their water metre so that we can see, in real time, how much water’s being used, and then we take that information, analyse it and we actually provide it back to the customer.

“We’ve dropped peak water consumption by at least 10%. But more importantly, we’ve changed the decision-making in the business, which means we’ve changed the forward price path, so over the next ten years our forward price path, per customer, is five hundred dollars less per customer, per year than it would have been.”

Click to watch videos of the premier and category winners.
Click to watch videos of the premier and category winners.

 

Brooker was also named Queensland’s Water Professional of the Year by the Australian Water Association in recognition of the transformation project. Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia has also awarded the council for this project.

Mackay Regional Council is now liaising with other councils to inspire similar initiatives.

“One of the real opportunities for a water utility and local government in general is actually just to recognise and to share and to be able to learn off each other, and so we’re lucky enough to have learnt off much better water businesses that have gone before us and that are doing great things elsewhere and we feel that it’s our obligation to also share that information to others.

“In local government the drivers of doing a good job in local government are a little bit different in that it’s not always about making big profits and things like that, it’s actually that recognition and our staff get a lot out of the recognition by their peers and that means a lot to them.”

The National Award for Excellence in Local Government 2016 recognises local government agencies nationwide for their dedication and innovation in delivering quality services to urban and regional communities. The awards are run by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, with additional sponsorship from the Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Social Services.

The awards were presented at the Australian Local Government Association annual dinner at Parliament House on June 21.

Top image: Jason Devitt, director of engineering and commercial infrastructure, accepts the award on behalf of Mackay Regional Council.

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