Faced with rising populations, N orth African governments are investing in new wastewater treatment capacity. Egypt, in particular, faces soaring demand. Its population of 83 million is growing at 1.7 per cent a year and 500,000 new homes need to be built each year as Cairo seeks to accommodate new entrants into the property market.

Each new housing development drives up demand both for drinking water and for wastewater treatment services. Many of Egypt’s new homes are likely to be built in the desert, away from the congested Nile delta, where they will rely on dedicated plants both to supply drinking water and to treat waste.

New communities

Major residential projects include New Cairo City, a satellite community being developed by the Egyptian government’s New Urban Communities Authority (Nuca). The new town, 10 kilometres outside eastern Cairo, will house 2 million people by 2020.

A major wastewater plant is planned for this community, with construction due to begin later this year. Financing on the project closed in February. It will have an initial capacity of 250,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d) and a final capacity of 500,000 cm/d by 2012. A later expansion will take it to 1.25 million cm/d. The plant is the first major public-private partnership (PPP) deal in Egypt.

The Construction Authority for Potable Water & Wastewater is also expanding the Gabal Asfar wastewater plant, again on Cairo’s east side, under a government-funded design, build and operate scheme. Three phases will give a total capacity of 3 million cm/d by 2014. The plant currently provides wastewater treatment for 9 million residents.

Tenders for a second PPP scheme are expected to be issued this month for two plants at 6 October City, 35km outside Cairo. Financial close on it is expected in June. The contracts are to finance, construct, operate and maintain one new 150,000 cm/d wastewater treatment plant and to operate and maintain an adjacent 100,000 cm/d plant already under construction. The advisory team on the project comprises a consortium of the Netherlands’ Ecorys and DHV, with Chemonics Egypt as technical adviser and the US’ CH2M Hill giving environmental guidance.

Egypt also invited firms to prequalify in December for a planned upgrade of the 1.2 million cm/d Abu Rawash wastewater treatment plant, west of Cairo.

Egypt’s second city of Alexandria also has a wastewater capacity expansion project under way, led by Alexandria General Organisation for Sanitary Drainage. An existing wastewater network system for the Ameriya district is being rebuilt for treatment by mechanical and biological methods of wastewater that was previously discharged into the sea. The plant will serve 300,000 people.

A contract for the $113m project, financed by the European Investment Bank, Germany’s Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau and the US Agency for International Development, was awarded in 2007 and work will be completed by mid 2010.

The designer is the UK’s Schneider & Partners and the main contractor is the local Alexandria Construction Company.

Countrywide investment

Meanwhile, Algeria is planning a programme to build 50 or 60 treatment plants over the next decade, according to Dietmar Vergud, the Algiers-based agent of Austrian specialist water treatment company Wabag.

In June last year, the company completed the E50m ($68m) revamp of the main Baraki treatment plant for the capital, Algiers, with a capacity of 900,000 cm/d.

Algeria’s Water Resources Ministry is to issue tenders for 11 new wastewater plants before the end of the year, completing a 35-plant construction programme launched in 2006.

The country plans a further 30 plants, to treat a projected 2.47 million cm/d of waste-water, by 2020. Proposed locations include El-Bayed, Tissemsilt, Ain Sefra, Mechria, El-Golea, Mostaganem, Aflou, Tebessa, Kais, Djelfa and Azazga.

Most will have a capacity of about 20,000 cm/d. The estimated cost is between $40-50 million a plant.