The South Cluster: A consortium led by Aqualia will manage water for more than 5 million inhabitants in southern Arabia

Un consorcio liderado por Aqualia gestionará el agua para más de 5 millones de habitantes en el sur de Arabia

The contract was signed yesterday in Riyadh by Javier Díaz, Aqualia’s Country Manager in Saudi Arabia, Nemer Al-Shebel, CEO of the state-owned NWC (National Water Company), and representatives of the other three companies that make up the consortium. The so-called South Cluster, whose water services will be managed by the consortium for a period of 7 years, includes four provinces and is home to a population of more than five million people in an area equivalent to half the size of Spain. The South Cluster is one of the 6 regional administrative units in Arabia into which the state entity NWC (National Water Company), client of the contract, has divided the country to make progress towards a more efficient management.

A consortium led by Aqualia (45%) and also comprising the Spanish company Acciona (25%) and the Saudi service companies Tawzea (23%) and HAACO (7%) has just won the public tender for the award of the contract for the management, operation and maintenance (MOM) of the end-to-end water cycle in the Saudi regions of Assir, Jazan, Baha and Najran in the south of the kingdom, near the border with Yemen.

The signing of the contract, which took place yesterday in Riyadh, was attended by Luis de Lope, Aqualia’s International Director, José Enrique Bofill, Aqualia’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, and Javier Díaz, Aqualia’s Country Manager in Arabia, together with the CEO of the state-owned NWC (National Water Company) and representatives of the other three companies that comprise the consortium: Acciona, HAACO and Tawzea.

Aqualia is the official leader of the consortium according to the terms of the public tender. The so-called South Cluster, which includes these four provinces in southern Arabia and has a population of more than five million people in an area equivalent to half the size of Spain (240,000 km2), is one of the 6 clusters, territories in Arabia into which the state entity NWC (National Water Company), the client of the contract, has divided the country to make progress towards an improved management of water supply and sanitation services. 

The ultimate aim of this programme of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to promote private sector participation in the management of water and sanitation in the country and to improve efficiency across the board.

This South Cluster contract, executed by a multidisciplinary team of experts from the consortium companies, of 9 different nationalities, will optimise the management and pursue the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of the end-to-end water cycle in the vast southern region of Saudi Arabia.

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

As part of 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 engagement programme to improve service efficiency.

The programme aims to implement a restructuring of the national water system into six regional distribution entities (clusters), as well as the entry of the private sector into the system in two phases. These two phases, during which a profound institutional and legal reform will be undertaken with the objective of achieving financial sustainability, are as follows:

Phase 1: Implementation of Management, Operation and Maintenance contracts (MOM Contracts) in each cluster for a duration of 7 years.

Phase 2: 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 (Makkah 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).

Aqualia, a benchmark in water management in Saudi Arabia

Aqualia has been working in the Middle East since 2011. In Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, for five years it developed a major project to optimise the city’s water supply network, enabling it to offer a better service to more than 3 million inhabitants.

In the same country, Aqualia is also currently managing the services affected by the capital’s underground works (also implemented by the FCC Group) and has operated and maintained the Hadda and Arana wastewater treatment plants in the city of Mecca, with half a million inhabitants served.

In early 2020, Aqualia acquired 51% of the company HAAISCO (Haji Abdullah Alireza Integrated Services Ltd) from the Saudi Arabian group Haji Abdullah Alireza, which is responsible for the operation and maintenance of several desalination plants in Arabia. Among them is the King Abdulaziz International Airport plant in Jeddah, a concession of the Qatarat company, in which Aqualia also acquired 51% in the same operation. 

These acquisitions marked the beginning of an alliance that in a short period of time produced significant successes such as the award in 2021 in Jizán (southwest of the Kingdom) of the water supply to one of the main industrial complexes in Saudi Arabia.

Aqualia also operates and maintains, through HAAISCO, two other desalination plants in Saudi Arabia: the KAUST University reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant, located in Thuwal, which produces 52,250 m³ daily. It also manages for Aramco-Sumitomo the MED (multi-effect distillation) desalination plant in Rabigh, with a daily production of 10,000 m³.

Aqualia, among worldwide leaders in water management

Aqualia is the water management company owned by the citizen services group FCC (51%) and the Australian ethical fund IFM Investors (49%). The company is the fourth largest water company in Europe by population served and the ninth largest in the world, according to the latest Global Water Intelligence ranking (March 2021). 

It currently serves almost 30 million users in 17 countries: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Czech Republic, Romania, and Tunisia. In the 2020 financial year, the company had a turnover of €1.189 billion and maintained a business portfolio of more than €15 billion.