Aqualia is the fourth-largest private water management company in Europe and the ninth in the world by population served, according to the latest Global Water Intelligence ranking. What is the company's mission and vision?
Our priority is to improve water supplies; this is both extremely important and essential to the health of the population. The company's values are clear. First and foremost, we strive for excellence in the workplace, which we combine with a distinct vocation for innovation. We also pride ourselves on the quality of our service, our commitment to local communities, and our business ethics.
In recent months, Aqualia has almost renewed 100% of contracts in Spain, representing a portfolio of more than EUR450 million. What are your main projects in the country right now?
At present, the Mar de Alborán desalination plant constitutes our most important project in Spain. Aqualia has taken ownership from La Caixa. It was a failed project that now we are traying to rehabilitate with the aim that will be operational next year. Mar de Alborán will provide Almeria with a highly valuable resource and it will improve the sustainability of water management in this area. Internationally speaking, we are in the process of adding the final few touches to two other large plants in Bogotá, Colombia, and Cairo, Egypt. We have also broken into the Mexican market. We recently embarked on the testing phase of a desalination plant in the Mexican state of Sonora and have a new contract to improve the efficiency of the water supply in Los Cabos, in Baja California Sur state. Since this city is extremely popular with tourists, it is vital that its water supply is reliable. We hope this project will mark the start of similar projects across the country.
How has the pandemic affected Aqualia?
When the pandemic started, we focused our efforts on protecting our employees, while continuing to provide people with a vital resource. Our main obstacle was guaranteeing supply when everyone was forced to stay at home. Thankfully, our service was officially declared as an essential service, which enabled us to draw up a contingency plan. This in itself brought about a revolution in terms of the company workflow. It was nothing short of a resounding success. We have not had any outbreaks at the company, although many of our employees have been indirectly affected. There have been no operational shortages in any of the countries in which we are present. This situation has forced us to learn a great deal of about remote working, flexibility, and personal commitment. From a business perspective, our demand is highly inflexible. This is because people tend to consume the same amount of water regardless of external factors. However, we did experience losses in tourist areas when the pandemic began. There are some areas have still not recovered in this sense, particularly island resorts.
What opportunities do you see in the Next Generation funds and the increase in PPPs?
For us, PPPs are an incredible vehicle for development. With this in mind, we often wonder why this private potential is not being tapped into. We have to keep an eye on whether the government has enough funds to make certain investments. We are advocates of PPPs and do not understand why water industry stakeholders do not take advantage of them. In terms of the Next Generation funds, we have participated in some projects, most often in conjunction with local authorities. One such project is particularly significant because almost all of the companies in the sector in Spain are working to digitalize measurements. This is seen as the first step to controlling the amount of water within the supply systems and learn how it is consumed. With this in mind, we are working to get some of these funds allocated to this project in order to finance it, even if it is not quite 100%. This would generate jobs, technological demand, and export capacity.