Singapore’s NEWater – An account of how Singapore manages its water

Singapore receives around 2.5m of rainfall every year and being a small nation with a huge population , scarcity of land and high population density make it difficult for catchment and storage of rainwater. Thus water reuse becomes an essential for Singapore’s water sustainability. NEWater – high graded reclaimed water holds key to Singapore’s water management.
In 1996 Singapore reused low grade reclaimed water for non potable industrial usage , while in 2003 high grade reclaimed water called NEWater was introduced. NEWater is recycled from treated sewage after a triple purification treatment method comprising of Ultrafiltration or microfiltration, RO i.e. Reverse Osmosis and Ultra Violet Disinfection. It is much more energy efficient and cost efficient than desalination as the salt content of treated water is lesser when compared to seawater.
NEWater is used in 2 ways – Direct non-potable use (DNPU) which is used in water intensive industries and Indirect Potable use (IPU) only with adherence to standards prescribed by WHO and US Environmental Agency.
NEWater is not directly used but is introduced into reservoirs so as to mix with rainwater and then later collectively treated at WTPs for potable use. Currently 40% of water demand in Singapore is met with this reused water while by 2060 this is planned to be increased to 55%.
Apart from technology being a key driver to this huge implementation of recycled water consumption, various other critical factor like government support and change in mindset leading to acceptance have been critical factors to override the disgust towards recycled water.
Strong Governmental initiatives and references of positive experiences from credible cases across the world need to be included in public communications. Using a more acceptable name of the recycled water i.e. NEWater implies that the water is as good as new and renaming Sewage treatment plants as “water reclamation plants “ and using the term “Used Water” in place of “sewage/wastewater” help to make a shift in mindset of the consumers. Also repeated localized testing and sampling at various locations not only helps the handling staff to get to know the technology better but also bring out the high quality standards to be met by the treated water. Consistent public communication ,through media support , of the successful usage of used water had helped the wide acceptance of NEWater in Singapore. NEWater has helped Singapore manage its water resources well , and has helped increase resilience to climate change, and reduces the requirement for large storage spaces and has thus been a monumental success in Singapore.


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