OPENING ADDRESS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL WATER WEEK,
21 JUNE 2021, 9.30AM
Distinguished leaders, delegates, and guests from around the world,
A very good morning to you all, and a warm welcome from Singapore. Thank you for attending the Singapore International Water Week 2021.
2 While we are unable to meet in person, I am glad that we can come together through this virtual event to learn from one another and exchange ideas. This sharing by leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as academia, can foster innovation and collaboration for a more sustainable future in the water sector.
NEED FOR WATER SECTOR INNOVATION IN A CHANGING GLOBAL CONTEXT
3 Water security is a long-standing issue. More than ever, we need to take a global approach to develop new solutions to our water problems. According to a World Economic Forum study, half the world’s largest cities experience water scarcity, and the gap between global water supply and demand is increasing.
4 With population growth and climate change, water stresses will only continue to rise. Besides domestic use, water is critical to industries ranging from the semi-conductor plants in Taiwan to the farmers in California. Climate change and environmental degradation have exacerbated the challenges we face. We are experiencing more extreme weather events and contamination of water sources.
6 The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to clean water an even more pressing concern. Assess to clean water exacerbates inequality when communities that lack sanitation and clean water suffer more from the pandemic than those who have.
7 The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 orSDG6, is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. To achieve this goal, we must find new and innovative ways to increase the resilience of the world’s water resources and manage water demand by encouraging households and industries to conserve water.
8 We must engage in the open exchange of knowledge and innovative solutions to manage global water resources in a sustainable manner. Only by working together can we ensure water security for all.
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE SINGAPORE GREEN PLAN 2030
9 Singapore is playing our part to advance the sustainability agenda. This year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a roadmap to guide Singapore’s sustainable future and achieve our aspiration of net-zero emissions as soon as it is viable. The Singapore Green Plan comprises plans and concrete targets for many sectors. For water, we aim to enhance our water security while reducing our energy intake and carbon footprint.
SINGAPORE’S SUSTAINABLE AND INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS IN THE WATER SECTOR
10 First, we intend to make our water sector more energy-efficient, targeting our most energy-intensive sources of water — desalinated water and NEWater. For desalinated water, every cubic metre requires 3.5 kilowatt hours of energy, and generates 1.4 kilograms of CO2 emissions. With a long-term R&D plan, we aim to halve those numbers. For NEWater, which is our high-grade reclaimed water, we are examining new technologies in reverse osmosis to increase the recovery rate while keeping energy consumption and maintenance costs constant. We can recycle each used drop endlessly, with less energy than before.
11 Second, we are increasing our use of renewable energy. In July, we will be officially opening one of the largest floating solar panel systems in the world on one of our reservoirs, Tengeh Reservoir. This solar panel system will generate enough solar power to meet the energy demands of our five water treatment plants.
12 Singapore will be one of the first countries in the world to have a fully green waterworks system. We will progressively deploy more solar photovoltaic systems in other reservoirs such as Bedok and Lower Seletar Reservoirs, and use the solar energy to power our raw water pumping stations in the area.
13 Third, we will enhance resource efficiency by tapping on synergies with other sectors. An example is the Tuas Nexus, an integrated solid waste-to-energy, used water treatment and reclamation facility, and food waste-to-energy plant set to be operational from 2025.
14 The Tuas Nexus will be self-sufficient in energy. Apart from solar power and the WTE incinerator, the used water sludge and food waste will be combined to produce biogas. No fossil fuels are needed to power the Nexus’s operations. Waste reduction and resource recovery will lead us towards our vision of a sustainable future in water.
ENHANCING INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS
15 We hope to contribute to global water security through collaboration and partnerships. We can learn and collaborate from each other on tackling common challenges. In the last 2 decades, PUB has engaged in around 660 research projects, collaborating with partners from 30 countries. Partners include academic researchers from Universities, companies from the industry and utilities organisations from other locations. PUB is currently working with partners on sequestering carbon with seawater and other waste streams. We hope that this research could lead us to new solutions that drastically reduce our carbon emissions.
16 We are scouring the world for innovative solutions. On coastal protection, Singapore and the Netherlands have jointly organised a series of workshops on issues such as mitigating rising sea levels and developing climate resilient infrastructure. PUB has formed an expert panel on coastal protection comprising local and international experts to recommend solutions that enhance Singapore’s flood resilience against the combined effects of inland flooding, rising sea levels and storm surges.
17 To cast our net widely for innovation, PUB launched its first Global Innovation Challenge last year and received 100 submissions from 20 countries. Eight companies were awarded pilot funding, access to real-world testbeds in PUB facilities, and mentorship and commercialisation opportunities through the Singapore Water Exchange. If these pilots are successful, PUB will help these companies bring their products to market. The second edition of this challenge will be launched later this month and we look forward to receiving more proposals.
18 Another area for international collaboration has arose from the COVID-19 pandemic. To monitor the spread of COVID-19, we embarked on wastewater surveillance which has helped us target our testing resources and isolate infected clusters effectively. PUB’s collaboration with the Global Water Research Coalition facilitated the rapid sharing of methods, protocols, and data on COVID-19. We have now added wastewater surveillance to our toolbox for fighting COVID-19.
19 The SIWW2021 Spotlight today bring us together to discuss how we can work collaboratively to achieve water sustainability through innovation. We are gathered here to co-create solutions to global challenges such as the effects of climate change, a pandemic such as COVID-19 and water resilience. Over the next two weeks, SIWW2021 Online is set to deliver a wide range of utility and industry focused content, covering every aspect of the urban water cycle. Delegates can look forward to the flagship SIWW Water Convention featuring over 350 technical papers. There are also over 40 Thematic Webinars on emerging topics of interest such as resource resilience, climate resilience and digital water, and specially curated Innovation to Practice sessions profiling the end-user innovation journeys of industry and utilities.
21 PUB has organised a Water Expo at SIWW2021 Online which features more than 120 international exhibitors showcasing cutting-edge technologies and solutions in water management.
22 I hope you participate actively in these two weeks of events. More importantly, I urge everyone to find the time to meet and hold discussions, as these conversations are key to generating ideas to deal with water issues around the world. We look forward to continuing the conversations face-to-face at SIWW2022, which will be held from 17 to 21 April 2022.