A dilapidated municipal building on the outskirts of Baku is the unlikely home for Azerbaijan's largest infrastructure project, the modernisation of its outdated water supply system. The project is being managed by consultant Brown & Root which shares the crumbling office with the Apsheron Regional Joint-Stock Water Company. This operates Baku's water production and distribution system.
Baku's well developed water supply has suffered from neglect. More than 40% of the water disappears through leaks, and some areas of the city have water delivered by tankers.
The prospect of revenues from the rejuvenated local oil industry has enabled the Baku government to borrow pounds55.4M from the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development and World Bank to modernise the system. The project involves reconstructing pipelines, pumping stations and treatment works. Severn Trent Water and pump specialist Weir are also involved in the project.
Brown & Root's chief resident engineer in Baku, Peter Kicks says: 'The objectives of the project are to restore and improve Baku's water quality and supply, and to provide the basis for longer term planning and recovery.' Improving the financial viability of the system is also important.
'The project has been divided into 14 contracts,' explains Kicks. 'These can be split into three groups; supply, rehabilitation and project management.'
The five supply contracts involve upgrading equipment - meters, vehicles, pipes, fittings and nine new warehouses.
The rehabilitation contracts deal with the refurbishment of treatment works and pumping stations. There are 28 pumping stations in various states of repair. One of the first to be tackled is at Kura in the south of the country. Contractor Morrison has just started breaking out and recasting rotten concrete supports for pumps. Weir is responsible for replacing the out of date mechanical equipment.
Baku's water comes from three sources; a river at Kura, the Jeiranbatan reservoir near Sumgait and aquifers at Hachmas and Schollar in the north near the Russian border. The three treatment works that service these sources are also to be upgraded.
Remaining contracts deal with project management and contract supervision.
Kicks says there are a number of problems to working in Azerbaijan but 'the infrastructure needed to run an office has greatly improved. There is still a great deal of bureaucracy. Things have to get through several levels of approval.'
Another difficulty is communication. 'Technically the Azeri engineers are fine, but there are problems with translation. This means things can take a little longer.'