PUB seeks proposals after getting $51m for water research

It looks to extract chemicals needed in water treatment, study impact of climate change

National water agency PUB has received $51 million in funding from the National Research Foundation for water research, and is looking for solutions in two areas - extracting chemicals needed for water treatment and studying the impact of climate change on water quality here.

Yesterday, PUB launched two requests for proposals in those research areas.

It is seeking technologies and solutions for extracting useful chemicals from local waste streams, to be utilised for water and used-water treatment processes.

The agency is also looking for ways to extract rare metals such as lithium from brine - a by-product of desalination that consists of highly concentrated saline water. These rare metals can then be used in other industries.

PUB also seeks applicants to study the impact that climate change will have on the Singapore water system in the next 10, 20 and 40 years.

The studies will then guide adaptation strategies to safeguard water quality and PUB's infrastructure against climate change.

"As the effects of climate change become increasingly pronounced, there is a need to study and address (its) longer-term impact... including its effects on various water sources such as the local catchment, seawater and Newater, as well as its impact on water infrastructure," explained PUB chief engineering and technology officer Pang Chee Meng.

The agency said that applicants are also free to propose other areas of study, except for areas related to flooding and coastal protection, where separate studies are already ongoing.

Applications for both projects opened yesterday and will close on Nov 26. Those interested may register for an information session on Sept 24 through go.gov.sg/rfpinformationsession-2021

The $51 million that PUB received for the two projects makes up the fourth tranche of funding from the foundation, under the Competitive Funding for Water Research (CWR) programme.

The programme aims to fund innovative and impactful solutions to meet national water needs over the next five years.

PUB noted that the country's water demand is expected to almost double by 2060.

According to the agency's website, the current water demand in Singapore is about 1.95 billion litres a day, enough to fill 782 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Other research areas to strengthen Singapore's water security include reducing energy use in seawater desalination, making used-water treatment plants more sustainable, and reducing the industrial sector's water demand.

Some of those research areas received funding in previous tranches.

Since 2006, the National Research Foundation has allocated more than $700 million to grow the local water industry and research capabilities under the CWR programme. To date, more than 550 projects have been funded.

In one project a few years ago, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore's Centre for Water Research developed a sensor to detect heavy metals and cyanide in PUB's sewers.

Today, PUB has installed 100 of those sensors in various parts of its sewerage network to provide round-the-clock alerts on toxic materials discharged into the sewers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'PUB seeks proposals after getting $51m for water research'. Subscribe