Smart Water Project of the Year 2018

Mecca Smart Operations Project, Saudi Arabia.

For the project that most effectively harnessed digital solutions to achieve excellence in water or wastewater management in 2017.

What is it?

Striving to contribute to the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company (NWC) implemented a SAR50 million ($13.3 million) Smart Operations Project in Mecca, switching from manual to automated operations. The project covered a 25.5km2 area, encompassing a colossal 996km pipe network and 28 reservoirs.

Who is involved?

National Water Company is the owner of the project, while International Aramoon Company, a local leak detection and sewer repair specialist, acted as the main contractor. The breadth and complexity of the solution is reflected in the broad range of partners, which include Xylem’s data analytics holding, Sensus, automated solutions provider ABB, and valve manufacturer VAG Valves.

What makes it special?

Mecca faces unique water consumption challenges, with over 2 million pilgrims descending on the Islamic holy site for a six-day period every year. Because of this, 90% of the region’s assets exist solely to support the water supply throughout this holy period. During Hajj, pilgrims must undertake physical activities under sweltering conditions, resulting in enormous peaks in water consumption at certain times of the day. The ensuing network pressure fluctuations make maintenance of a continuous water supply extremely challenging.

The installation of an advanced SCADA system and an army of online pressure sensors enables network pressure to be measured every second. The in-house development of a smart operations system that automatically operates control valves based on live pressure measurements ensures that water pressure is continuously maintained throughout the Hajj season. The combined result of NWC’s pioneering innovations enabled the successful pumping of 30 million m3 of water into Mecca and the Al Mashaer region during the 2017 pilgrimage season, maintaining the quality of water services during peak flows and boosting customer satisfaction to new levels.