Community report 2021 summary

Our annual Community Report provides a snapshot of our performance.

In 2017, we spoke with our customers about what they expect from us and what they’d like us to focus on over the next five years.

The feedback we received helped shape our 2018 pricing submission to the Essential Services Commission, and eventually our five year plan.

We promised we’d let you know how we’re delivering on that plan. Three years on, we’re proud to give our third report to our customers on how we’re doing.

Read the detailed report

Our assessment

We promised to ensure our water quality always meets the Safe Drinking Water Act. We also promised to ensure sewer spills within a house caused by us would be contained within an hour, and planned interruptions would be carried out within the time we said.

We treat our water to the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

To ensure we’re meeting water quality standards, we complete weekly water testing and independent sample testing.

We didn’t cause any sewer spills within a house this year. This is due to our preventative maintenance program.

Case study: Maintaining our services in extreme weather

In June 2021, we were challenged by an extreme wet weather event that not only resulted in an extraordinary amount of rain falling in our service area, but prolonged power outages, which affected several water systems and towns, including Traralgon.

We had teams working around the clock to ensure customers’ services weren’t impacted by the extreme wet weather event – everyone from our water treatment plant operators, to our field services crews to our customer contact centre team members were involved. In one week, we answered 1,186 calls to our emergencies and faults hotline, compared to 280 calls for the same period in 2020.

To continue supplying customers in Tyers and surrounds, we carted about 21 million litres of water into Tyers and Rosedale water storages, which is enough water to fill roughly 8.5 Olympic swimming pools.

Thanks to our employees’ tireless efforts - and the cooperation of our customers who we asked to put off non-essential water use - we continued to provide customers with water and wastewater services throughout this period.

We promised we’d be easy to deal with and resolve 88% of all customer enquiries at the first point of contact.

97% of all enquiries to our call centre were resolved at first point of contact.

During 2020-21, the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) handled 27 cases on behalf of our customers. All cases that EWOV referred to us were resolved. This is the fourth year in a row we’ve been able to resolve all matters and avoid any escalation.

Case study: Our best customer satisfaction results yet

In October, we asked our customers for their feedback through our annual Customer Satisfaction Survey, receiving our best ever results.

We achieved improvements across all four of the main areas we measure: trust, value for money, overall satisfaction and our reputation.

While there are a number of potential reasons for this year’s great results, we think it’s ultimately a reflection of our efforts over the past few years to improve how we serve our customers and involve them in what we do.

This doesn’t mean we’ve rested though. We’ve continued working hard to improve services for our customers. We introduced SMS notifications letting customers know about outages, as well as making improvements to our digital billing services.

We promised to be affordable, fair and maintain services to customers who are experiencing hardship.

We’re delivering on our promise to keep prices stable.

We’ve been reaching out to customers that may be struggling financially to let them know the options that are available to assist them to help them better manage their bills. As a result, the number of customers taking up payment plans during 2020-21 has increased, while the number of customers entering our hardship program has decreased. We also promised to investigate options to give customers more control over their bills and we’ll be engaging with customers on some options to achieve that soon.

Case study: Supporting customers in hardship

The impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are still being felt by our community.

We’re mindful of this and we continue to ensure anyone experiencing hardship receives the best possible customer service from us.

Over the past year, we’ve continued to adapt our processes, allowing us to engage with our customers that may be struggling financially to help them proactively manage their bills. Our team proactively reaches out to customers that are experiencing financial difficulties to let them know the options that are available to assist them.

We also help our customers apply for assistance through the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing’s Utility Relief Grant program. In 2020-21, 508 applications and $216,394.16 of funding was approved to help customers pay their water bills.

If you’re experiencing difficulty paying your bill, get in touch as there are a range of ways we can help.

Case study: Keeping water bills down

We’re pleased to have been able offer our customers a bill reduction for 2021-22.

Lower Consumer Price Index and interest rates, combined with internal cost savings have enabled us to reduce our customers’ bills.

This is the third year in a row we’ve been able to reduce our service charges while usage charges have stayed relatively stable.

In 2021-22, the average bill for a residential owner-occupier will be reduced by $14 from $1,325 in 2020-21 to $1,311 in 2021-22. This is double the $7 average saving for regional water corporations around the state.

We want to make sure we’re doing all we can to reduce pressure on families and households across the region.

We promised to prepare for future growth and protect the environment.

100% of all bio solids delivered to our organics recycling business were reused over the twelve months. 

Our eight lagoon-based wastewater treatment plants allow us to irrigate treated wastewater.

We provide some of this recycled water to a number of local farmers and sporting grounds, supporting local industry and community sporting groups. 100% of the water we recycle was invested back into Gippsland.

We’re also preparing for the future through our commitment to innovation.

