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Water Leaders Award

For the most dramatic performance improvement in a water utility in the developing world in 2021.

Beijing Drainage Group, China

What is it?

A state-owned wastewater utility that owns and operates 11 treatment plants in Beijing with a combined capacity of 4,230,000m3/d, serving 17 million people.

What has it done?

Beijing Drainage Group (BDG) unveiled a three-step carbon neutrality roadmap in 2021, with the aim of reducing its current carbon emissions (450,000 tonnes of CO2/year) and carbon intensity (3.6 tonnes of CO2 per 10,000m3 of wastewater treated) sequentially by 20% in 2025 and by 40% in 2035, before hitting net zero in 2050. By investing in new treatment technology and renewable energy generation, the group has made a major play to become China’s first carbon-neutral utility by 2050.

What makes it special?

The group’s innovation partnerships for sludge treatment paid off in spades in 2021. BDG’s five sludge treatment centres, with a combined capacity of over 1,200 tonnes of dry solids per day, implemented an advanced packaged solution comprising Cambi’s thermal hydrolysis process, Purac’s anaerobic digestion process, and BDG’s self-developed anaerobic ammonium oxidation technology, making the group a true champion for sludge management in China.

The group made major headway on its hyper-ambitious renewable energy programme – installing distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at three of its WWTPs and realising an annual power generation capability of around 24 million kWh in 2021, making the group the top producer of solar energy in China’s municipal wastewater sector. It also completed the deployment of biogas power generation facilities associated with its sludge centres in August 2021, which are expected to produce another 80 million kWh of power a year, meeting around 20% of the power demand for the group’s overall sewage and sludge treatment processes.


BDG applied its self-developed aerobic granular sludge technologies to replace the traditional activated sludge process in its 80,000m3/d Wujiacun WWTP in 2021. The plant is the largest to date in China to use aerobic granular sludge solution, making the group itself a pioneer in developing and adopting advanced wastewater treatment solutions from the lab to the field.


Water Corporation of Odisha, India

What is it?

A not-for-profit company wholly owned by the Government of Odisha, India. WATCO provides water supply and sewerage services in various cities in the state of Odisha, with the long-term goal of scaling up its operations to cover the entire state and beyond.

What has it done?

WATCO has been instrumental in expanding the universal and reliable provision of drinking water supplies in its key cities, expanding coverage across its area through a replicable investment model, while keeping a company-wide focus on technology and supporting local employment.

What makes it special?

The city of Puri, which attracts 2 million tourists a year to visit its temples, became the first of its size in India to achieve the “24×7” water distinction in 2021, guaranteeing uninterrupted access to safe potable water for all citizens. WATCO became the first utility in India to provide 24×7 water in one of its major cities and is now currently in the process of expanding the model to 20+ more towns and cities, including state capital Bhubaneswar.

In total, WATCO has implemented universal water supply coverage in 4 major cities of Odisha, with 2.5 million people connected to a household piped water connection, putting the state at the forefront of national plans to roll out universal piped water supplies across the country by 2024. Bhubaneswar last year became the first city in India with a million-plus population to achieve 100% household connections.


While putting technology at the heart of its expansion plans – adopting smart metering and real-time IoT based sensors to ensure high-quality supply and incorporating remote monitoring and leakage detection capabilities to minimise wastage – the body has also inducted more than 750 women in a drive to improve its workforce diversity and support local communities.