Chris Thurston

Head of Sustainability, Watercare Services, New Zealand

Chris Thurston

Head of Sustainability, Watercare Services, New Zealand


Chris Thurston is the head of sustainability for Watercare, based at the bottom of the world, in Auckland, New Zealand. We are New Zealand’s largest water and wastewater services provider and each day, we supply around 400 million litres of water to Aucklanders and collect, treat and dispose of around 460 million litres of wastewater. We interact closely with the natural environment and draw water from 27 sources. We own and manage assets over $14 billion and have a large infrastructure pipeline to cater for the ongoing growth of our metro and rural populations.

Fully Sustainable is a strategic principle for Watercare and through the companies Climate Change Strategy there are the following targets:

–       Net zero 2050

–       50% reduction in operational emissions by 2030

–       40% reduction in construction related emissions by/from 2025

–       15% reduction in per capita water consumption by 2025

Watercare’s 2030 decarbonisation roadmap includes projects from all across the organisation though there is a particular focus on wastewater process emissions as that makes up ~70% of operational emissions. Currently pilots, trials and investigations are happening across the following key areas which Chris hopes to get more insight on through meeting with peers at the Global Water Summit

–       Wastewater process emissions direct measurement technology and monitoring methodologies

–       Wastewater process emissions optimisation approaches, including AI and digital optimisation services

–       Alternative uses for biogas including exporting for use by third parties. In particular biomethane and hydrogen

Watercare also has a strong focus on reducing whole of life emissions through the infrastructure process. In 2020 the Enterprise Model was launched, a collaborative infrastructure delivery model with key partners to deliver the ‘40/20/20 build better infrastructure’ vision. This vision sets targets to reduce emissions within infrastructure by 40% whilst also reducing cost by 20% and improving healthy safety and wellbeing outcomes by 20% every year. To achieve this we have teamed up with partners in strategic planning, design and construction who are all fully on board.

Chris comes from a background with a wide range of sustainability focus having worked across New Zealand and the United Kingdom across private and Government roles. His specialty in greenhouse gas management has evolved into energy efficiency, renewables and integrated water management. His passion for collaborative approaches has been displayed working across ethical supply chain management and by working for the New Zealand Government on innovative public-private partnerships.

Chris is on the panel for the carbon in procurement session at 1600 on Day 1 of the Global Water Summit.

Chris is passionate about the water industry and the leadership role it can have in creating a sustainable future. We have a great opportunity and will also face some of the largest challenges so its imperative that action is taken urgently. Chris looks forward to meeting fellow professionals at the Global Water Summit to share ideas and approaches.