Atkins hired for major Saudi water treatment scheme

UK engineer and designer Atkins has won an advisory services contract from Saudi Arabia’s state-owned National Water Company (NWC) as part of a consortium to build three large wastewater treatment plants in a rare privately-funded scheme.

More than seven million people will get access to treated water in the hot, dry country where currently not much wastewater treatment is done, Atkins said in a statement, adding that this is the first privatisation project for NWC.

The three flagship projects will treat water in Jeddah (pictured), Dammam and the Northern Border region. The consortium is led by financial consultant Mizuho Bank and supported by legal consultant White & Case.

"With strong economic development and a rising population, the current sanitation infrastructure across the Kingdom is not adequate and needs to be expanded," said Francois-Xavier Basselot, Atkins’ market director for water in the Middle East.

"Through these flagship projects, the NWC, with support from the consortium, will bring much needed improvements to the environment, ecology and public health for the citizens of Saudi Arabia."

Atkins said a low percentage of the wastewater produced in the country is currently treated.

The projects will be developed using the Build-Operate-Transfer / Build-Operate-Own (BOT/BOO) scheme to finance the construction of wastewater treatment facilities, where private funds are used to construct and operate a facility before ownership is transferred to a public entity.

Atkins, now member of the SNC-Lavalin group, will provide advice on public-private collaboration as well as insights on the technical requirements such as conceptual design of the wastewater treatment plant facilities, environmental impact review and guidance, or procurement and bid evaluation support.

Saudi Arabia has been diversifying the industrial base of the country in line with the National Transformation Program, Saudi Vision 2030, to be less dependent on oil. The programme is also aimed at promoting privatization to reduce public spending.

Image: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Atkins)

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