Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Egypt COP27 Presidency “Water” Thematic Day Plenary Session
1 Good morning.
2 I am very honored to join the water leaders in discussing the challenges and opportunities of our time.
3 Today at this plenary session, I would like to share with you, how we in Singapore view water.
Our Quest for a Sustainable Water Supply
4 Singapore’s water journey is one of grit and ingenuity. When Singapore became independent in 1965, we started with only two sources of water – our local water catchments and imported water from Malaysia. There was an urgent need to strengthen water security. These sources of water are rainfall-dependent, leaving us at the mercy of dry spells. These two sources also quickly became inadequate to meet our needs, as our population and economy grew. And so, we started our quest to search for new sources of water.
Diversification of Water Supply
5 We began a long journey of exploring alternative sources to diversify our water supply.
NEWater – Our Third National Tap
a) As early as 1974, Singapore started our experimental plant to produce potable reclaimed water. We used advanced membrane technologies to purify wastewater. However, the technologies then were unreliable, and prohibitively expensive. The solution wasn’t ready.
b) But we did not give up. After more than two decades of research, we succeeded. The advances in membrane technologies allowed us to eventually introduce a third source of water supply, known as NEWater, in 2003.
c) NEWater is a high-grade reclaimed water produced through a 3-stage process – filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection – using advanced membrane technologies. This robust treatment process for NEWater removes all contaminants, destroying bacteria and viruses. This makes NEWater safe to drink. In fact, it is so clean that it is highly sought after by industries that need high grade water, such as wafer fabrication companies.
d) With NEWater, Singapore successfully closed the water loop by recycling treated water and reusing every drop of water endlessly.
Desalination – Our Fourth National Tap
6 To further enhance the resilience of our water supply against dry spells and droughts, we introduced our fourth source of water supply - desalination. Like NEWater, this is a source that is resilient against climate change.
7 Desalination is not new, but it took several decades to become cost-viable for us. We introduced our first desalination plant in 2005.
8 Desalination remains a very energy-intensive process, and we are investing in R&D to reduce the energy take. For example, we will be building a desalination Integrated Validation Plant to trial promising technologies for implementation in full-scale desalination plants. Through the scale up and validation of these technologies, the energy to produce one cubic meter of desalinated water could potentially be reduced from 3.5 kilowatt hours to less than 2 kilowatt hours by 2025.
Low Emission Water Sector
9 Singapore strives for a low-emissions water sector by enhancing the energy efficiency of our water treatment processes. For example, we have been actively replacing carbon-based energy sources with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems deployed on facility rooftops and reservoirs over the years. Last year, we have completed a 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) floating solar PV system at one of our reservoirs, that can supply enough renewable energy to power all of Singapore’s local waterworks. This makes Singapore one of the few countries in the world to have a fully green waterworks system. We are also constructing a water reclamation plant which is co-located with a waste management facility. This integrated water and waste treatment facility will be energy self-sufficient as it utilises used water sludge and food waste generated to produce biogas for electricity generation for plant operations.
Valuing Water – Conservation and Environmental Protection
10 Beyond ensuring sufficient water supply, it is also a matter of ensuring people save water and protect our water resources.
11 Singapore adopts a multi-pronged approach to encourage water conservation. Water is priced to reflect the cost of the next drop of water, to encourage consumers to use water wisely. Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, also conducts extensive education and outreach efforts on water conservation, where children are taught at a young age to use every drop wisely, and households are encouraged to save water through public campaigns and technologies such as smart water meters and smart shower devices. PUB also works closely with industries to reduce their water usage, with larger water users in the non-domestic sector required to report their water efficiency management plans annually.
Protecting Our Water Resources
12 As a country with limited water resources, it is essential that we keep our water resources such as waterways and reservoirs clean.
13 Today, Singapore is served by a modern sanitation system, in which all used water is collected through a network of sewers and channelled to our water reclamation plants. This is after decades of hard work and investing financial resources on sewerage and drainage systems.
14 Proper sewerage systems and regular sewer maintenance works ensures used water does not contaminate our water resources.
15 Stringent regulations are in place to ensure that waste is properly disposed of, and substances such as silt and industrial chemicals are not washed into our waterways.
16 We also conduct in-depth studies of the environmental impact of our desalination plants. To protect the sea around our plants, we treat our effluent to a high standard before discharging it into the sea.
17 Singapore has come very far on our water journey. But the journey does not end here.
18 With the same grit and ingenuity, we will continue to be on this path to ensure our future generations enjoy water security amid the concerns and impacts of climate change.
19 I hope my sharing today can inspire countries to protect and build a more sustainable water supply.
20 Thank you for inviting me to this event.