Saudi Arabia Improves Water Services

Mike Ninos
With global recession shifting the focus away from the Gulf’s real estate market, Saudi Arabia’s growing infrastructure opportunities have moved into sharp focus.

Economic reform underpins the Kingdom’s diversification into non-oil sectors. Although the state retains the dominant role in the economy, the private sector is encouraged to participate, particularly in services and utilities.

Saudi is one of the world’s most water-scarce locations. With a growing population of 26 million, substantial investment in potable water, sewage and wastewater services was needed. An extensive privatisation programme has been launched, creating the National Water Company (NWC) to manage the delivery of water services to the public.

The percentage of the population served by an integrated sewage and wastewater system varies from city to city. Some city neighbourhoods depend upon septic tanks drained by wastewater tankers.

Priorities include:

  • connecting more homes to the wastewater collection system
  • ensuring a continuous supply of water
  • exploiting re-use of treated wastewater
  • minimising water losses
  • environmental, renewable energy and ecosystem analysis

Work is underway in Jeddah and Riyadh. Lessons learned will be transferred to other cities in the Kingdom.

The projects’ technical solutions bring significant design and engineering challenges. The project is underpinned by a pioneering PPP model that demands a culture shift for the Kingdom’s construction industry. NWC aims to deliver strong performance through a commercially viable organisation. The company is therefore keen to adopt global contracting methods, embracing international standards of programme and project management and enhancing operational efficiency. NWC are focused on streamlining processes, slimming hierarchical structures and adopting FIDIC based contracts. These are practices which other KSA government departments and PPP ventures may choose to follow in the future.

Faithful+Gould was appointed to assist and structure NWC’s in-house project management unit. Our role includes assessment of ongoing projects, together with delivery of the project management governance systems for NWC's corporate headquarters and the Riyadh and Jeddah business units.

Our input includes capacity building and knowledge transfer as well as functional management responsibilities within the business units. Our training role will assist NWC to set up project management units within their organisation.

The schemes are already making significant improvements to the comfort, health and safety of the population. Following serious floods in 2009, NWC succeeded in emptying the city’s infamous sewage lake nine months ahead of schedule, Faithful+Gould was part of the NWC project team which achieved this successful result.