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NSW water leader steps down

WaterNSW will operate under new leadership next month, following the resignation of the water authority’s CEO David Harris. 

After six years with WaterNSW, Harris announced his departure last week, with civil and environmental engineer Andrew George lined up to start as Acting CEO. 

Harris said the timing of his resignation was considered carefully with the next strategic plan set to be developed later this year.

“As I head into my sixth anniversary as CEO this week, I have been reflecting on the right time to transition the leadership of WaterNSW for its next era and for me to take on my next challenge,” he said

“I believe now is the window for transitioning the leadership, ahead of the development of the next three-year Strategic Plan and as the reforms to the NSW Government-owned water sector enter the next phase.”

From 2014, Harris was CEO of both the State Water Corporation and Sydney Catchment Authority. WaterNSW Board Chair Anne McDonald said Harris was instrumental in the creation of WaterNSW in 2015, after the merger of the two organisations.

“In the past six years, David has led the organisation with passion and energy and has implemented some important water reforms for NSW,” she said.

“Major achievements include real-time water information and water systems operations for customers in rural NSW [and] the delivery of the Broken Hill pipeline, which was delivered on time and ahead of budget.”

McDonald said she was confident WaterNSW would continue to thrive thanks to Harris' input.

“The last year has been an extraordinary period – the continuing extensive drought across NSW, bushfires in most catchments, and the one-in-20-year rain event in metropolitan catchments. Then, of course, there has been the operational impact of COVID-19,” she said. 

“The response by WaterNSW to these significant challenges is a tribute to the agility and performance culture that David has fostered within the organisation, allowing the team to successfully pivot between situations whilst seamlessly continuing to deliver on its core functions."

Reflecting on his time with WaterNSW, Harris said he was proud of the authority’s work and dedication to the water sector.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the organisation from its inception through some of the most significant improvements in water quality and water system operations that this state has ever seen," he said.

"Simultaneously, we have battled some of the worst natural disasters in our catchments.

“I thank my team of passionate and committed individuals, the Board, my contemporaries from elsewhere in the sector and the NSW Government. I am proud of what we achieved together and I leave a high-performing organisation ready for its next phase.”