Streamlining our sewer access approval system

We developed a new digital platform that streamlines the application process for accessing sewers, removing the need for paper forms and allowing more time to review works and easier tracking by phone, email or the system itself. Read the case study to learn more.

Sustainable Development Goal 09: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Sustainable Development Goal 06: Clean water and sanitation

Sustainable Development Goal 03: Good health and well-being

Sustainable Development Goals:
Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure


Worker descending into a sewer via a ladder

Our Sewer Transfer Operations team is responsible for managing safe entry and exit to our 400 kilometres of gravity sewers.

They do this through the Sewer Transfer Access Approval process, which had long been facilitated via paper-based applications manually entered into a computer database – purpose-built for Melbourne Water in the 1990s.

This method required the following steps:

  1. Applications to enter the sewers would be submitted to the Operations team via email, face-to-face requests or fax.
  2. The operations team would type or copy and paste the information into the database, which was only available on one computer based in the control room.
  3. The applicant would collect a hardcopy Sewer Access Permit in person before heading out to site.
  4. Once on site, the applicant was required to phone the control room and quote the approval number to register their entry to the sewer.

This process ensured that a record was kept of each of the approximately 1,500 sewer access applications received each year, but it was also cumbersome. Finding information on who had entered or exited the sewer was time consuming, and access was limited to times when the control room was able to provide oversight as to who was in a Melbourne Water sewer at any given time.

Project focus

To address this issue we developed a new digital platform called the Access Request System for Sewerage Transfer.

Designed to reduce manual input, the new system offers a more streamlined process by removing the need for paper forms and untracked email requests, and instead allows more time for review of the works and easier tracking by phone, email or the system itself.

Electronic forms automatically record the:

  • global position system (GPS) location of the requested work
  • proposed date
  • contact details for the work leader.

Once requests are approved, the new system automates emails and SMS approval notifications, replacing the signed piece of paper, which could potentially be misplaced.

After an applicant ‘calls in’, the control room can record ‘live’ sewer entries with a visible countdown to track when contractors are expected to be out of the sewer.


This system has reduced potential human error through tracking and recording information and provided a safer outcome for managing potentially high-risk work in the sewer. The new process also has the capacity to accommodate other areas of service delivery in the future.

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