MENA’s Water Projects See Unprecedented Surge, Contracts Reach $20 Billion

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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 29: MEED magazine has reported a significant upswing in spending on water projects throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in 2023, reaching its highest levels in three years, as per Al- Anba daily. The collective value of contracts awarded in the water sector soared to $20 billion, marking a noteworthy 74% increase compared to the $11.5 billion awarded in 2022 and surpassing the highest annual contract values in the region recorded in 2021 at $14.5 billion. The magazine underscored the MENA region’s recognition of the critical importance of water security due to geopolitical tensions, water scarcity, and climate change. Sustainable investments in water projects align with the region’s long-term economic diversification agendas. Presently, projects valued at approximately $77.5 billion are in the pre-implementation stage across the five water sub-sectors in the MENA region, indicating a 29% increase compared to the previous year’s projects under implementation. This presents substantial opportunities for facility developers and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) project contractors seeking to secure more projects in this sector. Saudi Arabia remains a dominant force in future opportunities, with planned and non-awarded projects valued at around $30 billion.

Private utility developers are expected to play a more significant role, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where numerous desalination, wastewater treatment, water transportation, and storage projects are in the planning stages. In 2023, Saudi Arabia led with over 56% of the contracts awarded, totaling around $11 billion, signifying a 69% increase from 2022. The UAE, the second-largest market in the region, witnessed a substantial surge of over 250% in the value of contracts awarded, reaching approximately $4.9 billion. This growth was driven by independent water production projects and major water infrastructure initiatives. While all other MENA countries recorded higher values of contracts awarded in 2023 compared to 2022, exceptions were noted for Qatar (decreased by 72%), Jordan (decreased by 58%), and Algeria (decreased by 57%). Water transmission and distribution network projects retained a significant share, contributing 37% ($7.7 billion) in 2023, a 1% increase from the previous year. Water treatment plant projects saw a substantial increase of 180%, reaching $6.8 billion in 2023, and the value of water desalination contracts rose from $1.8 billion to nearly $4 billion.

Noteworthy developments include Morocco awarding its first major independent water production contract, Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation receiving a bid for the Aqaba-Amman water transfer and desalination project, and the expected launch of the first batch of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plants powered by renewable energy in Egypt within the next 12 to 24 months. Dubai and Qatar present lucrative short-to-medium term opportunities in sewerage tunnels and infrastructure projects. Qatar’s Public Works Authority is set to issue a tender for four pumping station projects, while Dubai Municipality revived the strategic sewerage tunnels project, requiring an investment of up to $22 billion. In conclusion, MEED magazine anticipates that water transmission and distribution projects will continue to be a priority in the MENA region, representing the largest water sub-sector. Utility companies aim to expand their networks to accommodate population, commercial, and industrial growth, connect new desalination and water treatment plants, and replace aging infrastructure to minimize water losses.

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