New Water from Wastewater in Singapore
Singapore is comprised of 63 small islands and has a natural, rainforest climate. In fact, nearly a quarter of Singapore’s land area consists of forests and nature preserves, and the country averages more than 90 inches of rainfall every year. However, despite what appears to be a flourishing wet ecosystem, Singapore has faced persistent water shortages throughout its history.
Faced with these water shortages, in 1974, Singapore began a program of water recycling – the action of transforming wastewater into clean freshwater. However, its experimental treatment plant was closed just a year later when cost and reliability issues proved too problematic to overcome.
In 1998, the Public Utilities Board and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources in Singapore instituted a water reclamation study. Its aim was to determine whether recycled water and desalination could be viable options to meet the country’s long-term water needs, and whether they would help reduce Singapore’s reliance on imported water from Malaysia, a source of friction over the years.
The study revealed the promise and potential of recycled water. The reclaimed water was given the brand name “NEWater.” NEWater is purified using dual-membrane and ultraviolet technologies in addition to conventional water treatment processes. The water is safe for human consumption.
Treated wastewater now makes up 30 percent of Singapore’s water supply. But although NEWater is potable, it is mostly used for industrial processes – something that could change as demand changes in the future and as water shortages continue.
PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency