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Public Water Agency of the Year

For the governmental agency or public body that made the biggest difference to water and wastewater service provision and utility management in 2021.

Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

The ministry responsible for policy and strategy ensuring sustainable development and quality of services in the fields of the environment, water and agriculture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What has it done?

In 2021 the Ministry oversaw massive steps towards the Kingdom’s hugely ambitious National Water Strategy 2030, ensuring continuous performance in the whole water sector, while expanding coverage levels and simultaneously rewriting the fundamentals of how water infrastructure finance and management intersect.

What makes it special?

The Kingdom’s huge water privatisation programme – the largest in the world and a pathfinder for infrastructure as a whole in the country – made huge progress in 2021. Large swathes of the portfolio of countrywide utility the National Water Company were brought under private oversight through the “cluster” management programme, while the procurement of key assets in desalination, wastewater treatment, water storage, transmission and other areas using private finance stepped up a pace.

A continuous focus on excellence meant there was no interruption at all to the quality of services during the COVID-19 pandemic; indeed service levels were significantly improved. While the number of wastewater treatment plants in the Kingdom increased to 136, the number of sewage disposal sites was reduced from 163 to 36.


The restructuring of key public bodies in 2021 will allow the ongoing transformation of services to continue in the smoothest fashion. The creation of new regulatory authorities will ensure performance in all areas of the infrastructure network, while the transfer of responsibilities for treated wastewater to the Saudi Irrigation Organization sets the stage for a breakthrough in the sustainable recycling of water as demand grows in years to come.


SA Water, Australia

What is it?

The state-owned utility providing water supply and wastewater collection, treatment and recycling services to more than 1.7 million customers in South Australia.

What has it done?

Located in one of the world’s major hubs for renewable energy, in 2021 SA Water outlined the future of what a net-zero water utility can look like, investing heavily in its own renewable credentials to start a process that will see it emissions-neutral by 2030. It also invested in new water supplies that brought much-needed modern utility services to some of the world’s most isolated communities.

What makes it special?

The utility made a huge move towards long-term environmental sustainability in 2021. In October it made a commitment to achieving zero net emissions by 2050, a target that was later brought forward to 2030. At the same time, its ongoing Zero Cost Future Energy programme began to take fully effect last year – a quarter of the utility’s fleet was replaced by electric vehicles, and the installation of 370,000 solar PV panels with an annual output of 242 GWh and 34 MWh of battery storage covers an average of 70% of energy requirements and allow the body to consider a truly post-carbon future.

Through investment in localised desalination the utility brought water services to some of the world’s most remote communities in the far north of the huge state. At the same time a campaign to educate and share basic plumbing techniques for isolated settlements stepped up a pace and increased water resilience for hundreds of people in Aboriginal communities around South Australia.


The creation of a water quality risk management framework allowed SA Water to open up dozens of previously restricted reservoirs, waterways and nature areas for public use for swimming, fishing and water sports without any fears of compromising water quality or public health.