Harry Seah is Director of Technology and Water Quality at Singapore’s national water agency, PUB. Here he talks to Impeller about Singapore’s efforts to become a world leader in water use.
SINGAPORE WANTS to triple its output of recycled water by 2060 to meet growing demand. It’s expected that NEWater will account for half of the projected needs. A fifth NEWater plant recently opened in Changi. The five plants can produce up to 190 million liters (50 million gallons) of NEWater per day.
What do you believe other countries could learn from Singapore’s water reuse?
Water reuse is the jewel of Singapore’s diversification strategy. Now, water reuse is not a new concept. Water managers used membrane technology for decades globally. First during the 1990s though, considerable improvements in performance and cost made it viable for PUB to use the technology for water recycling. The set up of NEWater Visitor Center became a key component in educating the public. The water museum acts as one-stop centre for anyone seeking an understanding of how NEWater is produced and how it contributes to Singapore’s water strategy. So far, more than 700,000 people have visited the centre.
What did winning the 2007 Stockholm Industry Water Award mean for PUB?
We’ve invested in research and water technologies for the last 40 years to meet Singapore’s water challenges. The award was a testament to our hard work.
What challenges does Singapore face as it aims to become a hub for water technologies?
The main challenges lie in keeping Singapore’s R&D landscape active and vibrant, and attracting top talents to do such work here. For the last three years, we have hosted the annual Singapore International Water Week to raise Singapore’s profi le as a global hydro hub.
Which are currently the biggest possibilities when it comes to water access and reuse around the world?
The main market for reclaimed water used to be agricultural users. But recently, there’s been a new approach to urban water reuse through major projects, such as the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment scheme in California, the Western Corridor Recycled Water project in Australia and Singapore’s own NEWater program.
A three-stage advanced water reclamation process creates a water product well beyond the normal standard expected of tap water. This product can be injected in aquifers, blended in reservoirs for indirect potable use or sold to industrial customers, such as water fabrication plants.
Currently, only five percent of the world’s used water is being recycled. By allowing every drop of water to be used and re-used, the cycle can go on indefinitely. As a water supply, it is also much more reliable than conventional water sources, which mostly rely on rain.
With more than half of the world’s water population living in cities, and an increasing trend towards urbanization, there is great potential for water recycling to take on a bigger role in solving the water crises in urban cities.