S'pore innovating to grow water supply

The Tuaspring Desalination Plant located at Tuas.
The Tuaspring Desalination Plant located at Tuas. PHOTO: HYFLUX

Singapore might have been ranked as the country in greatest danger of running out of water by 2040 in a global study, but the authorities and researchers here are studying new ways to expand the water supply.

In a report last week, Washington-based World Resources Institute singled out 33 countries, including Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar, as those likely to face extremely high water stress in 2040, out of 167 nations.

The ranking was based on an index measuring competition for and depletion of surface water, such as lakes and rivers, each decade from 2020 to 2040. The study did not give details on why Singapore's water risks were deemed so dire.

But Professor Asit Biswas, founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, said he is willing to bet that Singapore would not have any water risk even by 2050.

The distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS) added:

"There is no question that Singapore's water management will improve radically over the coming years as we see scientific, technological and managerial breakthroughs, and as Singapore uses increasingly more effective economic instruments and a behavioural sciences approach to further improve its water management."

Singapore plans to build more plants to produce treated seawater and Newater, to meet up to 80 per cent of its water demand by 2060. It is also expanding its rainwater catchment area from two-thirds to 90 per cent of the island by 2060.

National water agency PUB said it is looking into whether there are naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater under Singapore. It also disclosed that it started a one-year project earlier this year to investigate the groundwater potential in the eastern part of Singapore.

It said: "(This project) will involve literature research and the development of a hydro-geological model for an old alluvium deposit in eastern Singapore.

"It will also look into successful measures implemented in other countries, where groundwater is a water source, to assess and mitigate potential risks associated with groundwater extraction."

PUB had said last year that it was studying the possibility of groundwater in western Singapore. While it remains to be seen if underground water could be Singapore's fifth tap, after imports from Malaysia, Newater and treated seawater and rainwater, such aquifers could act as "water banks" for drought periods, PUB had said.

A team of global experts, including chief hydrogeologist Roy Herndon from the Orange County Water District in California - which has been extracting groundwater for decades - is advising PUB on this.

Meanwhile, NUS researchers have come up with a way to store rainwater here, by making roads permeable and putting storage systems under them. The NUS project, designed for a test site in Sungei Kadut, would also reduce the risk of floods, "screen pollutants in the runoff water, harvest energy and reduce ambient temperatures", they said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore innovating to grow water supply'. Print Edition | Subscribe