Water is a clear substance that we cannot live without. Despite the amount of water we may believe is in our environment, only 2.5% is fresh water. Of that, two-third is locked in polar ice caps and glaciers. The remaining 0.5% is usually used for agriculture, industrial and personal use.
However, with our fast increasing population, the demand for crops and agricultural use will increase which will in turn increase water usage. Additionally, more factories being built will result in more water usage and a larger population will need more water for daily tasks like bathing and drinking. Furthermore, through larger meat consumption and cotton production virtual water is being heavily used. The pressured use of water makes recycling water very crucial.
Water crises occur globally including in the European Union, Asia, and the US. These crises can range from extreme droughts to contaminated water. In developing countries like India, villagers travel multiple kilometers on foot to collect a pot of water from common water pumps. This water is not usually treated and is unsafe which can lead to water-borne diseases such as cholera.
I grew up in the tropical island country of Singapore. Singapore is located in SouthEast Asia with a population of only 5.6 million which doesn’t produce any crops on the island. All food products are either air-flown or shipped leading to inflated prices. Additionally, Singapore has no mountains or fast-flowing rivers going through it making water stability difficult.
Singapore took on the challenge to support its extreme water needs of 430 million gallons a day by coming up with a strategy called the Four National Taps which represent four different types of techniques to sustain and recycle water. These include creating water plants, making reservoirs, importing water, and desalinating water.
The first way Singapore renews water is through NEWater. NEWater is a water plant that recycles used water into clean, safe, and reclaimed water. They launched into the Singaporean public in 2003 when they first opened two water plants, a visitor center, and a water Museum. This Museum attracts tourists and shows the company’s water sustainability journey. NEWater has three main stages in purifying the water.
- The first is called microfiltration or ultrafiltration where used water is passed through membranes. This helps to filter out bacteria and gets the water ready for the next stage.
- The second stage is called reverse osmosis where a semipermeable membrane is used. This only allows smaller particles like water to pass through but leaves viruses and other contaminants behind.
- The last and final stage is ultraviolet disinfection which kills any bacteria and viruses present. While at stage 2 the water is safe to drink, this is another protective measure.
NEWater now has five water plants distributed around Singapore and it supplies up to 40% of Singapore’s current water needs. By 2060, it is expected to meet 55% of Singapore’s future water demands.
Singapore’s MacRitchie Reservoir
The second national tap is a reservoir. Reservoirs are essentially artificial lakes that are used as a source of water supply. Singapore has a total of 17 reservoirs island-wide and through its local catchment techniques which span over two-third of the island’s land including drains, canals, and small ponds, rainwater is easily transported into the reservoirs. Reservoirs are gorgeous locations in Singapore that are popular among nature lovers and runners! The Marina reservoir has a surface area of 590 acres and is the most urbanized catchment in Singapore and meets around 10% of Singapore’s water needs.
The next way that Singapore manages its water is through importing water. Singapore has been importing water from its neighboring country Malaysia for a long time now. There are two agreements which have been signed up till now. The first was in 1961 and expired in 2011 and the second was signed in 1962 and will expire in 2061. Under the Johor Bahru agreement, 250 million gallons of water can be drawn every day from Johor Bahru to Singapore. Imported water makes up a majority of Singapore’s needs and covers up to 60%.
The last and final way is through desalinated water. Desalinated water is turning seawater into drinking water using advanced membrane technology. In Singapore there 3 desalination plants and by the end of 2020 there will be 2 new ones. The desalination process is energy-intensive and since Singapore uses reverse osmosis for its desalination 3.5kWh/m3 of energy is used to make seawater safe enough to drink. Seawater is pushed through the membranes to remove dissolved salts and minerals to produce safe drinking water. The Public Utility Board (PUB) in Singapore wants to reduce the amount of energy usage and one way is by using Electro Deionization. This is where an electric field pulls the dissolved salts from the water and only uses 1.65kWh/m3.
While Singapore has many sustainability techniques that many other countries can learn from, it is important that as individuals we do our part as well. While as students and individuals there isn’t a lot we can do for these large crises, there are small activities we can participate in to educate others and attempt to reduce some of the harsh effects of water scarcity.
To help raise awareness about climate change and its negative effects on our environment, I created a climate change club in my school. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the club’s sessions couldn’t take place in person so I created an online space where I send presentations to students about important topics such as water scarcity and the causes of climate change. We engage in discussions about conflicting opinions and answer questions, and I note their suggestions for topics they would like to learn more about.
