NEWater and New Security
Singapore International Water Week came and went, and with it, the re-endorsement of Singapore’s potable recycled water. NEWater, the distasteful survivalist strategy of augmenting Singapore’s water supply, makes us significantly less vulnerable to Malaysia’s occasional threats and tantrums about cutting off water to Singapore if the little red dot turns out to be, in Malaysia’s view, “pesky” on Pedra Branca, the crooked bridge and whatever bilateral spat that ignites.
Singapore doesn’t need to put up with the Malaysians that much since we become less dependent on the 2011 and 2061 expiry of the water treaties. Pundits might ask whether being more self-sufficient on water resources might make Singapore more arrogant in bilateral relations, and whether drinking waste water, albeit safely recycled supposedly, is the worthwhile price to pay. Personally, the taste in my mouth is not that awful if Singapore can attain water security.
The reclaimed wastewater from Singapore’s NEWater plants passed its 12th bi-annual drinking-water test by an independent international audit panel with flying colours during the country’s Water Week.
The PUB utility reported on 2 July 2009 that the seven-member panel, which meets twice yearly, found NEWater to exceed Singapore national, US Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization standards for drinking water.
The comprehensive sampling and monitoring programme was established in 1999 as part of the research and development for NEWater and has been gradually expanded from 190 physical, chemical and microbiological parameters to more than 290 monitored today.
Chair of the panel is Professor Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA,
Said Prof Rose, “We are very pleased to note that the high quality of NEWater has remained consistent all these years. In tandem with the rapidly evolving water R&D sector, the audit process has become more rigorous over the years. Even with additional parameters to be monitored and lower levels of detection through more sensitive instrumentation, NEWater still goes beyond the mark in all measures of quality. This demonstrates that the quality of NEWater surpasses international standards, and it also stands up well against the criteria established in Singapore.”
Introduced in 2003, NEWater is high-grade reclaimed water produced using advanced membrane technologies. Four NEWater plants currently meet more than 15% of Singapore’s total daily water needs.
The latest and largest facility to date, with a capacity of 50 MIGD (227,300 m³/d), is being built on top of the Changi Water Reclamation Plant. With the combined capacities of the five plants, NEWater can meet 30% of Singapore’s daily water needs by 2010.
NEWater is mixed with raw water in reservoirs before undergoing further treatment at the waterworks for supply as drinking water. The existing plan is to progressively increase the amount of NEWater in reservoirs beyond current limits.