A series of wastewater reclamation plants in the island nation of Singapore meets a sizable demand of its total water demands. With the commissioning of its fifth plant, 40% of its water demands are being met. The water agency of the nation has said that the figure is projected to increase to 55% by 2060.
Water treatment plants turn sewage water into fresh water that is so clean that they are fit for direct human consumption. It has also helped in reducing its dependence on neighboring Malaysia, which is its principal supplier as Singapore doesn’t have its natural water resource.
Giant pumps work around the clock in the advanced sewage treatment plants that use advanced technology to treat sewage through a vast network of channels and state-of-the-art technological plants.
Most of the recycled wastewater is for industrial uses, while a part of it is mixed with drinking water reservoirs. Singapore has a population of 5.7M. The water agency of Singapore says that the system has helped in reducing maritime pollution. Only a fraction of the discharged water flows out to the sea.
Singapore’s Recycling Facilities Are In Stark Contrast To Other Countries
This is in stark contrast to the utter disregard shown by most other nations. 80% of the wastewater generated is allowed to flow back untreated into the water system; the lakes, rivers, and seas. The water is not treated for even pollutants according to figures released by the UN.
Chief engineer Low Pei Chin of the water reclamation department that is under the Public Utilities Board says that while Singapore lacks both space and natural resources, they are continually looking at innovative ways to utilize scarce resources and stretch their limited supplies. One of their key strategies is to save each drop and recycle it perpetually. Singapore secures its water supply through imports, utilizing its reservoirs, and through desalination plants for processing seawater.
The Changi Water Reclamation Plant, the sophisticated water processing plant situated on the eastern coast of the city is at the core of the city-state water system. With scarce land resources, a part of the reservoir is underground, going down a massive 25 stories. The water recycling facility is fed through wastewater flowing down a 30 mile (48 kilometers) long tunnel that is linked to the nation’s sewers.
The facility houses a network of tubes, pipes, tanks, filtration equipment, and other types of machinery that can treat around 237 million gallons (900 million liters) of wastewater each day. That is adequate to fill up an Olympic-size swimming pool each day, 365 days a year.
Ventilators around the facility keep the surrounding air fresh though a putrid smell can be detected. The sewage mixed water that initially comes to the plant goes through a filtration process before it is pumped to facilities overground for the next stage of treatment and purification.
The treated water gets cleansed further as bacteria and other impurities are removed through a modern filtration process and finally, the water gets disinfected using ultraviolet rays.
The final product that is pure has been dubbed NEWater. It is principally used by microchip manufacturers. These companies are pervasive in Singapore, and they have a massive requirement for high-quality water. Part of the water is also used in the cooling system of the buildings.
The NEWater is also used to supplement the drinking water resources in Singapore. It is used especially during the parched season as it is used to replenish the drinking water reservoirs where they are treated further before flowing into homes for consumption.
The water recycling system is set to undergo a further expansion that will be finished by 2025. By the time the extension is completed, Singapore will have spent around $7.4 billion.
One of the reasons for this drive for self-reliance is Singapore’s uneasy relationship with Malaysia, its main source of water. Professor Stefan Wuertz of Nanyang Technological University says that every country should treat its wastewater as the freshwater reserves on our planet are limited. We need to do it before treatment becomes exorbitant due to acute scarcity, he says.