Aqualia and Acciona to manage water cycle in south cluster of Saudi Arabia

(Image: Aqualia)

The consortium selected last February to manage the water services of the south cluster of Saudi Arabia has formally begun its work with the celebration of a ceremony to launch the project. The consortium, led by Aqualia, and including Acciona and the Saudi service companies Tawzea and HAACO, will be responsible for the management, operation, and maintenance of the end-to-end water cycle in the Saudi regions of Assir, Jazan, Baha and Najran. These territories, located in the south of Saudi Arabia, have a population of more than five million inhabitants and a surface area of 240,000km², equivalent to half the size of Spain.

Since being selected by the Saudi National Water Company (NWC), the selection departments of the companies in the consortium and the local technicians of the four companies have formed a team of 39 highly qualified and multidisciplinary experts. The selected profiles, which come from nine different countries, will optimise the management, and pursue the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of the end-to-end water cycle of the vast southern Saudi region.

According to Antonio Olivas, manager of the consortium: “The professionals on the team I lead have the highest technical qualifications and management skills. Although we find ourselves in a highly competitive environment in which companies are measured by attracting talent, we are confident that, thanks to this team, we will be able to undertake with guarantees the mandate to modernise and substantially improve the efficiency of water services in southern Arabia. It is the people who will make this project stand out”.

The south cluster is one of six territories in Arabia into which the state-owned NWC, the client of the contract, has divided the country to move towards improved management of water supply and sanitation services. The aim of this programme of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to encourage private sector participation in the management of water and sanitation in the country and to improve efficiency across the board.

The contract includes the management of, among other assets, 59 water treatment plants, 380 reservoirs, 330 pumping stations, 127 tanker filling stations, 20,000 kilometres of water mains, 43 wastewater treatment plants and 7,000 kilometres of sewerage networks.

Saudi privatisation programme

Within the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, which seeks the modernisation and sustainable development of the country, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) has developed a National Water Strategy (NWS 2030) that addresses the main challenges of the sector through policy and institutional reform initiatives. As a result of this process, the National Water Company (NWC) was authorised to implement an integrated private sector attraction programme to improve service efficiency.

The programme aims to restructure the national water system into six regional distribution entities (clusters). Specialised private companies are involved in the development of this process. This institutional and legal reform in the country aims to achieve the financial sustainability of the water sector, and will be developed in two phases:

Phase one will see the implementation of management, operation, and maintenance contracts in each cluster for a duration of seven years, while phase two will see the implementation of long-term concession contracts in each cluster.

The six administrative/geographical areas identified with the clusters are as follows: east cluster (Eastern region of the country); west cluster (Mecca region); north cluster (Qassim, Hail, Al-Jouf and Northern Border regions); northwest cluster (Medina and Tabuk regions); central cluster (Central area of the country); and south cluster (Asir, Baha, Najran and Jazan regions).