Dam building could be the biggest winner for UK civils firms in Iran.
With big water shortages in certain areas and a ready market to export electricity to Turkey and eastern Europe, plans are rapidly being drawn up to add to the country's 60 major dams.
Halcrow is one UK consultant that is capitalising on the dam boom. Its role as technical advisor on construction of the 187m high Masjed-E-Soleiman dam for the Iran Water & Power Resources Development Company (IPWC) in south western Iran has led to work designing four other dams.
Iran looks set to continue as the second biggest dam builder in the world after Turkey, with high demand for more hydro-electric plants and 100 planned irrigation schemes for agriculture. 'There is 20-30 years' work here at least in dam construction, ' says Halcrow's Masjed-E-Soleiman dam site manager Ian Meredith.
As the work comes on line there is a shortage of Iranian contractors specialising in dam construction and those that spoke to NCE said they were keen to make joint ventures with UK firms.
The Kuhsar-Chausse consortium wants expertise and project finance for a £133M project to transfer water from the Dousti dam to the city of Mashad about 150km away.
Joint venture enterprises could get contracts in the south west province of Khuzestan where the Karun river has enormous capacity for more dam building, the governor of Khuzestan Mr Moghtadaei told NCE. A study of the province a decade ago found 12 more dams could be built. An agreement has been set up with Kuwait to build a £150M pipeline from the Karkheh dam in Khuzestan. UK consultant Binnie Black & Veatch is working on the project.
Getting water supply to the right place is the next major challenge. After four years of drought there are severe water shortages in certain areas and huge amounts of water in others. Water is often cut off for around a day a week.
New water pipeline and pumping station projects are on the drawing board and likely to gain World Bank funding, with UK consultant Biwater said to be in the running.
Refurbishment of the existing water distribution infrastructure is urgently needed. Iranian systems are said to suffer at least 20% leakage and outside consultants are needed to bring them up to international standards.
INFOPLUS Iranian contractors specialising in dam construction Kuhsar-Chaussee consortium - Houshang Daryabeigi - 0098 21 8736653.
Pournam Company: Managing director Mr B Mahdipour. 0098 21 876 7219.