$26m fund for water-intensive firms to boost water efficiency

It will defray cost of installing water-saving tech over 3 years

Mr Chua Cheng Teck demonstrates the clarity of treated water at Wyeth Nutritionals (Singapore), a company which worked with PUB to instal water-recycling facilities in its operations. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Mr Chua Cheng Teck demonstrates the clarity of treated water at Wyeth Nutritionals (Singapore), a company which worked with PUB to install water-recycling facilities in its operations. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

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.

National water agency PUB, which announced the fund yesterday, hopes to increase industrial water savings by at least three million gallons per day (mgd) every year, equivalent to the water demand of over 25,000 households.

"If we increase water savings by 3mgd every year, in 40 years, it will be multiplied to 120mgd. That is the strategy to reduce water demand," said PUB's deputy chief executive (operations) Harry Seah.

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

PUB said there are currently 700 water-intensive companies, and they take up 60 per cent of the non-domestic sector's water demand. Firms that use 60,000 cubic metres of water and more are considered large water users.

The $26 million will come from three existing funding schemes: PUB's Industrial Water Solutions Demonstration Fund (IWSDF) and Water Efficiency Fund, and NRF's Living Lab (Water) 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 (Water) Fund aims to accelerate the commercialisation of new technologies.

Mr Seah said PUB can give industries, like refineries, the technical confidence to step up their water-efficiency efforts. "For refineries, their core business is in the oil and gas side, and that is their strength. When it comes to water, they have no idea about how to operate wastewater treatment plants, for instance," he explained.

PUB has helped firms to implement 22 water-efficiency projects, with over 5mgd saved since the projects were launched in 2014.

One of them is with Swiss-based infant milk manufacturer Wyeth Nutritionals (Singapore), a subsidiary of food giant Nestle. The company's manufacturing plant in Tuas uses a patented reverse osmosis system which treats used water containing high amounts of chemicals on-site.

PUB funded a portion of the project, provided technical advice and matched the company to the technology provider. The $1.5 million plant, built in 2017, treats and recycles used water for its cooling towers, allowing the company to save up to 25 per cent of water each day.

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

Industrial water management will be the key focus at this year's Singapore International Water Week Spotlight.

More than 180 leaders from local and international water companies as well as large industrial water users will be attending the event on Thursday.

It is held in tandem with Ecosperity Week, where global business leaders, policymakers and academics will gather to drive action on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Ecosperity Week starts today and ends on Friday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2019, with the headline '$26m fund for water-intensive firms to boost water efficiency'. Subscribe