All S’poreans must do their part to achieve sustainable water supply: DPM Wong

DPM Lawrence Wong and PUB chief executive Goh Si Hou (on Mr Wong's left) participating in a mass walk on Singapore World Water Day at Gardens by the Bay East, on March 18, 2023. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
DPM Lawrence Wong (third right), with Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu (centre), playing a fishing game on Singapore World Water Day. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - With the world facing a water crisis, Singapore must not take what it has for granted as clean, fresh water is a precious resource, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Saturday.

He was speaking at the Singapore World Water Day (SWWD) celebrations held at Marina Barrage and organised by national water agency PUB. Also present were Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor.

Mr Wong said that billions of people around the world struggle to get enough water, and within Asia, hundreds of millions still do not have access to clean and fresh drinking water.

The problem is likely to get worse, with experts expecting global demand for fresh water to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 per cent by the end of the decade due to over-depletion and mismanagement, he said.

While the Republic’s water situation has improved over the decades, more has to be done to ensure secure supplies for future demand, which is estimated to double over the next 30 years to meet growing population and economic needs, said Mr Wong.

Meanwhile, he added, climate change is making the weather even more extreme and unpredictable all around the world. Singapore is seeing unusually heavy rainfall, as well as more frequent and prolonged dry spells.

It must therefore continue to plan ahead, build up its infrastructure and invest in new technologies to build a sustainable water supply, he said.

Mr Wong also recounted what his mother had told him about life in the 1950s and 60s. During a dry spell in 1963, water rationing was imposed for 10 months and water supply was cut off for as long as half a day, up to thrice a week.

This prompted the Government to price water properly to discourage over-consumption, and provide the right incentives to develop additional sources of clean water, he said.

He noted that apart from local catchment and imported water, Singapore now has Newater and desalination – the “four national taps”.

He stressed the role of businesses and other organisations. Businesses today take up more than half of Singapore’s water demand and this is likely to rise over time.

Over the years, he said, PUB has worked with businesses to implement water recycling projects and increase water efficiency.

From 2024, PUB will introduce mandatory water recycling for new projects in water-intensive industries, such as the wafer fabrication, electronic and biomedical sectors.

SWWD participants The Straits Times spoke to stressed the importance of innovative solutions and public education.

Ms Joelle Chen, head of Sustainability in Asia at Lendlease, said the shopping mall, Jem, has a condensate recovery system that captures water condensation from air-conditioner units in the mall, which would otherwise be discharged into the building’s drainage system. The condensate water is used to chill the cooling towers.

Lendlease also does rainwater harvesting at all its malls, and has daily meter readings to spot spikes in usage that may indicate a leak.

Mr Marcus Lim, the co-founder of Ecosoftt, a company which helps buildings recycle water through “miniaturised Newater systems”, said there is increasing interest from building and factory owners who want to reduce costs and meet environmental, social and governance goals.

He gave the example of a semiconductor company which it helped to save 450m3, which costs 2.33 per m3, checking out to over $1,000 of savings per day.

The company also benefited from PUB’s Industrial Water Solutions Demonstration Fund, which incentivises innovative projects to treat industrial used water for process reuse.

DPM Lawrence Wong taking pictures with participants during the Singapore World Water Day at Marina Barrage. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mrs Wang-Tan Sun Sun, principal of Mee Toh School, said the school’s Primary 5 pupils learn about water sustainability by visiting the Newater Visitor Centre and conducting interviews on water usage habits. They also design prototypes to recycle used water, as well as create posters and videos to promote water conservation.

Ms Chong Mien Ling, PUB’s chief sustainability officer, said schools also conduct annual water rationing exercises where students and teachers experience the inconvenience of not having clean running water from a tap.

“This is to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t take a clean and reliable source of water for granted,” she said.

Concluding his speech, Mr Wong said that collective efforts have enabled Singapore to come this far in its Water Story, and the Singapore Story.

“Let us continue to walk this journey together as active participants in nation building, as advocates for water conservation in Singapore, so that we can continue to overcome our challenges ahead and enjoy good, clean water in Singapore for many more decades to come.”

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