$26 million fund for water-intensive companies to adopt on-site water solutions

A recycling plant at Wyeth Nutritionals Singapore.
A recycling plant at Wyeth Nutritionals Singapore.PHOTO: PUB

SINGAPORE - Firms in water-guzzling industries such as petrochemical and semiconductor that hope to cut down their water usage can now tap a $26 million fund to implement water management solutions.

The fund by PUB and the National Research Foundation (NRF) will defray the cost of implementing water saving technologies, such as on-site recycling systems and water reclamation plants, over three years. 

The national water agency, which announced the fund on Monday (June 3), hopes to increase industrial water savings by three million gallons per day (mgd) every year, equivalent to the water demand of over 25,000 households.

Industrial used water can be recycled for non-potable uses such as heating and cooling, general cleaning and flushing toilets.

Currently, more than half of the country's water supply is channelled to the non-domestic sector. By 2060, water demand in the sector is projected to grow to 70 per cent.

The $26 million will come from three existing funding schemes: PUB’s Industrial Water Solutions Demonstration Fund ( IWSDF) and Water Efficiency Fund, as well as NRF’s Living Lab Fund.

The Water Efficiency Fund helps customers with water efficiency projects, from water audits to recycling. The IWSDF supports new water solutions in industrial projects, while the Living Lab Fund aims to accelerate the commercialisation of new technologies.

To date, PUB has helped to implement 22 water-efficiency projects, with over 5 mgd saved.

One of them is with international infant milk company Wyeth Nutritionals, a subsidiary of food giant Nestlé. The company's manufacturing plant in Tuas became the first of its facilities worldwide to recycle water using a patented reverse osmosis system.

Called High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis (Hero), the system treats water with high amounts of chemicals. It produces more freshwater and is more permeable compared to an ordinary reverse osmosis system. Its membranes do not need much maintenance because they are less likely to deteriorate.

In 2016, the year before it used the system, Wyeth Nutritionals' water uptake from PUB was about 57 cubic metres per hour, and around half the amount was treated at its used water treatment plant for discharge in sewers.

Recognising the need to reduce its potable water usage, the company purchased technology from an external provider and built a 300 cubic metres on-site recycling plant in 2017. PUB funded a portion of the project, provided technical advice and matched the company to the technology provider.

The $1.5 million plant treats and recycles used water for its cooling towers, allowing the company to save up to 25 per cent of water. By 2018, the company used 46 cubic metres of water from PUB every hour, with production unchanged.

The semiconductor industry can save up to 15 per cent of water on average. But Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company (SSMC), a local semiconductor company, was able to recycle about 70 per cent of its water by reusing water for vital functions and installing new water recycling plants, among other things.

With PUB's help, another 13 industrial water saving projects are expected to be completed by 2021, bringing water savings to 8 mgd. Thirty-four projects are in the pipeline, which could increase water savings by another 10 mgd.

PUB has published water efficiency benchmarks and best practices guides for businesses including malls, hotels, wafer fabrication companies and semiconductor firms. This year, the agency will put together benchmarks and guides for commercial laundries and the biomedical manufacturing sector.

And for the first time, industrial water management will be a key focus at this year's Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight. The event on Thursday and Friday (June 6 and 7) is held ahead of the biennial SIWW water conference in July next year.

More than 180 leaders from local and international water companies, and large industrial water users will be attending the SIWW Spotlight 2019 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands.

"Through the SIWW Spotlight event, we want to encourage more companies to recognise the technical viability of industrial water solutions and the value of water recycling for their operational sustainability, and proactively seek ways to do so," said PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee.