Saturday, 5 September 2015

PUB to build fourth desalination plant

New facility in Marina East will meet future water needs in city area and boost Singapore's drought resilience
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2015

Singapore will build a fourth water desalination plant to meet future water needs in the city area and strengthen its drought resilience.

Yesterday, national water agency PUB announced that it will call for a tender for the provision of consultancy services for the new plant in Marina East.

It will be able to treat freshwater from the nearby Marina Reservoir and produce 30 million gallons of water per day.

PUB deputy chief executive (policy and development), Mr Chua Soon Guan, said the agency has been making investments to build up and diversify Singapore's water sources to strengthen water security.

He said: "During the dry weather in recent years, we were able to ensure supply by increasing the production of Newater and desalinated water. Building up weather-resilient water sources will help us be better prepared for possible prolonged periods of dry spells in future."

With the new plant, Singapore will be able to produce a total of 160 million gallons of water a day through treated seawater.

Singapore's agreement to obtain water from Malaysia ends in 2061. By 2060, its water needs are expected to be about double the current 400 million gallons a day.

The desalination plant is part of the Government's plan to ensure that Singapore can meet 80 per cent of its water demand through treated seawater and Newater, or treated used water, by 2060.

To achieve this target, plans are well under way.

The third desalination plant in Tuas, for instance, will be completed by 2017, and produce 30 million gallons of water per day.

The fifth Newater plant is expected to be completed by next year and will supply 50 million gallons a day to Singapore's water supply.

Senior research fellow Cecilia Tortajada, from the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said building a fourth desalination plant is a "very smart move".

"It's part of the strategy to build the water resilience of Singapore. The location is also an advantage because they can tap the water from the Marina Reservoir," she added.

PUB said the tender for the fourth desalination plant will be put on the government Gebiz website today. The tender will include the engineering design for the development of the plant under a Design-Build-Own-Operate arrangement.

In recent weeks, Singapore leaders have raised concerns about Singapore's water supply.

Last month, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, highlighted how dry weather had led water levels in Johor's Linggiu Reservoir to drop to an all-time low that month - of only 54.5 per cent of its capacity. The reservoir's water level affects Singapore's ability to draw water from Malaysia's Johor River.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also said he is watching Singapore's water stocks carefully. He wrote last month on Facebook: "In Singapore, water will always be a precious resource. Never take it for granted, or waste it."

Singapore innovating to grow water supply
By Audrey Tan and Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2015

Singapore might have been ranked as the country in greatest danger of running out of water by 2040 in a global study, but the authorities and researchers here are studying new ways to expand the water supply.

In a report last week, Washington-based World Resources Institute singled out 33 countries, including Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar, as those likely to face extremely high water stress in 2040, out of 167 nations.

The ranking was based on an index measuring competition for and depletion of surface water, such as lakes and rivers, each decade from 2020 to 2040. The study did not give details on why Singapore's water risks were deemed so dire.

But Professor Asit Biswas, founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, said he is willing to bet that Singapore would not have any water risk even by 2050.

The distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS) added:

"There is no question that Singapore's water management will improve radically over the coming years as we see scientific, technological and managerial breakthroughs, and as Singapore uses increasingly more effective economic instruments and a behavioural sciences approach to further improve its water management."

Singapore plans to build more plants to produce treated seawater and Newater, to meet up to 80 per cent of its water demand by 2060. It is also expanding its rainwater catchment area from two-thirds to 90 per cent of the island by 2060.

National water agency PUB said it is looking into whether there are naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater under Singapore. It also disclosed that it started a one-year project earlier this year to investigate the groundwater potential in the eastern part of Singapore.

It said: "(This project) will involve literature research and the development of a hydro-geological model for an old alluvium deposit in eastern Singapore.

"It will also look into successful measures implemented in other countries, where groundwater is a water source, to assess and mitigate potential risks associated with groundwater extraction."

PUB had said last year that it was studying the possibility of groundwater in western Singapore. While it remains to be seen if underground water could be Singapore's fifth tap, after imports from Malaysia, Newater and treated seawater and rainwater, such aquifers could act as "water banks" for drought periods, PUB had said.

A team of global experts, including chief hydrogeologist Roy Herndon from the Orange County Water District in California - which has been extracting groundwater for decades - is advising PUB on this.

Meanwhile, NUS researchers have come up with a way to store rainwater here, by making roads permeable and putting storage systems under them. The NUS project, designed for a test site in Sungei Kadut, would also reduce the risk of floods, "screen pollutants in the runoff water, harvest energy and reduce ambient temperatures", they said.

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