Stepping up for the water industry

Over the past decade, many firms including multinational corporations have sponsored the Singapore International Water Week and championed water technologies and solutions at the event. They share the reasons for their commitment.

Delegates discuss the future of the water industry at Singapore International Water Week. Image: SIWW
Delegates discuss the future of the water industry at Singapore International Water Week. Image: SIWW

Over the past few years, the Singapore-headquartered conglomerate Keppel Corporation has ramped up its rainwater harvesting and expanded its water recycling efforts, including improving the filtration system at one of its waste-to-energy plants to reuse more water.

In 2017, it recycled 727,702 cubic metres of water, which was equivalent to about 14 percent of its water use for the year, and a dramatic increase from the 294,361 cubic metres and 66,278 cubic metres it recycled in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

“Water is a precious resource, so we will continue to strengthen our water conservation efforts through initiatives like promoting water-saving practices, adopting water-efficient technologies and equipment and implementing process improvements,” the firm said in its latest, 2017 sustainability report.

Like Keppel, more firms are waking up to the benefits that improving their water efficiency can bring to their bottom-line, and the threat that water scarcity poses to their business. In 2017, 2,025 companies worth nearly US$20 trillion reported their water usage, plans, and risks to the Britain-based non-profit CDP, which collects data on environmental issues globally. This was up from just 175 businesses in 2010.

Many firms are also helping to raise awareness of water issues and publicise solutions to them by sponsoring water-related events such as the biennial Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), which had its latest edition recently from July 8 to 12 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

The SIWW brings together representatives from the global water industry to share best practices and develop solutions to water issues, and its founding sponsors – the highest tier of sponsorship – are made up of an array of corporations, including multinational ones such as Keppel and United States-headquartered engineering consultancy Black & Veatch.

William Yong, Black & Veatch Southeast Asia’s vice president and managing director, said of the event’s importance: “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in the water industry. Water is fuel for the economy, but it is often underappreciated. You need to have the community, regulators, politicians and end-users all working together to determine how best to use limited water resources for the people.”

A valued platform

Dutch firm PWNT, which specialises in water treatment products, and which has been a founding sponsor of the SIWW, added that the event is a boon for businesses. Its chief executive Joke Cuperus explained in a blog post: “The Singapore International Water Week is attended by market leaders, technologists and government officials, and is one of the most important platforms for networking, sharing new knowledge and market development.”

This year, Netherlands-based design, engineering and management consultancy Arcadis, which is another founding sponsor, sent 17 representatives to the event, including Piet Dircke, its global leader for water management, Ishita Chelliah, its head of environment for Southeast Asia, and Massimo Endrizzi, its director of industrial solutions for Asia.

Water is fuel for the economy, but it is often underappreciated. You need to have the community, regulators, politicians and end-users all working together to determine how best to use limited water resources for the people.

William Yong, vice president and managing director, Southeast Asia, Black & Veatch

Many of them gave presentations on the firm’s work, including its flood protection design for a new city in India, flood resilience strategies for delta cities, use of smart water networks for water quality optimisation, and analysis and water treatment options for poly and perfluoro alkyl substances, which are man-made chemicals commonly used in industry.

John Batten, Arcadis’s global director of cities, said on the firm’s website: “Factors such as population growth, urbanisation and climate change have made water management one of the most significant challenges facing societies today. Our water experts attended the Singapore International Water Week as the industry shares best practices and innovative solutions at the event that can benefit us all.”

Yong added: “Water continues to be a very important issue that countries all over the world are grappling with, be it lack of water supply, flooding, quality of drinking water or illegal wastewater discharges. Singapore is taking the lead in the region by holding the Singapore International Water Week, which brings together so many experts, water companies and utilities from across the world.”

Patrick Decker, president and chief executive of American water technology provider Xylem, which has been a founding sponsor of the SIWW since its first edition in 2008, noted on the company’s website: “The water industry is in the early days of a major transformation, as the urgent need to address challenges like water scarcity, flood prevention and non-revenue water are met with an abundance of available data and new technology-enabled solutions.”

“The Singapore International Water Week provides a valuable platform for industry leaders to collaborate and advance these critical solutions, and explore new business models to address the needs of a growing population,” he continued.

Leading the water industry

Singapore-based water firm Memstar’s chief executive Ge Hailin said Singapore and Singaporean firms benefit from the SIWW’s international appeal too. “Our products and applications are targeted at the water industry, so we live and breathe water. Being part of the event gives us great exposure to global customers and has boosted our brand visibility significantly,” he said.

Michelle Liu, chief executive of Singapore-based environmental engineering firm UES Holdings, another founding sponsor, added: “Water is crucial for Singapore’s development, and the Singapore International Water Week boosts the country’s leading position in water technology and water management. We’re contributing our part through our sponsorship.”

Over the past decade, more than $78 billion worth of business deals and opportunities have been announced at the SIWW. The number of delegates has also grown from 8,500 to more than 24,000.

To commemorate the SIWW’s 10 years of excellence this year, its organisers prepared activities such as an interactive word cloud that highlighted past and future water industry trends, and sampling sessions of a beer made from recycled water known as NEWater. A seven metre-long wall featured water technologies from past winners of the SIWW Best Poster Award, and how these have helped cities and communities.

Several companies, including Memstar, said that they will support future editions of the SIWW too. Ge explained: “The Singapore International Water Week has become a truly global event, and every edition continues to grow in size and quality.”

The 8th Singapore International Water Week was held in conjunction with the 6th World Cities Summit and 4th CleanEnviro Summit Singapore from July 8 to 12 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

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