The opening of Singapore's third desalination plant marks an incrementally small but symbolically significant advancement for the island city-state. With the Tuas Desalination Plant, 30 per cent of Singapore's water needs can be met by turning sea water into drinking water, up from 25 per cent. Not only are two more such plants in the works in Marina East and on Jurong Island, but the Tuas plant also shows the determination to take Singapore's destiny into its own hands. Water is not just a commodity: It is the primary strategic resource without which no country can exist, let alone be safe and prosperous.
At the moment, reclaimed treated used water, or Newater, and desalinated water meet up to 70 per cent of demand. By 2060, that figure will rise to up to 85 per cent. But the latter year is still far away. Even with supply from local catchments and imported water, Singaporeans need to think about how they can contribute to national water security, given that water use is set to double by 2060. Desalination comes at a cost. It is an energy-intensive process that could make Singapore energy-reliant in order to overcome water scarcity. The correct pricing of water, in order to reflect the long-run marginal cost of producing it, would reflect the supply side of the strategic equation. But the demand side is no less important.