The Water Industry Operators Association of Australia (WIOA) Operator of the Year award is the most prestigious award presented to operations staff in the South Australian water industry annually, recognising excellent performance, initiative and all-round attention to detail. In 2018, the SA Operator of the Year was awarded to Brad Alcorn, Senior Construction and Maintenance Worker for SA Water in Leigh Creek.

New career opportunities
SA Water's Leigh Creek Senior Construction and Maintenance Worker, Brad Alcorn, receiving the 2018 WIOA SA Operator of the Year Award.

SA Water’s Leigh Creek Senior Construction and Maintenance Worker, Brad Alcorn, receiving the 2018 WIOA SA Operator of the Year Award.

Following the closure of Flinders Power’s operation in Leigh Creek, Mr Alcorn was one of the many people left looking for work, but a local opening advertised by SA Water presented him with the chance to keep his family part of the Leigh Creek community and forge a new career in the water industry.

“Previously working as a plumber, I’ve always had a keen interest in the water and wastewater industries and getting hands-on in my work,” Mr Alcorn said.

“Having developed a love for Leigh Creek after 16 years in my previous role and having no interest in leaving when the management of the town was transferred over from Flinders Power, I luckily jumped at the opportunity to apply for an advertised position at SA Water and remain in the region I love.

“I’m also extremely fortunate that I get to work alongside my son Joel, who helps service the water and wastewater network in Leigh Creek.”

Mr Alcorn said taking on the role at SA Water has been rewarding, allowing him to undertake formal training and develop new skills.

“On top of my existing knowledge of the local water network developed over the years, I also undertook a training course in Geelong to become an accredited wastewater operator. As a result, I have taken on the additional responsibility of managing the Leigh Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“My son Joel and I also undertook formal training to receive our Certificate III in Water Operations, which has been an extremely fun and rewarding experience to learn new skills even after all these years.”

Recognised by the industry

Mr Alcorn had been with SA Water for only two years when his work was recognised by WIOA.

“I’m extremely proud to be recognised for this award, and the important role the work we do plays for our customers in Leigh Creek and surrounding regions. I wasn’t expecting to pick up the award, so being able to be recognised for my work has been a real feather in my cap and I look forward to furthering my professional career in the industry.”

Mr Alcorn was presented with the award at WIOA’s South Australian Wastewater Interest Day in Mount Barker, and as part of the prize, joined other WIOA award winners from across the country on a study trip to visit wastewater treatment plants in New Zealand in May this year.

“I really enjoyed the trip to New Zealand as part of this award, and found it extremely interesting to see how their water and wastewater plants operate in comparison to back home,” Mr Alcorn said.

“I found it encouraging to see a lot of similarities in how they run, which demonstrates that we are all operating at a similarly high level.

“The largest difference I noticed was how they source water for their customers from sites like glaciers, given a large amount of drinking water in South Australia is treated drinking supply from the River Murray, or in Leigh Creek from a series of nearby bores.”

SA Water Manager of Customer Field Services, Colin Bell, said the award is a testament to Mr Alcorn’s passion for the work he does and the local communities he serves.

“Brad is a skilled and highly-valued member of our team, and this recognition shows the positive impact he is making to both the business and customers in the Leigh Creek area,” Mr Bell said.

A diverse and rewarding role

Mr Alcorn said his current role as Senior Construction and Maintenance Worker is diverse and involves monitoring the water and wastewater networks in Leigh Creek, including fielding customer enquiries, and assessing water meter and water main leaks and repairs.

“A typical day involves starting with manual checks of the wastewater lagoons to ensure the aerators and flow levels are operating as normal for our customers before doing any required network operations tasks or repairs to maintain the reliability of the network,” Mr Alcorn said.

Mr Alcorn also helps to maintain a small number of smart water meters installed in the small townships of Copley and Lyndhurst, which helps SA Water best manage the water network in these areas.

This has presented him with a challenge as he was previously unfamiliar with these areas, but he has embraced it and is enjoying this part of his role.

“The largest challenge I have faced so far with SA Water has been learning how to manage the water networks for our customers in Copley and Lyndhurst, given my previous experience in the water network was solely in Leigh Creek,” Mr Alcorn said.

“It has taken a while to learn and understand the ins and outs of the intricate network which changed to SA Water management in 2018, but I have embraced the challenge and enjoyed maintaining the network for more than 70 additional customers in the two townships.

“I really enjoy getting to ply my trade everyday knowing that the work we are doing is delivering essential services to the local region, and is important to the health and well-being of the wider community.

“As an added bonus, getting to spend my career alongside my son as the two-person team in Leigh Creek and seeing him develop over the years is also very rewarding.”

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