You’re thirsty. You grab a glass of water and turn on the tap. Fresh, clean water runs from the tap into your glass. You skoll the water; your thirst is quenched. You may even sigh at the relief, or fill your glass again.

This happens incalculable times a day across the country. At workplaces, homes, hospitals and healthcare centres, in the city and regional centres. It happens so frequently, the vast majority of us give no further thought to the work that goes on behind the scenes, in the pipes and water towers, to ensure that our water is clean, drinkable and safe from bacteria.

Simply put, we take water for granted.

But there is so much more to water than turning on a tap. Recently, Ian Bradley, Principal, Asset Capability, Water Corporation Western Australia, presented a webinar on the processes behind the control and prevention of legionella.

The legionella pnuemophilia pathogen is one of the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease. We know this bacteria loves to be in warm, watery conditions, therefore placing water treatment towers at high risk.

The Legionella High Level Risk Assessment Initiative (LHLRAI) is a detailed strategy outlining objectives, multi-level assessment plans, asset types and locations, and on-site reviews linked with the overall corporate governance plans of Water Corporation WA. But the LHLRAI is not just a heavy, dry document placed in a three-ring binder on a shelf in his office and never referred to again. Using the case study of a small detection of legionella in an aeration unit in regional WA, Mr Bradley explained its involvement to effectively control, clean and disinfect the tower, resulting in the prevention of a wide outbreak of legionella.

Looking to the future, Mr Bradley described a partnership with the School of Chemical Engineering at University of New South Wales. A small team of engineers from UNSW work collaboratively with Water Corporation WA to examine existing data, take samples to analyse and apply advanced statistical tools and assessment methods. The aim of this partnership has far-reaching capabilities, including the possibility of detecting legionella by online sensors, enabling accurate detection in prone conditions1.

Next time you turn on your tap to shower or drink water, give a cheer to the employees in water companies across all states and territories in Australia. These employees work each day, testing, planning, advising and responding. Whether they wear suits and sit behind a desk in a high-rise building, or a high-vis vest, climbing the outside of a water tower, they make sure our water is safe.

Let us know your thoughts on risk mitigation. Perhaps you’d like to become more involved by joining the Maintenance and Reliability in Asset Management Special Interest Group.