Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company (NWC) is expanding its programme of infrastructure investment, service improvements, population centre coverage and treated sewage effluent (TSE) sales and is pressing ahead with its first joint venture company agreements, NWC chief executive officer Loay al-Musallam told the annual NWC Symposium in Jeddah on 3 December.

Al-Musallam said a key priority was increasing Saudi Arabia’s strategic water storage. “The NWC is building the strategic storage to increase it from 6 million cubic metres to 43 million cubic metres with total investment of SR15bn-16bn ($4bn-4.2bn),” Al-Musallam said.

In a question-and-answer session later in the symposium, Al-Musallam said that the possibility of storing water in Saudi Arabia’s depleted groundwater reservoirs was being considered.

The first major strategic water storage project was completed in Riyadh earlier this year and work is under way on a similar project in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia’s water consumption is now running at about 22m cubic metres a day.

Al-Musallam said that measures to reduce waste and leakage have already delivered water savings of 115m cubic metres. This was approximately equal to the output of two desalination plants. He forecast that the present water-saving plan will deliver total savings of 260m cubic metres.

Al-Musallam said that sales of TSE will be drastically increased. “More than SR 5.4bn of TSE sales have been successfully contracted and will rise to SR33bn over the next 20 years,’ Al-Musallam said.

Al-Musallam said that the NWC, which runs the water systems of Jeddah, Riyadh and Makkah/Taif, will soon take over the water systems in other major Saudi cities.

“The NWC looks forward to expanding into the major systems of Medina and Damman and Al-Khobar,” Al-Musallam said. “This will increase our consumer base to almost 60 per cent of the population.”

Al-Musallam said that the joint ventures will offer “opportunities to become long-term strategic partners” in the Saudi Arabian water industry.