OPENING ADDRESS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL WATER WEEK SPOTLIGHT
Distinguished water leaders, delegates and guests from around the world,
A very good morning to all of you, and a warm welcome to Singapore.
2 The theme of this year’s Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight “Urgent Climate Action for a Sustainable Water Future” is timely. We are witnessing how extreme weather patterns, brought about by climate change, are intensifying the strain on our water resources and pushing us to change how we manage water.
a. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming over the next 20 years.
b. Nations are already experiencing record-breaking heatwaves. Dhaka, Bangladesh recorded its highest temperature in nearly 60 years, while Singapore, too, recorded its highest temperature in 40 years of 37°C in May.
c. These changes in global temperature will have wide-ranging consequences on water, including changes in rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts and sea level rise.
d. Water, or more accurately, the use of water, is also the cause of climate change. Over-drawing of water for agricultural, industrial or human consumption has lowered water table, drying up forest basin and causing the release of CO2.
e. Earlier this year, most of Europe was in the grip of a winter drought, months after its driest summer in 2022.
f. Australia had experienced several floods over the past year, and many residents are still recovering from the damages caused by the northern rivers floods in 2022, one of the costliest disasters in Australian’s history.
g. Sea level rise is also accelerating and reached a new record high in 2022, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
3 Water problems have far-reaching downstream implications on key sectors such as food, energy and trade. Experts have warned that the looming El Niño could induce droughts and drive-up food prices. The water crisis may be the most critical climate crisis.
4 Global challenges require global action. We need to work together and act quickly to achieve a sustainable and secure water future for all. We must also meet the challenge of protecting our people and homes from rising sea levels and floods. We need to leverage technology and pursue innovative solutions to be ready for future challenges posed by climate change.
5 I am glad that we have leaders of public agencies, utilities, and industries coming together here to exchange ideas, foster collaborations, and drive a more sustainable future for water.
Tackling Sea Level Rise through R&D and Building Expertise
6 Like other coastal, low-lying cities, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. The development of coastal protection measures is a complex and long-term undertaking.
7 At the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, Singapore pledged a voluntary commitment to build up expertise in coastal protection and flood management by facilitating a collaborative research ecosystem with research institutes and industry partners. PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, launched a $125 million Coastal Protection & Flood Management Research Programme in March this year. This seeks to establish an essential thriving ecosystem of vibrant R&D activities in our local Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), research institutes, and industry. We aim to learn and share expertise and best practices with our international partners. We hope this will pave the way for innovative, effective and multi-functional solutions for coastal protection in the decades to come.
Ensuring Water Security through Long-term Investments in Innovative Solutions
8 Ensuring water security in the face of climate change is a key challenge for Singapore, given our limited natural resources and water catchment areas. To overcome this challenge, we continually invest to diversify our water supply and to implement innovative solutions.
9 PUB has invested in weather-resilient water sources such as recycled NEWater and desalination to meet rising water demand. NEWater was a major breakthrough solution that allowed Singapore to close the water loop. As early as 1974, Singapore started our experimental plant to produce potable reclaimed water, but the technological solution was not yet fully developed. After more than two decades of grit and perseverance, we finally succeeded in introducing NEWater as a third source of water supply in 2003.
10 We are always exploring ways to maximise the reclamation and reuse of every drop of water. Used water is a precious resource that can be recycled endlessly to fortify our water resilience. To ensure every drop of used water is recycled, we are constructing the second phase of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System, an underground superhighway to convey used water to our water reclamation plants and NEWater factories. This final phase of the DTSS is expected to be fully completed in 2026.
11 As these examples show, long term planning and continuous investments in innovative solutions have enabled us to secure water supply for future generations.
Encouraging Sustainable Use of Water through Right-Pricing, Legislation and Facilitative Measures
12 Collective community effort is crucial for a sustainable water future. While Governments and utilities explore solutions to ensure water security, it is also important that we, as consumers, use water in a sustainable and efficient way. In Singapore, we promote responsible water consumption in three ways.
13 First, we price water to reflect its scarcity to encourage consumers to use water prudently. The climate crisis, compounded by COVID-19 and geopolitical events, has resulted in the rising cost of water production and distribution. Utilities around the world are grappling with cost pressures due to higher inflation and energy tariffs. Singapore’s water demand is also expected to double by 2065, to support our population and economic growth. To meet increasing demand, PUB must continue to invest in water infrastructure. Right-pricing water to reflect the cost of producing the next drop of water has helped Singapore to keep up these essential long-term investments. It is also a
reminder to conserve water in our resource-constrained environment. At the same time, it has spurred the industry to come together and develop solutions that would optimise the cost of producing water and the use of water.
