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Public Water Agency of the Year: Shortlist

For the governmental agency that made the biggest difference to water and wastewater service provision and utility management in 2018.

Shortlisted Nominees


National Mission for Clean Ganga, India

What is it?

The national agency tasked with the rejuvenation and protection of India’s holy Ganga river, through the government’s ambitious INR250 billion ($3.5 billion) Namami Gange investment programme.

What has it done?

2018 marked the year the mission’s enormous financial backing started to pay dividends. Overcoming a host of bureaucratic problems and despite the huge challenge of coordinating over an area home to over 600 million people, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has already incubated 96 wastewater treatment projects putting it well on the way to reaching its ambitious targets to help clean up the holy river.

What makes it special?

2018 was the year in which the NMCG gained serious traction on its new public private partnership model, known as ‘hybrid annuity’, which is designed to put an end to the traditional build-neglect-rebuild paradigm in Indian water. Fuelled by the energies of veteran infrastructure specialist and new water minister Nitin Gadkari, the NMCG pushed out a host of high-profile successful projects. The model is catching on elsewhere in the country, proving beyond doubt that there is a place for private investment in the Indian water sector.

The NMCG has taken a refreshingly holistic view of the river Ganga’s structural problems, bundling the management of mismanaged existing infrastructure into contracts under its ‘One City One Operator’ concept and set minimum environmental flow limits for the river.


It also took a strategic role in drafting and submitting a new national bill on Ganga Rejuvenation for government approval, intending to enshrine in law the rights of the river and deliver a powerful new enforcement tool for future anti-pollution campaigners.

At the centre of the river Ganga’s decay has been the noxious effluent of the tannery industry. NMCG broke through years of political deadlock to deliver a definitive solution to the problem in the industrial heartland of Kanpur with the procuring of a groundbreaking centralised treatment plant for the industry.


Ofwat, UK

What is it?

The economic regulator for the water industry in England and Wales.

What has it done?

Ofwat is the most admired water regulator in the world – and the most scrutinised. Its thought leadership inspires regulatory agencies across the globe to adopt best practice in water sector regulation, and its fearsome reputation means it continued to lead the pack throughout 2018.

What makes it special?

Ofwat has the hardest job in the UK water sector, balancing the need for robust infrastructure investment and acceptable investor returns with customer demands for transparency and lower bills. In 2018, thanks to some deft political manoeuvring, it cleaved an unwavering path right through the middle of all the noise.

The introduction of competition into the English non-household retail market in April 2017 offered 1.2 million businesses the chance to choose their water service supplier for the very first time. Determined to turn around the initial lacklustre response from the market, Ofwat’s no-nonsense response pulled no punches in identifying the bottlenecks, opening the door to a new way forward for customers and retailers alike.


As the seasoned driver of the growth engine which will see £55 billion invested across the UK water sector over the next five years, Ofwat has the Herculean task of inspiring utility companies to stretch themselves when delivering their investment plans. Its inspired use of carrots and sticks to incentivise out-of-the-box thinking won it plaudits from a diverse range of stakeholders in 2018.


Water and Electricity Company, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

The Water and Electricity Company (WEC) is a joint stock company owned by the Saudi Ministry of Finance. It is the procuring body and offtaker for all of the Kingdom’s wave of new privately financed water and wastewater projects with a remit including seawater desalination and wastewater treatment plants, among others.

What has it done?

2018 marked the breakthrough for the long-awaited Saudi water privatisation process first mooted in 2016 as part of the Kingdom’s national post-oil economic turnaround plan. WEC overcame a myriad of market challenges to secure record breaking bids from project developers, signing the contract to set the first massive greenfield desalination project in motion, and setting the stage for dozens more of the world’s largest water infrastructure deals.

What makes it special?

The signing of the contract with an ACWA Power-led team to develop the 600,000m3/d Rabigh 3 plant was the official seal of approval on a two-year process to roll out Saudi Arabia’s flagship water PPP programme. Despite the challenges of the astonishing scale and number of projects being managed by WEC, it clinched a deal that marked a breakthrough for perhaps the world’s most-discussed independent water project, and the first desal plant of its type to be built in the Kingdom for a decade.

The bidding process for Rabigh 3 stunned the market with the low cost of water quoted by bidders. The low bid price of $0.53/m3 set a world record at the time, and later projects have only pushed the figures lower. WEC’s flexible approach to design and technology, and willingness to let bidders take the lead in innovation is resulting in a marketplace that is challenging the fundamental assumptions of water infrastructure pricing.


WEC’s willingness to take on new areas for major investment in the Kingdom such as wastewater treatment, brownfield infrastructure and other areas proves that PPP is no longer just about desalination in Saudi Arabia, and private finance can be wielded to the benefit of every part of the water cycle in one of the world’s largest water markets.


Water Services Regulatory Board, Kenya

What is it?

The Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) is Kenya’s water and wastewater services regulator; it oversees 88 utilities and ensures that service provision is affordable, efficient, safe and equitable. WASREB’s mandate was extended under the 2016 Water Act to include monitoring and licensing of water service providers.

What has it done?

Last year, the regulator became a champion for commercially viable utilities in developing market conditions, campaigning for cost recovery tariffs, naming and shaming poorly performing water service providers, calling out politicians flouting the rules, supporting the introduction of commercial finance in the sector and crusading for improvements in non-revenue water.

What makes it special?

In 2018, WASREB published the 10th edition of Impact, an annual report that benchmarks the country’s utilities against a range of indicators. Over the years, the report is credited with having lifted standards in the sector greatly and making providers more accountable, including to consumers.

In a careful balancing act between commercial demands and consumer protection, the regulator introduced an indexation of water tariffs so that automatic inflation adjustments would be made every year, but only for utilities that delivered on their performance targets. This would encourage utilities’ financial sustainability and good performance whilst shielding consumers from steep tariff increases.


The organisation displayed the same level-headed thinking when it took to task Kiambu County over its decision to merge eight utilities. The regulator argued that while mergers made sense to generate economies of scale, consultation, due diligence and the respect of the law should prime over economic rhetoric.


The Global Water Awards 2018 is proudly sponsored by:

Evoqua logo, links to Evoqua homepage

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