The Business Year

Alan Thomson

UAE, ABU DHABI - Green Economy

Notes From the Underground

Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC)


Alan Thomson studied civil engineering before joining Strathclyde Water Authority as a trainee graduate in 1979. In 1983, he became a corporate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Chartered Civil Engineer. He is a member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and is past chairman of the Scottish Branch. He was one of the first members to become a chartered environmentalist. He also has an MBA from the internationally acclaimed Strathclyde Business School. He has worked in the UK water industry for 26 years in various senior posts including both private and public water utility companies.

TBY talks to Alan Thomson, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC), on water conservation and the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Program (STEP).

The latest edition of the International Water Summit took place in January 2017. How would you assess the event’s contributions to the work and promotion of ADSSC?

This was the sixth edition of the International Water Summit and it has become larger year after year. As part of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), which summons some of the top speakers in the sector, we find it a great platform to promote the work of ADSSC, our projects, and our commitment to the development of the conscientious use of utilities in the country. Part of our activities in the event included a stand in the exhibition, managerial presence to inform people about what is happening at ADSSC, and an opportunity to build up relationships with international suppliers and contractors who attend the summit. ADSSC also participates in some of the presentations and panel discussions. We use the event to help promote our investment program with the intention to find synergies with other like-minded institutions and companies. It is a great PR event to introduce the newest technologies available in the industry. Moreover, it is an ideal platform for Abu Dhabi to showcase its achievements regarding wastewater and water usage, which are particularly important for the country.

How would you evaluate the approach of the average person to efficient water usage and how do you encourage a more conscious use of water utilities?

Most people do not think too hard about the utilities they use, including water. Concerns only arise whenever there is a problem in receiving the service. We still have an important role to play in conveying to people that water is a limited resource and that its usage has a huge impact on the environment. One of the ways to do this is to make water valuable to consumers by charging a realistic price for it. A cost reflective charge makes people more careful about how they can stop wasting resources like water and power. We seek to get people to understand this through education and the interaction with community groups. The increase in water tariffs has already resulted in a reduction in water usage, but the numbers still need to go down further. ADSSC’s flow has dropped in the last two years, but it has been more due to the downturn in the economy than the reduction in tariff supplement. We also work with other partners, such as Masdar, to develop new technologies, reduce energy costs, and utilize any waste products that come out of the process. We have made a great start, but we can make further improvements with continued cooperation.

One of your flagship projects is the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Program (STEP), which is reaching completion. How will STEP enhance your performance in the market?

STEP has been a feature of ADSSC since we started work on it in 2008. Construction work started with our first tunnel contract in 2009. At the moment we are at the tail-end phase of its construction, which ran a little longer than anticipated due to construction issues at the pumping station. The pumping station is now substantially complete and we have now successfully introduced sewage on a small scale to test some of the pumps and technology. We expect the station to be fully operational by the last quarter of 2017. The next phase entails the de-commission of 35 pumping stations that are associated with STEP and the sewerage systems. This project pushes pumping standards to the limit in terms of size and volumes, and is a major global scale achievement for Abu Dhabi. We are confident that commissioning will be completed in the next few months and that it will be fully operational by the end of 2017. Once completed, STEP will have a huge impact in terms of reducing the carbon footprint with our calculations showing that the new pumping station will be much more efficient than the 35 pumping stations it replaces.



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