With limited land to collect and store rainwater, Singapore faced drought, floods and water pollution in the early years of nation building. These challenges inspired Singapore to strategize and seek innovative ideas, develop capabilities and secure a sustainable supply of water.
Currently, Singapore has built a robust and diversified supply of water from 4 different sources – water from local catchments, imported water, NEWater (high-grade reclaimed water) and desalinated water. Both NEWater and desalinated water have allowed Singapore to be more resilient towards weather variability.
Water demand in Singapore is currently about 430 million gallons a day (mgd), with homes consuming 45% and the non-domestic sector taking up the rest. By 2060, total water demand could almost double, with the non-domestic sector accounting for about 70%. By then, NEWater and desalination will meet up to 85% of Singapore’s future water demand.
The nation’s tap water is well within the World Health Organization’s drinking water guidelines, making it suitable for drinking directly from the tap without further filtration.
PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, also believes everyone in Singapore has a stake in water – as a necessary resource, an economic asset and an environmental treasure.
Through the years, PUB has embarked on an integrated, effective and cost-efficient way to meet the nation’s water needs with investments in research and technology to treat, recycle and supply water. Today, Singapore is internationally recognised as a model city for water management and an emerging Global Hydrohub – a leading centre for business opportunities and expertise in water technologies.
PUB’s holistic approach to water management can be refined into three key strategies:
1. Collect Every Drop: As a city-state with limited land for rainwater collection, it is important to make every drop of rain count. PUB plans to increase Singapore’s water catchment from two-thirds to 90% of the nation’s land area. With separate rainwater and used water collection systems, good land use planning policies and strong environmental controls, the collected rainwater is protected from pollution.
2. Reuse water endlessly: Recycling water is the most sustainable and cost-effective way to increase Singapore’s water supply. To increase the recycling rate, PUB plans to (i) Reclaim used water from industrial sources for non-potable use; (ii) Increase water recovery from water reclamation and NEWater treatment; and (iii) Reduce losses from PUB’s supply by encouraging seafront companies to use seawater for cooling processes.
3. Desalinate more seawater: As an island surrounded by the sea, desalination is a natural option for Singapore. PUB will continue investing in R&D to further improve the economic viability of desalinating seawater.
NEWater, a pillar of Singapore’s water sustainability strategy, is high-grade reclaimed water. Produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, it is ultra-clean and safe to drink. NEWater has passed more than 150,000 scientific tests and is well within World Health Organisation requirements.
Twice a year, NEWater undergoes rigorous audit processes by an external audit panel comprising international experts in engineering, water chemistry, toxicology and microbiology. This high-grade reclaimed water has consistently been awarded top marks for its high quality, safety and for exceeding international standards.
• Capturing rainfall & injection of NEWater into reservoirs to augment yield
• Water Conservation Awareness Programme – through mass media outreach and public engagement programmes
• Conscientious programmes to reduce Unaccounted-For-Water
• Deep Tunnel Sewerage System – using gravity to convey wastewater, eliminating the need for pumping stations
• NEWater, (high-grade reclaimed water) from advanced purification of treated used water
• Reclaiming bio-gas from wastewater treatment & converting it to produce energy for the waste water treatment plants
• PUB is the sole entity managing water, wastewater & drainage
• Co-locating a Water Reclamation Plant with an Integrated Waste Management Facility, to harness their synergies in water & solid waste management
• Four National Taps: Local catchment water, imported water, NEWater, Desalinated water with multiple plants and conveyance options
• Encouraging rain gardens, swales in new & existing developments that are being upgraded for storm water treatment
• “Source-Pathway-Receptor” approach to enhance flood protection
• Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage: stipulates minimum land reclamation, platform and crest levels for new development and redevelopment sites
• Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme developed by PUB - transforming drains, canals & reservoirs into community spaces in partnership with private developers and public agencies
• The National Environment Agency (NEA) evaluates all pollution impacts from all proposed development. PUB works with NEA to ensure minimum environmental impact
• Earth Control Measures (ECM) guidelines to minimise silt runoff from construction sites into drainage system.
• Building infrastructure ahead of demand, and expanding NEWater and desalination capacities in the long run
• Designated protected catchment area, and regulations to minimise risks of pollution to water supply sources. Separate systems to convey rainwater and used water
• Marina Barrage, a barrage at the heart of the city, protects the upstream low lying land areas during heavy rainfall coupled with high tide
• “Source-Pathway-Receptor” approach to strengthen overall flood resilience
• The SGfuture engagement series: a platform for citizens to share their views, aspirations and ideas for the future
• The “Friends of Water” programme to encourage community stewardship of water resources
• The PUB holds regular dialogues with Professional Bodies e.g. the Singapore Institute of Architects, Institute of Engineers Singapore and Professional Engineers Board, to bring them on board and at the same time gather feedback from the practitioners.
• The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) oversees city development plans and engages various stakeholders and other government agencies on these plans, with key inputs from PUB, thereby integrating water considerations into urban planning
• Strong political will and policy direction. This enables PUB to continually monitor, evaluate and adjust water policies based on future needs
• Leaders provide progressive vision and governance structure to enable sustainable urban water management through coordination and integration
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