Receiving the award at the opening of the Association’s World Congress in Melbourne, Australia, he said he was looking ahead to the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development where access to clean water is set to be a major issue. “It is clear that there are many challenges ahead, not just for Thames Water but for the global water industry as a whole”, he told delegates.

Mr Alexander joined Thames Water in 1989, prior to the company’s privatisation later that year, and as Engineering Director oversaw the building of the £250 million Thames Water Ring Main, which was designed to safeguard London’s supplies well into the 21st century. It was completed in 1994, under budget and nearly two years ahead of schedule.

He has been Chief Executive since 1997, during which time Thames Water has grown from a regional water company serving London and the Thames Valley, to the world’s third largest water company, with 43 million customers and a presence in 44 countries. In November 2000, the company became the water division of German firm RWE.

Among the many overseas ventures he has supervised has been the construction of the Izmit dam, the largest privately financed water project in Turkey. The scheme also included a water treatment plant, which serves one million customers locally. The project began supplying water ahead of schedule in January 1999, and survived the earthquake, which hit the region seven months later in August. The water supply was interrupted for only two hours, while essential safety checks were made. Meanwhile, under Mr Alexander’s leadership, Thames Water employees from around the world worked alongside their Turkish colleagues to organise disaster relief to the area.

The company’s operations now include countries from Chile to China. Last September, Thames Water, along with its parent company RWE, also announced its intention to acquire American Water Works, which has 15 million customers. The purchase would make Thames Water the number one water company in the USA.

Mr Alexander is also actively involved in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s project “Partnering for Water Supply and Sanitation”, which aims to build sustainable partnerships with communities and provide water and sanitation to the urban poor across the world.

He met Mr Blair last November and, representing the UK water industry, stressed its willingness to promote sustainable solutions. He has also shown his personal support for the ongoing training and education of employees throughout the business. The growth of the company’s overseas activities has enabled scholarships for young engineers and scientists from Indonesia, Brazil and Chile to study in the UK for masters degrees in environmental health engineering.

Mr Alexander takes a personal interest in the progress of young researchers sponsored by Thames Water, and they are encouraged to engage in the activities of the International Water Association by joining specialist groups and presenting their work at national and regional conferences.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie