Doha rethinks water services

02 March 2010

With demand for water and wastewater services growing steadily, Qatar’s government is seeking out new ways to boost capacity

In the space of a few months, Qatar has launched several groundbreaking initiatives in its wastewater and water sectors. These range from the privatisation of its wastewater network to the development of its first solar-powered and reverse osmosis desalination plants.

At the same time, the country has not lost sight of the ongoing need to deliver new capacity and is set to award or tender new wastewater treatment plant projects adding 149,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d) of capacity this year. 

Key fact

Qatar’s food security plan will require almost 300 million gallons of water a day, to irrigate locally grown crops

For the first time, Qatar is planning to invite the private sector to manage its wastewater networks. The Public Works Authority (Ashghal) is expected to award a feasibility study for the outsourcing of the operation and maintenance of its networks in March. It is currently evaluating three bids for the study from the UK’s Hyder Consulting and US firms Parsons Brinckerhoff and Aecom.

Outsourcing move

The feasibility study is the first step towards the implementation of the outsourcing programme. Over three years, the successful bidder will examine Ashghal’s assets and put forward a plan to upgrade them. The consultant will also propose a programme to outsource the operation and maintenance of the network.

Once the study is complete, Ashghal will invite contractors to bid for several operation and maintenance contracts under the public-private partnership (PPP) model. These will cover a total of 5,000 kilometres of wastewater collection and disposal networks, treated sewage effluent networks and rainwater networks.

Qatar has never before applied the PPP model to its wastewater sector. Ashghal traditionally tenders the construction of new wastewater treatment plants on a design and build basis. However, the authority has recently begun awarding separate operation and maintenance contracts for its treatment facilities.

France’s Veolia secured a $71m contract in April 2009 to maintain and operate the Doha South wastewater treatment plant.

In numbers

  • 149,000 - New wastewater treatment capacity planned, in cubic metres a day, in 2010
  • 5,000 - Length, in kilometres, of the planned wastewater disposal and collection pipeline network
  • 329 - Projected demand, in million gallons a day, for water in Qatar in 2019, compared with 215 million gallons a day in 2009

Source: MEED

The implementation of these contracts will now be overseen by Kuwait’s KEO International Consultants, which won a QR5m ($1.4m) deal in January to provide post-contract consultancy services for the operation and maintenance of sewage pumping stations, treatment plants and associated networks across the country.

Ashghal is continuing to push ahead with several wastewater treatment capacity expansion projects. The largest of these involves the extension of the existing Doha South wastewater treatment plant. The client has shortlisted three bidders for the project, which will add 80,000 cm/d of capacity to the existing  112,000 cm/d plant.

In mid-February, three bidders submitted revised financial offers to the client. They are India’s Larsen & Toubro with Oman’s Galfar Engineering & Construction and the US’ ITT Corporation; Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company with Veolia; and Singapore’s Keppel Seghers with the local HBK Holding. Ashghal is expected to award the contract in March and the winning bidder is schedule to start work on the project in May.

Demand rise

As Doha continues to grow westward with the construction of new homes, Ashghal will need to develop new wastewater treatment capacity elsewhere. The authority will demolish the Doha West plant and relocate it to Mesaieed, 35km south of the capital, but this could take 15 years. 

As part of the relocation plan, the Doha South facility would be converted into a pumping station, transferring sewage southwest to Abu Nakhla. From here, the sewage would flow through gravity sewers to Mesaieed for treatment.

In February, MEED reported that Ashghal is also planning to retender the planned Al-Dhakhira wastewater treatment plant project later this year. The original tender was scrapped due to land issues surrounding the original site, 40km north of Al-Khor. KEO International Consultants, which was responsible for the scheme’s design concept, has now been charged with its redesign. In its original form, the Al-Dhakhira facility would have been built in two phases, the first with capacity of 43,000 cm/d. The capacity of the second phase would be 11,000 cm/d. Ashghal had shortlisted two groups for the original contract. They were a team of South Korea’s Daewoo Engineering & Construction with UAE-based Metito and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company with Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power Development.

