High-level Statement by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit on 23 April 2022
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am heartened to join you here today for the 4th Asia- Pacific Water Summit.
1 According to the 2021 UN World Water Development Report, over two billion people live in water-stressed countries. The demand for water is expected to increase with population growth and economic development, including from agriculture which accounts for 70% of water use globally. Erratic weather conditions caused by climate change will exacerbate the situation further. Extreme weather events such as floods and droughts are becoming more frequent, and its impact on the water cycle and weather patterns makes the pursuit of water security more challenging.
Singapore’s Water Story
2 Water security has always posed an existential threat to Singapore. This has compelled us to address our water challenge over successive decades by building a robust and diversified water supply. We first started with only two sources of water – our local water catchments and imported water. These two sources quickly became inadequate as our population and economy grew.
3 To diversify our water supply, Singapore began exploring alternative sources, with efforts beginning as early as 1974. After more than two decades of research, advancements in technology allowed us to successfully introduce NEWater - an ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water - as Singapore’s third source of water in 2000. We then introduced a fourth source of water – desalination – and opened our first desalination plant in 2005, strengthening our water resiliency in the face of climate change.
Reducing Energy Dependency
4 Today, desalination and NEWater production processes remain energy-intensive. There is an urgent need for us to reduce our reliance on energy while ensuring water security.
5 We are actively looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency of our water treatment processes. We are ramping up the development of biomimetic membranes, taking lessons from plants and animals in extracting water from the environment. We are building a desalination Integrated Validation Plant, to trial promising technologies to halve our energy consumption of desalination to less than 2 kilowatt hours per cubic metre of water. We are also scaling up our use of solar energy in our water operations. The floating solar farm at one of our reservoirs, which was opened last year, generates enough energy to power all of Singapore’s local raw water waterworks.
6 Singapore is also investing heavily in water technology, infrastructure, and research. And our efforts are bearing fruit. Our fifth desalination plant was officially opened earlier this week, which is about 5 per cent more energy efficient than conventional desalination plants. This was achieved through the co-location with an existing power plant, which allows the sharing of infrastructure such as seawater intake and outfall facilities, as well as power supply. Our fourth desalination plant was opened a year earlier, and allows for dual-mode operation by treating freshwater from a coastal reservoir, or seawater depending on prevailing weather conditions.
7 And Singapore companies are pushing the technological frontiers. For instance, Wateroam received the Zayed Sustainability Prize in the Water Category at the last Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week for deploying its portable filtration membranes in various rural and disaster-hit areas such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vanuatu.
Cooperation and Partnerships
8 Our pursuit towards water security requires active cooperation and partnerships across all stakeholders. This is critical because we are increasingly operating in uncharted territories, and cannot afford to work in a vacuum particularly when technologies are evolving and we can learn from each other’s experiences.
9 For example, Singapore has benefitted from the submerged membrane bioreactor or MBR technology, which allows effective treatment of wastewater while reducing energy consumption. Although Professor Kazuo Yamamoto from Tokyo University was the first to present the submerged MBR concept in 1988, he chose to forgo the patent rights to his invention. Today, the MBR technology has been adopted in three of Singapore’s water reclamation plants, and will be implemented in the latest Tuas Nexus project. Singapore is a strong supporter of global cooperation and partnerships. We will continue to play our part by providing platforms for global innovation and contributing constructively to others, including the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit. I congratulate Japan for a hosting a successful 4th APWS.
10 Allow me to conclude. Water security is a common challenge across countries, especially with climate change. While progress has been made thus far, we must continue to take collective action and work toward a more sustainable water future for all.
11 I look forward to the meaningful and productive exchanges to be held over the next two days. Thank you.