An alliance of businesses in the business of water

Delivering water expertise through partnership and collaboration

August 22, 2018

General Manager of Allwater, Shaun Ledson, sat down with the Water Industry Alliance to talk about his career, the water industry and the strength of the Adelaide Service Alliance.

Beginning with a role at SA Water almost 30 years ago, Shaun recalls his fortunate career that has seen him work across the full spectrum of the water business in both public and private companies. His diverse experience, including roles in recycled water, wastewater, water treatment as well as network operations and maintenance has held him in good stead to take on his biggest challenge as General Manager of Allwater.

“What attracted me to the water industry was the fact that it’s the part of engineering that I enjoyed the most when I was studying, but more than that it is the fact that it is an essential service – critical to so much of society, community, the environment,” Shaun said. “It has a big impact and is a worthy cause.”

The SA Water and Allwater ‘Adelaide Service Alliance’ delivers water and wastewater services to 1.3 million customers and operates and maintains more than 9,000 kilometres of water mains; more than 7,200 kilometres of sewer mains; six major water treatment plants; six wastewater treatment plants and various recycled water schemes.

Allwater, a joint venture between Suez and Broadspectrum, brings a wide range of expertise with SA Water to the Alliance, underpinned by strong collaboration. Allwater’s technical assistance program draws on the global experience of its international partners in best practice and knowledge to work with SA Water in delivering optimum service in Adelaide.

Now seven years into an initial 10 year service contract, Shaun reflects on the Alliance’s strong track record of delivering value.

“Over the past seven years Allwater has performed really well in many areas,” he said. “We’ve brought innovation and value-add from our parent companies.”

Significant examples of the collaborative innovation taking place within the Alliance include optimisation of the Myponga WTP filtration; support for maintenance strategies; energy efficiency developments and wastewater treatment nutrient removal optimisation.

“I look at SA Water and I think now they’re in a good position and they’re closer to the metropolitan operations business,” he said. “They have all the transparency of costs and what’s involved in the operations and maintenance side more now than seven years ago.

“That means going into the future SA Water has got the visibility in front of them to make the best decisions for the customers.

“I think SA Water is a better organisation now than what they were seven years ago and I like to think that we’re a part of that – not the only reason for that – but a part of that.

“There’s areas we can still do better, we can still improve, the focus is moving more towards the customer service and the pipe networks and driving those costs down now, but our objective is to deliver better service, better outcomes, lower costs and better performance.”

Shaun says the move by major utilities across Australia towards being more customer-focussed is creating opportunity for different private sector involvement in the utility space, along with the push for greater energy efficiency and advancements in technology and the digital space.

“In some ways, technology is advancing as much now as it ever was,” he said. “When you look at machine learning and new frontiers like that – there’s lots of opportunities.

“South Australia has always been really strong in recycled water and even in renewable energy, so it’s not just the water side – there’s the energy side – and they’re quite closely linked. SA Water, for instance, is one of the biggest energy users in the state and produces a lot of energy out of the wastewater plants – so that energy and water combination brings lots of opportunities.”

Shaun says that with the developments in technology and the drive towards energy efficiency comes the push to reduce costs and the opportunity for collaboration between the government, private sector and universities.

“The challenge is to deliver that cost saving, and move with the times in terms of customer focus,” he said. “Everyone’s got smart phones, they’ve got information at their fingertips, they’re up-to-date, and they’ve seen the way other sectors interact with and respond to customer demand, and expect the water industry to move that way and it will move that way more and more.

“In terms of cost reduction – that partly comes through technology and innovation. I think the challenge will be how to leverage that, how to collaborate outside of our own industry, and get the benefits from that,” he added.

“I also think there are more opportunities that the water sector can play in generating an export from the state – an export of knowledge and training, and also an export of the technology that’s here.

“We’ve got a highly-skilled and knowledgeable water sector in South Australia. So when you look at how to develop the water industry, there’s lots of opportunities again, partnering between the private, the public and the universities. I think the big international companies, like Suez and Broadspectrum, can play a role there by helping and assisting those small companies that aren’t necessarily competitors, to be partners.

“What’s really important is having someone to connect all that together, and that’s where the Water Industry Alliance comes in. I think there is a place for something like the Water Industry Alliance to work with private companies in SA, and the government, and the universities and the big international companies to help take that skill and that knowledge and training beyond the state and the country. The Water Industry Alliance is a good model and there’s a benefit there.”