Water Champion Anass Derraz, Saudi Arabia

Thirst for excellence

In Saudi Arabia, it’s often said oil is easier to find than water. This need has triggered a thirst for excellence - and is driving Anass Derraz, Saur’s Regional Strategy and Development Director for the Middle East, to dig in for the long haul, with a strong focus on innovation.

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Saur has been active in the Middle East for over 15 years, mainly in Saudi Arabia, through managed contracts. From 2010 to 2016, the National Water Company (NWC) awarded a water supply and wastewater treatment management contract for the cities of Mecca and Taïf to a consortium led by SAUR.

Working in partnership with Marafiq, the Gulf’s leading private water and electricity service provider, the Saur Group has been responsible since 2011 for the operation and maintenance of water supply, wastewater treatment and industrial cooling services for the new city of Jubail in eastern Saudi Arabia (population 250,000). In July 2014, Marafiq selected MaSa, the joint venture between Saur and the Saudi group, Marafiq, to operate and maintain the wastewater facilities and the water distribution network in Yanbu and Jubail, the two largest industrial cities in the whole world. More recently, in 2021, a Saur-led consortium won a major new contract as part of the country’s water infrastructure privatization policy. The contract covers the east of the country and provides 5.2 million inhabitants with water services.

A priority country

Anass Derraz, our Regional Strategy and Development Director for the Middle East, is confident that many contracts will follow. ‘We have the experience and the ambition it takes to manage water for over 10 million Saudi people, in the northwestern, the eastern region, and hopefully the western region of the country. Saudi Arabia is a top priority country for us in the Middle East, along with other Gulf Cooperation Countries countries, where my colleagues are based.’

The next 100 years

Saudi Arabia, the only Arab country that is a member of the Group of Twenty, or G20, is one of the world’s driest regions. ‘It’s easier to find oil here than water,’ says Anass Derraz, who graduated as a civil engineer from France’s Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and is an alumnus of Paris Dauphine University. ‘This need has triggered a thirst for excellence here that is hard to match elsewhere in the world. Saudi Arabia is transforming into the Champions League of water services. It has reached a point where a high-tech desalination plant is commonplace. That’s why we need to be here. This region is leading many key water services and technology innovations. Public and private stakeholders in this market are well advised and unafraid of jumping into the future: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Our Executive Chairman Patrick Blethon has said we plan to stay here for the next 100 years at least - and we believe that our unique portfolio will help this kingdom to optimize its water consumption, making it a world showcase for citizen and end-user satisfaction.

Innovation and technology

Several factors make Saur stand out in the region. Anass Derraz: ‘Saur is perceived as a stable company with a strong legacy in delivering reliable water services. This is the first need in this region. We’re also seen as a technology provider. Particularly since the addition of our Industrial Water Solutions division and the tech innovations and optimizations coming from there. It makes us a complete water service provider – end-to-end. The involvement of Nijhuis Saur Industries is more than key. Having an industrial innovator on board our company has a positive effect, as industry is always ahead of the game.’

Knowledge-based economy is the future

What is also important, says Anass Derraz, is Saur’s commitment to localize intellectual property (IP) and know-how, by training the upcoming Saudi generations. ‘When we started, no one here knew Saur. It takes time here to gain trust. And Saur is here for the long haul, developing as a center of excellence in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The young generations here want to act against climate change and help toward the ecological transition and a non-oil economy, based on knowledge. With 15 years at our backs, we now have a story to tell. And more and more clients want to hear it.’