Riyadh Water Supply Program

The Future of Infrastructure

Saudi Arabia is an area of absolute water scarcity. Prior to 2013, some households in Riyadh received water only one day out of three. Approximately half of the city’s water is derived from desalination plants on the country’s east coast, some 600 kilometers away, and the other half from deep wells around the city. Failed attempts to expand a desalination plant on Arabian Gulf coast meant that that capital was predicting a water shortfall of 200,000 cubic meters per day during summer 2013.

In September 2012, the National Water Company (NWC) asked AECOM to deliver a fast-track program to drill 42 new wells up to 2.4 kilometers deep in and around Riyadh. The program was given priority by NWC and received emergency funding from the Ministry of Finance.


Due to the fixed deadline of summer, we had only six months to complete the program, a timeframe that many considered impossible. To meet the deadline, AECOM assembled a program management office (PMO) responsible for driving contractor progress, and identifying and mitigating potential delays. Challenges included importing reverse osmosis plants from the USA and a shortage of reliable drilling rigs.

The program was completed within the six-month period and involved the construction of the following:

  • 43 wells at 27 locations
  • 27 reverse osmosis treatments plants
  • Nine water storage tanks
  • Six filling stations

Further, the PMO model was considered a huge success.