Water Management & Conservation — Singapore Sets Another Example

Chris Tobias recently wrote about waste to energy in Singapore, illustrating the city’s exemplary response to fly ash left over from the incineration process. I just read an interesting French book on water, and one of the most interesting parts of the book was about Singapore.

Written by Erik Orsenna, a member of the prestigious Académie française, L’Avenir de l’eau (Water’s future) enables us to travel all around the world (albeit reading) and gathers facts and figures on how water issues differ from country to country.

Perfectly located between East and West Asia, Singapore is an important local hub for 4,000 international companies. The city’s geostrategic importance led to an important population boom, with the number of inhabitants climbing from 1.5 million at the time of independence in 1965 to more than 4.5 million today.

Despite receiving a lot of rainwater (there are 2,415 mm of precipitations per year, compared to roughly 500 mm for San Francisco and 1,200 mm for New York City), the city lacks water.

The precious liquid comes from four main sources: rain, water treatment, desalination and imports from Malaysia.

Rainwater currently brings about 30 percent of the needed resources thanks to the city’s 15 reservoirs. There will soon be 18. About 40 percent come from Malaysian imports thanks to two deals, one of which will be ending in 2011. The remaining 30 percent of water come from various treatments and desalination.

Water recycling is indeed important since the local utility launched NEWater, which is made of reclaimed water. The results are satisfying. The utility’s Chairman, Mr. Tan Gee Paw, estimates that NEWater responds to more than 15 percent of Singaporean water needs and by 2010 will provide 30 percent of the water through a new factory that will treat 2.5 million cubic meters per day. It is even possible to buy bottles of this reclaimed water. Since its launch six years ago, over ten million bottles of NEWater have been sold.

Singapore is also exemplary as it is estimated that only 12 percent of the total water leaks through the pipes compared to more than 25 percent in many American cities or even 40 to 60 percent in Mexico City.

Conservation measures prove to be successful as the average Singaporean now consumes only 155 liters of water each day, compared to 176 liters in 1994. This has to be compared with the average Canadian ( 330 l ), American (300 l ), Australian (260 l ) Italian (200 l), French (160 l ) and Belgian (120 l ) consumptions.

To conclude: Water management in Singapore could and even should inspire many cities in America, Asia and Europe.

There are numerous business opportunities for water treatment and management companies. The BBC estimates that in Singapore no less than $3.5 billion have been invested in the past five years and that the same sum will be invested in the five years to come.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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