National water lab going from strength to strength

10 March 2020

The internationally recognised Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC) has added a fourth major water utility partnership to its repertoire, securing a new multi-million-dollar, three-year contract with Yarra Valley Water in Victoria for sampling, laboratory testing, analysis and reporting services.

The AWQC is a commercial business unit of SA Water, which employs more than 130 people across its Adelaide and Melbourne facilities and provides a range of expert services to clients within Australia and internationally.

AWQC Senior Manager of Laboratory Services Karen Simpson said the new suite of work with Yarra Valley Water will add five new positions to its Melbourne lab and support around 10 roles in the Adelaide lab, so it provides an exciting opportunity for all its scientists to further expand and share their knowledge and skills.

“Our scientists provide a comprehensive service tailored to the needs of each of our clients, but it’s our focus on water and wastewater that means we can go beyond the day-to-day requirements and provide valuable advice and insight into specific challenges,” Karen said.

“This expertise was very useful during the recent Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island bushfires, with our labs playing a vital role in ensuring a safe supply of drinking water to these communities both during and after the fire events.

“The Ravine bushfire on Kangaroo Island caused significant damage to SA Water’s Middle River Water Treatment Plant, making it temporarily inoperable, and then heavy rain a week or so after the fire was contained washed ash and other debris into the local catchment.

Water supply to the Island was maintained using a variety of techniques until the plant could be repaired.

“To ensure this alternate supply continued to be safe to drink, we increased our sampling and testing regime and had an ongoing presence on the Island from our field services team.

“This presence continues as we work with SA Water to minimise aesthetic water quality challenges like changes in taste and odour, brought on by ash in the Middle River catchment.

“It’s experience from these kinds of situations we can take to our new partnership with Yarra Valley Water or any of our clients.”

In the past four years, the AWQC has begun multi-year contracts with Tasmanian utility TasWater, Wannon Water in south-western Victoria and just last year started a partnership with bulk water provider, Melbourne Water.

“Our work with the water industry in particular is a partnership, we work together to maintain public health and offer cost-effective and environmentally-responsible solutions for the benefit of the communities receiving the water and wastewater services,” Karen said.

“This intrinsic knowledge and commitment are strengthened by our close partnership with SA Water, including having our Adelaide labs based in the utility’s CBD headquarters. Our people and the innovative technology in the lab will provide important support to our work with Yarra Valley Water.

“As part of this work, we expect to be collecting more than 7000 water, wastewater and recycled water samples, as well as performing around 60,000 tests each year.”

Yarra Valley Water is responsible for providing water and wastewater services to more than 1.9 million people in Melbourne – including 50,000 businesses – and is the largest of the city’s three retail water companies.

The AWQC’s contract with Yarra Valley Water comes at an opportune time, with its Melbourne team set to move into bigger and more fit for purpose premises in a few months’ time.

“One of the reasons behind opening a lab in Melbourne in 2016 was to position ourselves to provide rapid and responsive sampling and testing to existing and prospective clients in Victoria who were wanting a locally-based service,” Karen said.

“We’ve continued to grow both in capabilities and people, with a team of 15 now working at our Melbourne site, including three interns-turned-employees, who we provided hands-on training to as part of an industry internship program with the University of Melbourne.

“Our current facilities at the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Centre for Medical Research have served us well, but by mid-2020, we’ll be relocating to our new laboratory in Alphington ready for the official start of the Yarra Valley Water contract on 1 July.”

 

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Source:  SA Water - www.sawater.com.au

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