In the beginning
Because of its lack of natural water resources, Singapore has historically relied heavily on imported water from Malaysia. Several water trade agreements have been made between the two countries, one that expired in August 2011 and another that will expire in 2061, according to PUB. But severe drought in Malaysia means water supply there is dwindling. In addition, the two countries have had difficulty reaching financial agreements regarding water trade over the past decade. As of now, Malaysia has not committed to continuing to provide water to Singapore past 2061. To reduce its dependence on imported water, PUB has focused its efforts on securing adequate water sources for Singapore by other means. They aim to attain complete water self-sufficiency before the latest water agreement expires.
Local Catchment Water
One technique that has been successfully growing Singapore’s water supply is rainwater/stormwater harvesting. Singapore is one of just a handful of countries in the world to harvest urban stormwater on a large scale. This is even more of an achievement considering that Singapore has little land to collect and store rainwater. Using innovative techniques to overcome a lack of space, water agencies in Singapore collect rainwater/stormwater through a network of drains, canals, rivers, collection ponds, and reservoirs and then treat the water to drinking water standards.
Since 2011, water catchment areas have been increased from half to two-thirds of Singapore’s land surface with the completion of the Marina, Punggol, and Serangoon reservoirs. PUB refers to local catchment water as a “pillar of sustainable water supply” in Singapore.
NEWater — highly purified reclaimed water — is another prominent source of water supply in Singapore. Currently, NEWater is used to meet up to 30 percent of Singapore’s water needs. PUB reports that it plans to triple the current NEWater capacity by 2060 so that it can meet up to 55 percent of future water demand. NEWater is created from wastewater that is purified using advanced membrane technologies, including reverse osmosis (RO), and ultraviolet disinfection. The end result is safe for human consumption, but most NEWater is used for wafer fabrication processes and other manufacturing processes, and in cooling towers. This frees up other sources of water for drinking water use. The first NEWater plants were opened in in 2003, and today there are four NEWater plants in Singapore. The latest, build in Changi in 2010, has a capacity of 50 million gallons of water per day.
Singapore is using technology to solve its water shortage
Singapore uses about 430 million gallons of water every day — a number it expects could double in the next four decades.That kind of consumption is piling pressure on the Asian city state to address growing concerns about global water scarcity. So it’s building new technology to prepare itself for a future where obtaining clean water will be even more difficult.
Rapid urbanization and rising global temperatures are making access to natural water sources increasingly hard to come by. Today, a quarter of the world lives in areas of high water stress. Experts say we’re consuming natural resources faster than the earth can replenish them.
Singapore, meanwhile, is home to more than five million people and is covered in fountains, reservoirs and other water features — including the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a 130-foot Rain Vortex that pumps 10,000 gallons of water per minute. But it has no natural water sources of its own, instead relying heavily on recycled water and imports from its neighbors.
Water-stressed Singapore bets on new technology to secure supply
The Singapore government announced last week that it will have to seize control of Singapore’s largest desalination plant on May 17 in order to secure the country’s water supply.
The demise of the once high-flying homegrown company, as well as a spat over prices with Malaysia which supplies around 40 per cent of Singapore’s water needs, has brought Singapore’s perennial water shortage problems into sharp focus.