14 Second, we are putting in place mandatory measures to manage demand from intensive water users in the industrial sector. From next year onwards, PUB will introduce legislative requirements for water recycling on new and expansion projects in industries that are water-intensive and have high potential for water saving. These include wafer fabrication, and other electronic industries, as well as biomedical
manufacturing. We would also be keen to support and work with industry partners who can and are willing to raise their water recycling rates beyond these legislative requirements.
15 Third, we are fully committed to supporting our businesses in their journey to become more water efficient. Today, businesses can already tap on PUB’s existing Water-Efficiency Fund (WEF) to co-fund projects that will improve water efficiency within their premises. For example, Hotel Laundry, a commercial laundry that provides services to more than 30 hotels under the Worldwide Hotels Group received a grant under the WEF in 2017 to install the Blue Ocean System. It is a simple filtration system that can recycle its wastewater back to the washers as pre-rinsed water. With the implementation of this recycling system, the company was able to achieve 30% recycling rate, with up to 60 million litres of water savings a year.
16 To further incentivise and support industries in their recycling efforts, PUB will now enhance the WEF framework. From 1 July this year, funding cap for water recycling projects will be increased from $1 million to $5 million to encourage businesses to undertake bigger and more ambitious water conservation projects. For instance, this can support wafer fabrication plants to increase recycling rate beyond
mandated levels. Businesses, especially our small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), will also receive higher financial support, of up to 70%, to embark on their water conservation journey through water efficiency assessments and pilot studies.
17 Aside from financial support, we also recognise organisations and businesses for their invaluable contributions towards water sustainability. And PUB will be revamping the Singapore Watermark Awards for 2024. This is our nation’s pinnacle accolade for achievements in water efficiency and conservation efforts. PUB will be expanding the Water Efficiency Awards to recognise innovative projects that helped organisations improve their water efficiency performance.
18 By recognising our role models in water conservation and sharing best-in-class practices, we hope to continue to inspire businesses and the community to do their part in conserving water. Such recognition is also very much valued with the increasing emphasis on ESG stewardship and sustainability practices for many companies. Nominations for the 2024 Singapore Watermark Awards and the Water Efficiency Awards for Projects will open in the later part of the year and more details will be announced then.
Enhancing Sustainability in the Water Sector through International Collaboration
19 To encourage sustainable use of water, Singapore is committed to ensuring a sustainable and climate-friendly water sector. PUB has embarked on a 3R framework for energy sustainability and decarbonisation – Replace the use of carbon-based energy with renewable sources such as solar energy, Reduce carbon emissions by improving the energy efficiency of water treatment processes through R&D, as well as Remove and capture carbon in its treatment facilities – to reach its net zero goal by 2045.
20 For instance, PUB partners with companies like DuPont and Meiden, on new solutions to improve the energy efficiency of desalination. Some of these solutions include Closed Circuit Reverse Osmosis process technology and ceramic membranes. Through new technologies such as these, PUB hopes to reduce the energy required to produce one cubic meter of desalinated water from 3.5 kilowatt to 2 kilowatt hours by 2025.
21 To reduce its carbon footprint, PUB also launched a Carbon Zero Grand Challenge in 2021 to source for game-changing solutions from companies and research institutions around the world. PUB has selected two such technologies from Australia and USA and is working closely with the stakeholders on proof-of-concept research, with the aim of integrating them with PUB’s operations and deploying them at commercial scale within a decade. PUB is also working with Equatic, a tech start-up from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to explore carbon removal from seawater using electrolysis technology.
22 Our relentless journey to enhance sustainability in the water sector has been supported by numerous partnerships with other countries and between the government, industry, academia, and civil society, including many international partners and stakeholders.
23 To further the global sustainability agenda, Singapore has launched the Sustainability Action Package (SAP), under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, last year. Under the SAP, courses covering themes such as developing adaptation and resilience-building strategies, as well as green project management and financing are offered. SAP will also sponsor a number of longer-term advisory projects in Southeast Asia to deepen capabilities on sustainability in our region. We hope that these capacity-building and technical support initiatives will allow us to advance collective action on sustainable water solutions.
24 On this note, I am heartened that this SIWW Spotlight brings together leaders in the water sector to share experiences and co-create solutions in tackling climate and water sustainability challenges.
25 The Utilities CEO Roundtable session was organised for the first time as part of this year’s SIWW Spotlight, and I hope the participants benefitted from an open exchange of insights with fellow utility leaders. Delegates can also look forward to the thematic discussions at today’s plenaries, and to technical visits to PUB’s facilities tomorrow.
26 I hope you will gain much from the sessions planned out for you. More importantly, I urge everyone to find the time to meet and connect, as these interactions are key to generating solutions to the complex water issues we are facing. We look forward to continuing our conversations at next year’s main edition of the Singapore International Water Week, which will be held from 18 to 22 June 2024.