Though situated in a geographically wet region with ample rains, the highly populated and economically vibrant island of Singapore is ranked among the most water-stressed nations globally. The island is tiny, highly populated, and very industrialized. It neither has natural water sources nor sufficient water storage space.
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In addition, the Singapore and Kallang Rivers have suffered from industrial pollution for a long time. Consequently, half of the water requirements are supplied via a dike channeling water from “the southern peninsula state of Johor,” a source that lies at the center of a diplomatic row between the island and its neighbor, Malaysia (Goh 77). The existing water agreement between the two nations is deemed to expire in 2061. The dire situation calls for an urgent action to “devise mechanisms to solve water shortage and ensure self-reliance” (Abrams 45). Thus, Singapore is faced with the challenge of providing clean water to its population.
Apart from importing water, the country has adopted desalination, tapping rain waters, cleaning polluted rivers, and sewerage recycling as other tactics to curb water shortage. The country harvests rainwater through “a network of drains, canals, rivers, stormwater, collection ponds, and reservoirs” (Senthilingam 1). This program involves collaboration between several government agencies and planners to ensure that the scarce land available is maximally used for water catchment, housing, and development. The Bedok and Lower Seletar Schemes are examples of these projects.
The second remedial measure is water recycling and reclamation. According to Goh, water recycling initiatives were initiated in 1966 following the launch of the “Jurong Industrial Water Treatment plant” to provide piped water to the Jurong Industrial Estate (80). Systems on Silicon Manufacturing and STMicroelectronics are some of the companies that heavily invested and benefitted from the plan.
The country expanded this plan by increasing the treatment of wastewater effluent, allowing for the development of a membrane technology dubbed the ‘Newater.’ The wastewater is passed through “a four-step series of barriers and membranes,” freeing it from sediments, microbes, and impurities to generate clean water supplies for both industrial and domestic use (Shah 2). The quality of water obtained is above that recommended by international standards.
The desalination of sea waters is another approach that Singapore adopted recently. Despite the high costs of setting up desalination plants, Singapore prides itself in hosting some of “Asia’s largest seawater reverse-osmosis plants” like the Tuespring desalination plant (Tortajada, Yoshi, and Biswas 10). The country meets up to 25% of its current water needs through the desalination process.
Other measures such as reduction of water loss through efficient water supply system, encouragement of the proper use of water resources by customers, community engagement programs, substantial investments in R&D in the water sector, and tax incentives by the government are equally important (Biswas and Tortajada 2). Such methods have transformed Singapore from a country with inadequate water resources into a renowned hydro hub.
In conclusion, given the importance of water to Singapore’s continuity and economic progress, and the risk of reliance on importation, strategies to make the country water independent are indispensable. In this regard, the proper use of the little water resources available is necessary. At the same time, the development of new, efficient, and cost-effective technologies for water recycling, desalination, and conservation should be encouraged. A detailed long-term planning and persistent mass education about the importance of water conservation are critical if Singapore is to achieve its vision of full water self-reliance.
Abrams, Michael. “Closing the Water Cycle.” Academic Search Premier 137.4 (2015): 44-49. Print.
Biswas, Asit and Cecilia Tortajada. “Urban Water Management in Singapore: The Past, Present and Future.” The Diplomat 10 (2015): 1-2. Print.
Goh, Kim Chuan. “Water Supply in Singapore: Challenges and Choices.” National Institute of Education Report 42.10 (2003): 77- 86. Print.
Senthilingam, Meera. “Drinking Sewage: Solving Singapore’s Water Problem.”Cable Health News 23 (2014): 1. Print.
Shah, Vaidehi. “The Singapore water Story.” PUB, Singapore’s National Water agency Report 20.1 (2010):1- 4. Print.
Tortajada, Cecilia, Yugol Joshi, and Asit Biswas. The Singapore Water Story: Sustainable Development in an Urban City State. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.