We’re actively looking at emerging technologies to help find efficiencies and look for service improvements. Some of these include installing two sensors - one at Morwell and one at Drouin - that send us live data from sewer manholes, a robot that probes sewer mains to test for weak points and artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

Case study: Reducing our carbon footprint

We’re working towards our goal of reducing our carbon emissions by 24 per cent by 2025.

This year, we installed large solar arrays at our Traralgon water treatment plant and our Moe wastewater treatment plant. This brings the total number of our sites powered by solar to six.

We also planned and budgeted for the next stage of our solar installations at the Gippsland Water Factory, which will see a 1200 kWp ground mounted solar array installed and operational in 2021-22.

Case study: Securing Briagolong’s water supply

We worked with the community to take the next steps towards improving water security for Briagolong.

We currently supply water to the town from an aquifer, but this has proven to be an unreliable water source.

After talking to the community, we began drilling an exploratory bore at our Briagolong water treatment plant in February to investigate whether accessing a deeper bore targeting a lower aquifer could provide the town with a more reliable water source.

We promised to spend at least $30,000 per year on community benefit programs.

We kept our promise by continuing to provide financial and in-kind support for local community projects, partnering with like-minded groups and organisations to have more drinking fountains installed around the region, and supplying reusable drink bottles to schools and community groups.

Case study: Engaging with our customers

We’ve been out and about across our service area, chatting to our customers and hearing their feedback.

Their insights are helping us to get a better understanding of your priorities, interests and concerns relating to water and our services. We’re using this information to help us plan for the future.

The feedback we’ve gained from in-person chats, combined with survey results, helped us prepare our 2022 Urban Water Strategy and 2023-28 Price Submission.

There’s still ways to get involved. Check out to see the open opportunities.

Case study: Supporting our community

We partnered with local community groups and councils to donate 18 drinking fountains for installation across our service area to keep the community hydrated.

Drinking fountains were installed at Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre and Latrobe Creative Precinct in Traralgon; Aqua Energy Leisure Centre and Gippsland Regional Sports Complex in Sale; Cameron Sporting Complex in Maffra.

Fountains were also donated to Stratford Cricket Club, Traralgon City Soccer Club, Gippsland Plains Rail Trail, Drouin Dragons Soccer Club and the Traralgon Good Shepherd Lutheran congregation through our Community Support Program.

We also provided funding for several community groups to install rainwater tanks through our Community Support Program: Eastern Park Community Garden in Warragul, Rosedale Recreation Reserve, Glengarry Girl Guides, Moe Life Skills Community Centre, Stockdale Road Primary School Traralgon and Neerim South Primary School.

We invested more than $61.6M into capital works projects to strengthen and upgrade our network.

We supported growth in our region by connecting 1,665 households to our water services without delay.

Investing in our network

While some scheduling changes have been made, our top 10 capital works projects remain largely on track for completion in the five year pricing period. All changes to timing have been made with a view to achieving better outcomes or value for money for our customers, or enable other more time-critical projects to be brought forward where there will be no material impact associated with doing so.

Areas for improvement

In March 2021, we paid a fine to the Environment Protection Authority Victoria for low level breaches of our Drouin wastewater treatment plant operating license, relating to the quality of wastewater discharged during extreme heavy rainfall events over the last two years. During these events, we undertook extensive monitoring and confirmed no harm was done to the environment. We’ve since constructed a new $55 million wastewater treatment plant at Drouin to cater for current and future growth.

We narrowly missed our target to have no planned interruptions going over advised times. Three were completed with quality results, but took longer than expected to complete due to the location of the asset being obstructed or difficult to get to, or the special techniques, materials and parts required to complete the repair.

On Monday 21 June 2021, a routine water quality compliance sample from the Boisdale water supply system was tested for E.Coli and returned a result of 1 organism/100mL. The standard specified in the Safe Drinking Water Regulations is 0 organisms/100mL. We investigated the incident and submitted a report to the Department of Health, which confirmed that the detection was E.Coli. We put immediate corrective actions in place with no subsequent samples showing E.Coli detections, confirming the water was safe to drink.

Case study: Preparing for future growth

We’re strengthening our water and wastewater network, so we can meet challenges such as population growth, aging infrastructure and climate change and continue to provide reliable services for our customers into the future.

Some of the major projects we either finished or made progress this year included:

  • Building our new Drouin wastewater treatment plant, which will cater to the town’s growing population.
  • Building the new Sale outfall sewer pump station which will service the Sale, Wurruk and Fulham townships for the next 50 years.
  • Planning for a pipeline that will connect Coongulla and Glenmaggie to Heyfield’s more reliable water supply.
  • Upgrading Moe water treatment plant to ensure a reliable drinking water supply for the Moe region into the future.

Case study: New property connections soar

With many people moving from cities to regional areas as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve seen property demand in our region soar to unprecedented levels.

In 2020-21, we connected 1,665 households to our water services, compared to the 1044 residential property connections we made the previous year. That’s a 60% increase on last year, and a 100% increase on our 2018 Price Submission forecast.