Ozwater’21: The World’s Biggest Water Conference

15th September 2021

Adelaide, South Australia hosted Ozwater’21— the largest water industry conference and exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere—at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC), 4 – 6 May, 2021. Presented by the Australian Water Association (AWA), the event represented not only the world’s biggest water conference in 2021, but the first major national conference to be hosted at the Adelaide Convention Centre since COVID-19, with representation from across all States and Territories. At the time of the event, Ozwater’21 proudly assumed the title as the largest national conference to be held in Australia since the pandemic started.

Ozwater’21 followed a very challenging couple of years for the water sector with droughts, fires, floods and COVID-19. The program comprised more than 130 technical sessions and 80 pitch presentations, along with inspiring, interactive workshops and panel sessions. The live, face-to-face conference was complemented by an online program attracting over 85 individuals and four hubs, including international members from across New Zealand, Europe and South East Asia. In addition to the conference program, Ozwater’21 included an 8,338sqm trade exhibition which featured 160 exhibitors.

“This year’s Ozwater was our largest in Adelaide and the biggest water event in the world since COVID began. It was fantastic to safely bring together over 2,500 attendees from across the country and over 100 people online to reimagine our water future,” said Corinne Cheeseman, Chief Executive Officer at Australian Water Association.

The Roadmap to Ozwater’21 

As part of its national rotation, Ozwater was originally scheduled to take place in Adelaide in May 2020, however COVID-19 restrictions forced last year’s event to move to a fully online format. In 2021 it was critical for the AWA and the water industry at large to return to a face-to-face format, not only in terms of financial sustainability, but to allow the industry to ‘share, connect & inspire’. 

To deliver an event in line with government COVID guidelines, the event adapted from a logistics and event planning perspective right up to its opening. In addition to standard government imposed COVID Safe measures across the venue, key procedures were put in place by the ACC to ensure Ozwater’21 was a COVID Safe event including: 

• Staff serviced catering stations: In line with South Australian COVID Safe guidelines at the time, food service during breaks and lunches was via staff serviced buffets requiring ACC staff to set up three large catering stations spaced across the exhibition floor to aid service speed, promote physical distancing and reduce wait times. 

• Water Service: As a water industry event, a requirement of Ozwater’21 was that delegates were served tap water only. To accommodate this, four water stations were set up within the venue, with staff individually serving delegates water in 100% compostable biocups. 

• Exhibition: The exhibition build took place over four days and was supervised by Exhibition Floor Managers and COVID Marshals to ensure it was completed in accordance with the venue’s COVID Safe Management Plan. 

“Ozwater’21 highlighted the value of business events to our state’s recovery. In addition to injecting $5.7M into the local economy, Ozwater’21 provided South Australia the opportunity to showcase its strengths within the water industry. The event’s significant exhibition component meant the opportunities for trade and investments were vast, which resulted in strong economic tail and lasting legacy for both the Australian Water Association and the water industry at large,” said Damien Kitto, Chief Executive Officer at Adelaide Convention Bureau.


Ozwater’21 was a record event by all measures, demonstrating the strong appetite and support for the return of face-to-face events. 

From a destination perspective, Ozwater’21 reinforced South Australia as a safe destination for business events, along with the Adelaide Convention Centre’s capabilities, flexibility and expertise in delivering COVID safe events. 

From an economic perspective, Ozwater’21 highlighted the critical role played by business events in the recovery effort. It delivered significant economic benefit by injecting AUD $5.7 million into the local South Australian economy, along with a great boost to local hotels by generating 4,761 bed nights, not to mention a lasting economic tail for the water industry in South Australia.

“Ozwater’21 shows what can be achieved when organizers are determined and go through the right processes and practices to ensure the safe delivery of a face-to-face business event. It was encouraging to see the Ozwater team rewarded for their efforts with record attendance, and in partnership with the Adelaide Convention Centre, deliver a successful event which will inspire confidence for the rest of the industry as we all continue to move through the recovery period,” said Simon Burgess, General Manager at Adelaide Convention Centre.

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