Adelaide’s burst water main problem to be investigated in independent audit


July 12, 2019 13:09:19

Burst pipes and water mains beneath some of Adelaide’s busiest roads have caused major traffic disruptions in recent weeks — but the problem will now be independently investigated in the hope of finding a long-term fix.

Key points:

  • Major bursts have occurred on several main roads in Adelaide in recent weeks
  • The SA Government is spending $270,000 for an independent audit
  • Environment Minister David Speirs is concerned about the economic impact of bursts

The SA Government said there had been a “spike in bursts” this year, with significant breakages causing traffic disruptions on Henley Beach Road earlier this month and on Portrush Road in June.

There have also been repeated bursts beneath South Road, one of Adelaide’s major road corridors, which have prompted major roadworks and led to ongoing peak-hour pain for commuters.

The SA Government will spend $270,000 on an independent audit — commissioned by SA Water — to examine the issue, to be carried out by asset management consultancy AMCL.

Environment Minister David Speirs said Adelaide’s clay-based soils and a dry summer had caused pipes to burst.

“When you deliver water to 1.7 million people, or thereabouts, there’s always going to be challenges with that. You’ll always get bursts around the place,” he said.

“We’ve decided to get an external set of eyes to look at this problem.

“I want to make sure those bursts are really minimised in terms of their disruptions. Are we spending enough money on main roads?”

Adelaide’s burst water mains have become a running joke in recent times, and are popular fodder for social media account ShitAdelaide.

The Instagram page drew attention to the impact of pipe upgrades and other roadworks in a post this week.

The problem was also highlighted on Channel Ten show The Project, when host Peter Helliar quizzed former ABC Radio Adelaide presenter Ian Henschke.

“Can you please tell us what is going on with the burst water mains in your beloved home city?” Helliar jokingly demanded.

Henschke was at a loss to answer, blaming the city’s “reactive soils”.

Mr Speirs said the audit would examine how SA Water responded to incidents, and how infrastructure funding was allocated.

“If a main bursts in a side street in a suburb — it might cause disruption to one or two households,” he said.

“The disruption it causes to productivity across the city when a burst occurs on Main South Road or Henley Beach Road or Brighton Road is much more significant.

“When I asked the question of SA Water a few months ago if we were directing our maintenance into high-use areas, it became apparent that might not be the case.”

During their time in opposition, the Liberals were quick to capitalise on burst water mains for political gain, when a wave of pipe bursts occurred in 2016.

However, Mr Speirs defended his party’s handling of the problem since being elected last year.

“I’ve been in Government for 16 months. It became apparent to me this was not working in the way it should be working,” he said.

The audit is expected to be completed by the end of the year.










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