Treatment plant upgraded in boost to water resilience

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli touring the ceramic membrane filtration building in Choa Chu Kang Waterworks on Aug 29, 2019.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli touring the ceramic membrane filtration building in Choa Chu Kang Waterworks on Aug 29, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

State-of-the-art technology for old water plant as Singapore prepares for climate change

One of Singapore's oldest water treatment plants has been upgraded with state-of-the-art technology, in a move that will boost the Republic's water resilience in the face of climate change.

National water agency PUB said it will progressively include advanced water treatment processes in the other five water treatment plants in Singapore when they are due for an upgrade.

The upgraded Choa Chu Kang Waterworks was officially opened by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

The plant treats water from Kranji, Pandan and Tengeh reservoirs before it is delivered to taps in homes, businesses and industry.

Climate change may cause the quality of water in Singapore's reservoirs to deteriorate, said Mr Masagos. Rising temperatures could result in warmer waters, while intense rainfall could lead to an excessive amount of nutrient run-off being washed into waterways and reservoirs, he said.

"These conditions are likely to fuel algae growth in the reservoirs, which will need to be removed as part of the water treatment process," said Mr Masagos.

Professor Shane Snyder, executive director of the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said the new ceramic membranes at the Choa Chu Kang plant could tackle a wide range of water qualities, which could change with climate change and urbanisation. "This will allow Singapore to be more secure in providing safe and reliable water to its citizens," he added.

In the $162 million project spanning three years, the old sand filtration system at the plant was replaced with ceramic filtration membranes, which are more efficient at removing suspended particles from raw water.

As part of the upgrade, ozone-biological activated carbon filters were also added to the water treatment process. This additional step further helps to destroy microbes and remove organic matter from the water.

The Choa Chu Kang plant is Singapore's first to use ceramic membranes, and is also the world's largest ceramic membrane water treatment plant. Choa Chu Kang Waterworks was built in two phases in 1975 and 1981 respectively, with two facilities to treat 40 million gallons per day (mgd) of water each, or a total of about 145 Olympic-size swimming pools.


In 2008, the first facility was upgraded, with polymeric membranes replacing sand filters. Ceramic membranes were used in the second facility, with the work completed in June this year.

Prof Snyder said: "Ceramic membranes will produce safer and higher-quality water than traditional sand filtration systems."

Ceramic membranes can last about 20 years, four times longer than polymeric membranes, said PUB. Water loss is also reduced from 5 per cent to 1 per cent with the use of ceramic membranes.

Mr Masagos said yesterday that climate change has made water an issue every country will have to grapple with in the near future.

He added: "I am glad Singapore has been on a quest to address our water issues for the longest time, and am confident that we will continue to address our water supply needs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Treatment plant upgraded in boost to water resilience'. Print Edition | Subscribe