Beyond Horizons

Tricky Transforma­tion


plans to meet Singapore’s water demands for the next 50 years.

As Newater is derived from sewage water, its abundance is guaranteed – as long as every Singaporea­n flushes dutifully. However, transformi­ng this used water into clean, clear and safe drinking water will take more than flushing toilets. In fact, what comes out at the end of your tap is a product of stringent purificati­on and treatment processes using reverse osmosis technology.

Let us walk through the process of producing Newater.

The raw sewage water first goes through the convention­al wastewater treatment process where the sludge and much of the solid contents are removed. At this point, the treated water is ready for industrial or other non-potable uses. A vast portion of it, however, undergoes the Newater production process.

The Newater Journey

Water reclamatio­n plans in Singapore actually started in 1974 but were shelved due to high costs and unreliable technology. With advancemen­t in these aspects, the project was picked up again in 1998. The Singapore Water Reclamatio­n Study (Newater Study) was initiated, which was a joint initiative of PUB and the Ministry of the Environmen­t and Water Resources (MEWR). Its main objective was to determine whether Newater would be suitable as raw water that could complement Singapore’s water supply. The expected water demand in 2012 is 400 million gallons a day! Newater is certainly expected to help meet those demands. As of 2008, five Newater plants have been establishe­d in Bedok, Kranji, Seletar, Ulu Pandan and Changi. They produce a total of 50 million gallons per day.

Although the practice of water reclamatio­n is not a novel one, with the first plant built in California in the 1930s, Singapore’s success and experience in water management is being studied overseas. The use of reclaimed water in California was first limited to nonpotable functions in agricultur­e, irrigation and manufactur­ing or indirect potable use by injecting the water back to groundwate­r aquifers or catchments. Over the years, the process and

technology evolved to be able to create safe, drinkable water. In the case of Singapore, the country-wide applicatio­n of reclaimed water makes us unique.

In 2007, PUB was honoured with the Stockholm Industry Water Award for their “holistic approach to water resources management.” Home to over 70 water companies, the Economic Developmen­t Board forecasts that the environmen­t and water sector will contribute S$1.7 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide employment for many profession­als and skilled workers by 2015. To support this growth, S$330 million was set aside in 2006 over a five-year period to develop the local environmen­t and water industry. A large part of the funds were used to build up research and developmen­t as well as manpower capabiliti­es. With these in place, Singapore would be able to enjoy clean and safe drinking water.

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