Water & Wastewater Asia May/Jun 2018

WATER & WASTEWATER ASIA May / June 2018 FROM THE GROUND / 23 water security and sustainability. The vision PUB has not had the easiest challenges to overcome. Ensuring water sustainability for a little island dependent on imported water may be seen as one of their hardest challenges yet, but the water agency conceived NEWater, achieving water security. “R&D i s v i ta l to ensure a sustainable water supply,” Mr Seah explained. “The decision to treat water as a strategic priority right at the beginning meant that no effort had to be spared in order to achieve it.” Simply put, none of this would have been possible without clear vision, firm political resolve, and an integrated and long termapproach in urban planning and water resource management. “The first significant step towards the long term planning of our water resources began in 1971 with the formation of the Water Planning Unit. We did the first Water Master Plan for Singapore, looking ahead over the next fifty years and more,” Mr Seah revealed. “A long term water inventory for Singapore was drawn up with demand forecasts and stock taking of the amount of water available.” And it was this foresight that led PUB to believe – rightfully – that rainfall alone would be insufficient for the country’s water needs. “Although the technology was still not commercially available, we included the use of reclaimed used water treated to potable water standards – what we know today as NEWater – and seawater desalination, though the cost then was prohibitive. We saw the long term potential of water reuse as one drop of water can be used repeatedly, thus enhancing the limited yields of our local reservoirs,” Mr Seah continued. “NEWater and desalination are part of our water supply today because of our leaders’ foresight and long term planning in recognising that technology would one day allow these alternative sources to be viable.” And now, with climate change bringing extreme weather events such as the risk of floods and droughts, Singapore is more protected in terms of its water supply. “Over the years, PUB’s Four National Taps strategy has created a diversified and robust water supply,” Mr Seah stated. “In particular, NEWater and desalination are not dependent on rainfall and are thus more weather resilient. They help us mitigate the impact of dry weather and increase our water security.” Public acceptance Before PUB introduced NEWater to the Singaporean public, they ensured that it was completely safe to drink, and that technology d e mo n s t r a t i o n a l o n g s i d e comprehensive water safety assessments endorsed by local and international experts were carried out. “The technology was tested in a local context through a demonstration plant, which also served as a training ground for staff and provided opportunities to solve operational issues and optimise design considerations. During this time, comprehensive data on water quality and health effects was also collected and showed that NEWater was safe for drinking,” Mr Seah expounded. “An advisory panel of local and foreign experts from diverse fields such as engineering, microbiology, toxicology, biomedical science, and water technology also reviewed the test results, lending objectivity and helping increase credibility of the findings.” And while it was the technology that was key to making the production of NEWater viable, the success of its large-scale implementation meant that not only was government support needed, but that acceptance in the industry, media, and most importantly, among the public, was vital. “The technical rigour embodied in the development of NEWater was complemented with extensive public and community engagement to increase its acceptability and convince Singaporeans it