Muharraq WWTP a unique facility in Bahrain
The Muharraq WWTP started operating in 2014 and is currently operating at its maximum design capacity of 100,000 m3/day. Almar Water Solutions has brought to the project, and the region, the capacity to develop the future expansion of Muharraq – the plant has an expansion plan of an extra 60,000 m3/day – or any other water projects under PPP schemes.
According to a study by the World Resources Institute, the Kingdom of Bahrain is among the 17 countries facing extremely high-water stress. Bahrain is ranked 12th on the list, which Qatar tops. Climate change will exacerbate an already unsustainable situation. Direct threats include rising sea levels, lower precipitation, and higher temperatures. Sea level rise is expected to lead to seawater intrusion into groundwater. Lower rainfall could lead to lower groundwater recharge rates. Higher temperatures could lead to unsustainable groundwater levels and desalinated water use by agriculture, households, and industries.
It’s worth mentioning that, as of August 2016, groundwater was no longer used in blending and was instead saved as a strategic reserve to be used exclusively in crises and disasters.
The Electricity & Water Conservation Directorate was established in 1999 to enable the sustainability of primary resources through electricity and water conservation.
Besides, Bahrain’s modernization program, underpinned by new infrastructure projects and the development of large industrial zones, aims to rebalance the economy away from energy production and shift the focus towards tourism, hospitality, retail, real estate, finance, infrastructure, and oil and gas services.
Construction of the Muharraq Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Muharraq project is a 100,000 m3/day state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant with a sewer conveyance system in the Muharraq catchment area. The conveyance system includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’s first 16.5 km deep gravity sewer trunk pipeline and a wastewater collection network.
The concession was signed in 2011 by the Ministry of Works with a 29-year (until 2 April 2040) BOO and BOOT concession that included design and construction, financing, operation and maintenance, and transfer. The facility’s operation began in 2014, and Almar Water Solutions acquired 35% of this project in 2019.
During the design stage, all teams worked closely with the EPC contractor’s procurement team to review the design from an operations perspective to ensure that materials procured for the facilities will optimize the life cycle cost and that these costs will be kept at a minimum throughout the concession period.
Before Muharraq, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, there was only the Tubli wastewater plant on the main island, where the capital Manama is located. However, due to population and urban growth, it was decided that the island of Muharraq should have its own wastewater plant.
When the plant started operating in 2014, it received around 72,000 cubic metres of daily water for treatment. However, following the 2018-2019 urban development and airport expansion, the plant began operating at its maximum design capacity of 100,000 m3/day.
A unique facility in Bahrein
The Muharraq wastewater plant is unique in the region for its sanitation, treatment, and reuse capacity for irrigation, industrial purposes, and urban cleaning. Another possible future application of the plant is the recharge of aquifers to expand the country’s natural water resources. This application is under study but would guarantee an increase in freshwater reserves.
This plant is also unique because Muharraq is the only wastewater treatment plant in the Kingdom developed under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. It is now managed by two international companies of high prestige in the water sector: Samsung Engineering Company Limited and Almar Water Solutions.
The contribution of Almar Water Solutions to the project
Muharraq wastewater treatment plant has an expansion plan of an extra 60,000 m3/day. The plant’s location already provides space for this expansion easily without making significant investments or modifications.
Almar Water Solutions is a specialist in project finance contracts and a sustainable infrastructure developer with a presence on five continents. The company has brought to the project, and the region, the capacity to develop the future expansion of Muharraq or any other water projects under PPP schemes.
Highly qualified staff and technology to obtain ultra-clean water
The facility employs around 70 people, including the SPV and the operation and maintenance team. The project has highly qualified staff and a certified laboratory for water quality studies.
A separate sewerage basin serves the approximately 260,000 people on Muharraq Island in the Kingdom of Bahrain. All wastewater flows to the Muharraq plant, which has a treatment capacity of 100,000 m3/day. The catchment is predominantly domestic but also serves several hospitals and Bahrain International Airport.
The conventional sewage treatment process has three stages with a separate sludge treatment stream. The residual sludge is incinerated in the sludge incineration plant. The wastewater treatment stream consists of a preliminary treatment of screening and grit removal, a secondary treatment of biological treatment and a tertiary treatment of solids removal and disinfection.
The primary treatment includes coarse screening, fine screening, and grit removal using aerated grit channels. After this, the secondary treatment includes filing, reaction, settling, decanting, idling, and sludge wasting. Finally, in the tertiary treatment, we find disc filters and ultraviolet disinfection to disrupt DNA, resulting in bacteria becoming non-viable. After these phases, Muharraq obtains ultra-clean water to be disposed of at sea in perfect conditions, incinerating the residual dried sludge, and part of the water is reused for different purposes.
The plant uses tertiary treatment to recycle part of the treated used water into clean high-grade reclaimed water. After treatment to achieve clean water quality, the resulting water is piped for use in new urban developments, irrigation, and industry.
Committed to reducing the environmental impact
The plant is located off Prince Khalifah Bin Salman Causeway on a newly reclaimed island away from population areas. The Muharraq wastewater treatment plant contributes to the environment by treating and cleaning wastewater from the entire city. The plant removes all pollution, resulting in clean water that can be returned to the environment or reused.
The significant contribution of this project in terms of environmental impact is the incineration of sludge, which is a problem for the Muharraq peninsula. This process reduces the volume of waste by 3.5 times, avoiding the problem of landfill storage, which is much more polluting.
The effluent from the sewage treatment plant complies with international environmental standards, and was designed to be reused, such as for unrestricted irrigation, reducing pressure on water resources.
A Community Liaison Officer has been appointed to address community interests and concerns during construction. An independent environmental consultant – PH Environment Gulf – has been appointed to regularly visit and monitor construction works and the operational site to ensure environmental mitigation measures are implemented and maintained. The following measures address environmental issues:
- Air quality: emissions from sludge incinerators comply with European best practice standards.
- Odour: the plant incorporates odour monitoring and control systems.
- Water quality: treated sewage effluent was designed to be used for irrigation. The discharge complies with both contractual and Bahraini environmental standards. Sewers are designed to minimize the impact on groundwater resources.
Adding value to society
Committed to the health and well-being of the citizens of Muharraq, and the rest of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Muharraq has actions and activities that benefit the population.
In 2022, Muharraq participated in a study on SARS-CoV-2 with wastewater samples taken from the wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater analysis defined that the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in a specific population could be predicted or confirmed.