With a rapidly growing population and gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected by the International Monetary Fund to hit 11.5 per cent in 2009, project activity in Qatar’s wastewater sector remains strong.

State spending in the sector increased rapidly following the establishment of the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) in 2003, which is responsible for the collection, treatment and distribution of wastewater in Qatar.

Ashghal’s spending tripled from QR1bn ($275m) in 2003 to QR3bn by 2006. In the financial year ending 2008, its budget for the wastewater sector was more than QR8.4bn.

Qatar’s first sewage collection and treatment system was established in the mid 1960s with the construction of the 12,000-cubic-metre-a-day (cm/d) Doha South treatment plant. In 1984, the plant’s capacity was expanded to 45,000 cm/d, and it remained the state’s only sewage treatment plant until 1991, when a new 45,000 cm/d facility was commissioned at Doha West. The Doha West plant was expanded to a capacity of 54,000 cm/d in 1996, and to 135,000 cm/d in late 2008.

Over the past four years, most of Ashghal’s spending has been directed towards building new treatment capacity to keep pace with strong population and economic growth.

In 2006, Doha South was expanded to its current 106,000 cm/d capacity, and in April 2009, France’s Veolia secured a $71m contract to maintain and operate the treatment plant.

“There are plans to expand all existing facilities to meet long-term demand forecasts”

An ambitious expansion programme is now under way to boost capacity. In July, Ashghal received engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) bids from five groups to add 80,000 cm/d of treatment capacity at the Doha South site, which will enable the plant to treat wastewater from an additional 295,000 people. An award for the EPC deal is expected in early 2010.

The state-run firm is also seeking a project manager for consultancy services on the second-phase expansion of the facility. The project is due to be completed in mid 2012.

Work is also being carried out on the Doha North sewage treatment plant. In 2007, Singapore’s Keppel Seghers was awarded a QR3.6bn contract to design, build, operate and maintain the 243,000-cm/d Doha North sewage treatment plant, the state’s first major new-build treatment facility in more than 15 years. It is due to come on stream in 2011 and has been designed to have a peak capacity of 439,000 cm/d, enough to serve an additional 900,000 people, and satisfy any increase in demand over the next 10 years.

Ashghal has several other planned waste-water projects and a new sewage treatment plant opened at Al-Dhakheri in the north in mid 2009. The 27,000-cm/d plant serves about 108,000 people. There are also plans to expand all existing facilities to meet long-term demand forecasts. The government says future extensions will be able to serve a population of more than 2.5 million, with a total treatment capacity of more than 690,000 cm/d.

Other future expansion projects include extensions to the Doha West, Al-Dhakheri and southern industrial area plants.

Qatar’s collection and distribution system is extensive, with more than 1,600 kilometres of sewer lines, 145km of surface and groundwater lines and 450km of treated sewage effluent lines. More than 75 per cent of the population are currently served by the sewerage network.

Outside Ashghal’s responsibility, there are several independent sewage treatment plants serving industrial areas, infrastructure projects and real estate developments. For example, a 28,713-cm/d treatment plant is being built at New Doha International airport, which is due to open in 2011.

In addition, there are dedicated sewage treatment plants at the northern gas hub of Ras Laffan and the southern heavy industrial area at Mesaieed.

Private facilities

Increasingly, large-scale real estate developers are also building their own sewerage infrastructure. In 2006, Qatari Diar awarded a contract to France’s Degremont to design, build and operate a sewage transfer and treatment system to serve both the Pearl Qatar and Lusail projects. The membrane bioreactor-based plants will treat 60,000 cm/d of sewage.

In May 2008, Qatari Diar signed with its sister company Barwa and France’s Suez Group a memorandum of understanding to set up a multi-utility company. Among the services to be provided by the venture is wastewater to the two local developers’ real estate projects. However, Barwa indicated in early 2009 that it might competitively tender its wastewater projects rather than award them to the new venture, because of the cost.