Private participation

Ashghal has already allowed private developers to take responsibility for the provision of wastewater services to major real estate projects. Local developer 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 residential projects in 2006. The membrane bioreactor-based plants will treat 60,000 cm/d of sewage.

Qatari Diar established Marafeq Qatar, a new multi-utility company, with its sister company Barwa Real Estate, France’s GdF Suez and Suez Environment, also of France, in 2008. A year later, the new entity signed a deal with Lusail Real Estate Development Company for the design, construction, financing, maintenance and operation of utilities for the Lusail project.

Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) is now considering handing responsibility for the distribution of power and water inside the Lusail development to Marafeq. Kahramaa will deliver power and water up to the border of the development, allowing Marafeq to buy it in bulk from there. Marafeq will operate and maintain the distribution networks inside Lusail and bill customers for its services, prompting some Qatar water specialists to label the project a privatisation of the area’s water and power distribution.

However, other sources in Qatar describe the set-up as a letting system – a private company operating a private network.

“As Doha continues to grow westward, Ashghal will need to develop wastewater treatment capacity”

Barwa Real Estate, meanwhile, appears to have resumed plans to develop a 15,000 cm/d wastewater treatment plant to serve its Barwa City development.

A detailed design of the scheme is now nearing completion. The project had been shelved by Barwa last year, while Ashghal considered connecting the new city to the existing sewer network. Qatar has already implemented several private desalination projects, but it has yet to take any concrete steps towards outsourcing the operation and maintenance of its water transmission and distribution networks.

Kahramaa has launched a number of desalination innovative projects in recent months. In January, MEED reported France’s Sogreah had been appointed to carry out a feasibility study for several solar-powered desalination plants to be built in the country.

The project is a part of the Qatar National Food Security Programme, announced by the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin  Khalifa al-Thani in November 2009. The programme calls for the development of  domestic agricultural production, which Kahramaa estimates will require approximately 296 million gallons of water a day (g/d). This demand will inevitably be met through desalination.  

Kahramaa has chosen parabolic trough solar technology and multi-effect distillation for the desalination process. However, under the contract, Sogreah will carry out further studies before making a final recommendation on which technology to use. It will also recommend the number and configuration of solar plants that will be needed.

Qatar is also moving ahead with plans to develop its first reverse osmosis desalination plant. Serbia’s Energoprojekt Entel is carrying our a study for the scheme, which will have capacity of 2.5 million g/d of water. Energoprojekt will recommend a location for the facility and prepare the tender documents for the contract. The facility is scheduled to come on line by the end of October 2010. 

Desalination revamp

Like most states of the Gulf, Qatar has traditionally relied on thermal technology for desalination. While thermal plants are more capital-intensive and less energy-efficient than reverse osmosis facilities, they are better suited to treating the Gulf’s waters, which have high salinity levels and temperatures.

Unlike thermal desalination plants, which tend to be built alongside power generation facilities, reverse osmosis plants can be developed as standalone projects.

Qatarcurrently has an installed desalination capacity of 261 million g/d of water. A further 55 million g/d will come on line from the Ras Laffan C independent water and power project this year. But the country does not have sufficient storage facilities to guarantee water supply to the capital in the event of an emergency. To remedy this, Kahramaa has launched the Water Security Mega Reservoirs project.

The scheme will link desalination plants at Ras Laffan and Ras Abu Fontas via a 2.5-metre-diameter pipeline, which will skirt the west side of Doha. The pipeline will also connect to five reservoirs on the outskirts of the capital.

The reservoirs will have capacity of 2.6 billion gallons of water each. Together, they will provide one week of emergency supplies, assuming unrationed use. If Kahramaa were to ration supplies in an emergency, the reservoirs could supply Doha with water for up to a month. Sogreah is currently carrying out a feasibility study for the project.

Demand for water is projected to continue to grow at a steady pace in Qatar. Peak water consumption occurred in June 2009, when demand reached 215 million g/d, a 9 per cent increase on its 2008 peak of 197 million g/d. Kahramaa estimates demand for water will reach 329 million g/d in 2019.

The government’s efforts to develop innovative ways to boost water production capacity, operate and maintain networks and ensure sufficient storage, should guarantee that this growing demand will be met.

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