S’pore strives to be self-sufficient in water

Singapore’s water agency PUB yesterday unveiled its 50-year plan to bring Singapore closer to self-sufficiency in water. It aims to do this by doubling its reliance on Newater and desalinated water.

These two forms of water now meet 40 per cent of the country’s water needs; by 2060, it will be 80 per cent, PUB said on the first day of the Singapore International Water Week. PUB aims to triple Newater capacity so it can meet half of water demand by then, while the use of desalination will be widened by almost 10 times to meet 30 per cent of demand.

To get there, it will expand the Changi Newater plant and open a sixth facility in Tuas by 2030, as well as build a second desalination plant. It did not say where the new desalination plant would sit or when it would be ready.

This dramatic step-up in Singapore’s water supply is being timed to dovetail with the expiry of the water agreement with Malaysia in 2061.

By then, the nation’s demand for water will be double what it is now as a result of a growing population and industrial activity. PUB projects the country will need about 3 billion litres a day by 2060, split between domestic use and industrial use in a 30-70 proportion.

Besides reclaiming used water to produce Newater and purifying sea water, the country will also continue to rely on its water catchment areas.

Such areas now take up about two-thirds of the island, but with the network of drains and canals, as well as the damming of all river estuaries to form 17 reservoirs by next year, 90 per cent of the country will become a catchment zone.

Singapore has two pacts to import water from Malaysia. One expires next year and will not be renewed. When asked yesterday, PUB would not say if the other agreement, which expires in 2061, would be renewed.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who spoke at the opening of the Water Week and the World Cities Summit, which are being held at the Suntec conference centre, said: ‘Water has always been a key consideration in our master planning, for it is a critical resource without which the city cannot survive - let alone grow.’

But while it shores up supply, PUB will not let up on efforts to get people to waste less water. Each person here now uses 155 litres of water a day on average. PUB aims to get this down to 147 litres a day by 2020.

It will encourage the use of water-efficient toilets and taps in homes, and urge people to take snappier showers. Commercial buildings will also be nudged into installing water meters, repairing leaks promptly and tapping on a Water Efficiency Fund for studies and projects.

Although the supply of sea water is virtually limitless, current desalination technology uses up a lot of energy, and so costs about 100 times more than buying raw water from across the Causeway.

This may result in higher water tariffs down the road, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim warned earlier this year.

Hope lies in a technology breakthrough which will lower the amount of energy needed in desalination, said PUB director of policy and planning Chua Soon Guan. So research to cut desalination’s energy consumption will be a focus for the years to come.

Desalination will also be used to produce potable water from the minor rivers and streams near the island’s shoreline.

Variable salinity plants will be set to work in those areas to treat fresh water, brackish water and saltier sea water. Such a plant was built in 2007 in Tampines for demonstration purposes. It can handle about 4 million litres of water a day.

Source: The Straits Times

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