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Looking At Progress From A Wide-Angle

Award-winning project reduces environmental impact of wastewater treatment and sludge management


Water scarcity is one of the biggest global challenges – more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress today, and the numbers will continue to increase due to the impacts of climate change, urbanization and population growth.

Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah wastewater treatment and sludge management facility is an example of how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is helping to tackle this critical issue through substantial investment in sewage collection and wastewater treatment. It is one of a new generation of wastewater treatment plants and sludge management projects that aims to capitalize on securing safe, environmentally-sensitive disposal and treatment, while recovering energy and nutrients.

This outstanding project is set to leave a strong and lasting legacy for the community, with significant socio-economic benefits. The facility has significantly reduced the pollution of water wells because wastewater is now being effectively conveyed to the sewage treatment plant (STP) and is tertiary treated, as per local/international standards.

Furthermore, the treated water is being reused for irrigation and agricultural purposes, while odor and insect infestations are being controlled by treating old sludge lagoons. The surrounding area has also been enhanced through tree-planting schemes.

Delivering international best practice

The Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Wastewater Treatment and Sludge Management project delivered a new 200,000 m³/day STP for Madinah, in addition to the existing STP, boosting capacity to 440,000 m³/day.

The project was delivered efficiently by using best practice whole-of-life principles. For instance, work was divided into multiple construction packages which were awarded to different contractors in order to speed up the work and exceed targets. At the height of the project, more than 1,000 people were involved in its delivery. The project was completed on time and within budget.

Effective use of technology

When designing a cost-effective solution for the facility, K&A’s project team opted for an extended aeration technology as this offers longer mixing time with aged sludge, enabling a stable biological ecosystem that is better adapted for effectively treating waste load fluctuations from variable occupancy situations.

The facility is also equipped with unified Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system architecture that is connected to both the existing and proposed additional STPs via one control room that can operate all plants. It is connected to the main control room of the Water Directorate located 20km south of the STP site, which allows the authority to manage and operate the plants remotely.

Using the sun’s energy

Instead of a conventional sludge drying bed, K&A designed a sludge solar drying system to capture solar energy inside specially designed greenhouses and turn sludge into a year-long asset that can be used in the agricultural and industrial fields.

By applying the principles of exchanging heat and energy in 25,000 m² of covered solar drying cells, a minimum total water evaporation rate of 3,000 kg/m²/year can be reached. In this process, the sludge will be dried until an 80% solid content is achieved. The stabilized product brought to a reduced mass and pathogen content, is now an asset to be employed in various uses.

Industry recognition

The exceptional quality of the Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah wastewater treatment and sludge management facility has secured industry recognition with numerous awards. In December 2020 the project won a MEED Projects Award for Civil Engineering Excellence, while in November 2020 it was named Infrastructure Project of the Year at the Big Project Awards.