Singapore to beef up research into water technologies with international partners

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli speaking at the International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight event, on July 18, 2017.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli speaking at the International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight event, on July 18, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore took further steps towards water security on Tuesday (July 18) with the launch of a new $2.5 million water research facility, and the inking of two agreements with other countries to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise in the water sector.

The new research facility, which will open in Jurong in January 2018, will be run by Japanese firm Kurita Water Industries and supported by PUB and Singapore's Economic Development Board. 

It is the firm's first research facility in Asia outside of Japan, and will focus on developing technologies for desalination and the recycling of waste water. These are areas relevant for Singapore, which counts among its four water sources desalination (the process of converting sea water to potable water), Newater (treated used water), water from its reservoirs, and imported water from Malaysia.

"Singapore was a natural choice due to the concentration of universities, research institutes and corporate research and development facilities. This forms a strong support system for Kurita to tap, to expedite our development and to strengthen our technological capabilities," said Mr Tatsushi Kuramae, managing director from Kurita R&D Asia.

The launch of the facility was announced by Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Tuesday (July 18), during the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight event at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa. The event is held ahead of the biennial water conference SIWW in July 2018.

"This centre will strengthen Singapore's position as a global hydrohub and support the development of novel technologies in desalination and water reuse," said Mr Masagos in his speech.

During the event, PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee also signed two agreements with water firms in Saudi Arabia and Australia  to promote research and collaboration on water technologies.

The first agreement, signed between PUB and Saudi Arabia's Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), will support research and innovation in areas such as desalination, leak detection and energy reduction.

The other agreement, between PUB and Western Australia's Water Corporation, will boost collaboration in the fields of urban water supply, waste water management and innovation. Another issue that will be looked at under the Singapore-Australia partnership is climate change adaptation, which is becoming increasingly important in the face of changing weather patterns and erratic rainfall.

In October 2016, for example, water levels at Singapore's main source of water in Malaysia, the Linggiu Reservoir, dropped to a historic low of 20 per cent. This was after a dry spell in 2014 caused water levels there to drop steadily. Recent rains have helped boost water levels to the current 42 per cent.


Mr Ng said: "Water utilities around the world grapple with many common challenges... Climate change, pollution, population growth and urbanisation, and rising cost of operations compel water utility leaders to work ever closer together to co-create mutually beneficial solutions. We are excited to collaborate with the SWCC and Water Corporation on various innovation and advances in water treatment and supply. These partnerships also allow us to exchange invaluable operational knowledge and experience, and further strengthen our links to the global water industry."

The announcements come on the back of a water price hike, the first phase of which came into effect on July 1. Water prices will go up by 30 per cent in all, after the next phase in July next year.

Mr Masagos told the audience that a price increase is never welcome. However, the price revision - Singapore's first in 17 years - is necessary, he said, as Singapore has to remain financially sustainable to enable continual investments in water infrastructure and proper maintenance.

"At the same time, we believe in the importance of right-pricing water, so users appreciate the scarcity value and the true cost of the water they are using," said Mr Masagos.