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Public Water Agency of the Year

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

Saudi Water Partnership Company, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

The Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) 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. SWPC 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 SWPC, 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. SWPC’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.


SWPC’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.


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.