Under the programme, a private company will operate and manage existing wastewater treatment capacity at Manfouha until it is taken out of service in 2015.

It will also take over a plant that is currently under construction at Al-Hayer and build a 400,000-cubic-metre-a-day (cm/d) plant at the site on a build-own-operate basis.

However, problems with the construction of a waste distribution system linking the Manfouha and Al-Hayer sites is likely to delay the process. The system will convey sewage from the old Manfouha facility to the plants at Al-Hayer, 30 kilometres outside Riyadh.

The engineering, procurement and construction contract for the link has already been awarded, although the identity of the winner is not known.

However, according to industry sources, the route of the link has been changed and it will now be significantly more expensive to build. As a result, the contract could be retendered.

A separate tender process for the privatisation of wastewater treatment facilities in the Al-Kharj area is now expected to precede the Manfouha/Al-Hayer scheme. The successful bidder will operate an existing plant at the site, buy a plant that is under construction and build a 100,000-cm/d wastewater treatment facility.

It is expected that a request for qualification for the Al-Kharj privatisation scheme will be issued in October.