Doha keeps its head above water

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By Sean Cronin  www.thenational.ae

DOHA // Flooded pitches may not yet be a worry for the organisers of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, but a rising water table beneath Doha is troubling builders across the city.

Doha's wastewater infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with a construction boom and resultant influx of people. Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Doha's wastewater infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with a construction boom and resultant influx of people. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Large blue hoses are rapidly appearing on streets around Qatar’s capital. They are used to pump water from building sites and prevent basement excavations from flooding. As construction gathers pace, more of the distinctive hoses can be seen snaking around the city’s streets.

“It is a problem associated with coastal towns around the Gulf, having the same geology and topography,” said Kamal Omer, the operations manager at Asco Consulting Engineers in Doha, a firm that has been involved in various water studies in the city for more than three decades. “The problem is manageable, but it has got worse due to urbanisation.”

The rapid population growth in the city combined with big gaps in the municipal sewerage system and a leaky mains network has meant water and effluent are accumulating in pockets beneath the capital.

The water table has reached less than 2 metres from the surface in some parts of the city.

That will prove to be a headache for engineers planning the vast Doha Metro project that is expected to go out to tender next month and is slated to include extended sections of tunnel beneath the city centre.

But millions of gallons of water will need to be removed from the ground first, and in such a way that avoids ground settlement that could undermine existing buildings.

Dealing with Doha’s water problem is a key part of Qatar’s five-year national development strategy, which runs to 2016.

As much as 35 per cent of the desalinated water in the city is lost through leakage, according to government estimates. The plan is to reduce this to 10 per cent over the next four years.

The country is spending some US$125 billion (Dh459.16bn) preparing for the Fifa World Cup and other large-scale projects, including a new airport, port and railway. More info