Additionally, I recently acted in and directed a play called ‘The Four Elements’ in my school to promote awareness about sustainability. In the play, I portrayed the four natural elements of nature: wind, water, fire, and earth, and presented the effects on each if climate change continues unabated. It was a creative way to portray my passion for a topical subject and to get my message across to more people.
Even small steps can cumulatively have a big, lasting impact. For example, I have attempted to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle whereby I consume less meat, reduce plastic use, and carry reusable shopping bags. These changes haven’t adversely affected the quality of my life but will surely have a meaningful impact on the environment.
Another main way to reduce water scarcity is water management. Making sure to turn off taps when they aren’t in use and taking more frequent showers rather than baths can make a big difference.
I’m keen to use the techniques I have learned from my home country of Singapore in my future academic research. Water is a resource that is slowly depleting due to being overused. Its shortage can be reduced by factors that we can still do to make a difference. We must educate others and look at Singapore as an enviable role model for sustainable water usage and attempt to manage our water usage better to delay the effects of water scarcity.
Tania Malik is a high school senior at Tanglin Trust School in Singapore and is waiting to hear from universities, including UPenn, for pursuing her undergraduate degree. She was born and brought up in Singapore and is passionate about raising awareness about the environment. Her current article for the Water Center focuses on the vibrant island-nation of Singapore and its four unique methods of promoting water sustainability as well as my own initiatives for conserving water.
In Singapore, desalination is done through a process called reverse osmosis, which separates water from dissolved salts and minerals. As desalination is not dependent on rainfall, it makes our water supply more stable regardless of weather conditions.Why is water sustainability important in Singapore? ›
As the population and economy continue to grow, Singapore needs to ensure that the demand for water does not rise at an unsustainable rate. Achieving a sustainable level of water consumption and managing the impact of water on the environment takes the commitment and participation of the community.What solutions helped Singapore overcome its clean water shortage? ›
For over two decades, Singapore's National Water Agency, PUB, has successfully added large-scale nationwide rainwater harvesting, used water collection, treatment and reuse, and seawater desalination to its portfolio of conventional water sources, so the nation-state can achieve long-term water sustainability.Does Singapore have enough water? ›
Singapore is considered to be one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. It is heavily dependent on rainfall due to the lack of natural water resources, and limited land is available for water storage facilities.Does Singapore have enough water for the future? ›
By 2065, Singapore's total water demand could almost double, with the non-domestic sector accounting for about 60%. By then, NEWater and desalination will meet the majority of Singapore's future water demand.What is the future of sustainable water in Singapore? ›
NEWater is the pillar of Singapore's water sustainability, and by 2060, we will expand its capacity to meet up to 55% of our future water needs. NEWater's genesis dates back to the 1970s, when the Singapore government commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of producing reclaimed water.What are the sustainability issues in Singapore? ›
Singapore faces a range of sustainability challenges. Water constraints, energy security, carbon consciousness, land scarcity, waste generation, import dependency, ageing, and protection of biodiversity are just some of the restrictions that Singaporean policymakers and citizens must grapple with on a daily basis.What makes Singapore so sustainable? ›
Energy efficiency is a key strategy for emissions reduction and Singapore aims to produce goods in an energy- and carbon-efficient manner. As energy is not subsidised in Singapore, companies are incentivised to use energy judiciously and embrace new energy efficient technologies.Why is it important for Singapore to be sustainable? ›
Sustainability maintains the health and biocapacity of the environment, which in turn supports the well-being of individuals and communities. Sustainability also promotes a better economy where there is little waste and pollution, fewer emissions, more jobs, and a better distribution of wealth overall.How did Singapore solve its water problem? ›
Singapore also invested heavily in underground drainage systems and dams. The tiny country now has 17 reservoirs that collect the rain that falls on two-thirds of its land area.
With separate rainwater and used water collection systems, good land use planning policies and strong environmental controls, the collected rainwater is protected from pollution. 2. Reuse water endlessly: Recycling water is the most sustainable and cost-effective way to increase Singapore's water supply.How does Singapore manage water shortage? ›
The city has 19 fresh water reservoirs, 9 water treatment plants and 17 reservoirs for purified water. The largest reservoir, Marina Bay, opened in 2008 and is constructed in an estuary closed off with a dam to keep out salt water. Singapore is one of the pioneers of this relatively new technology.
Singapore has built a robust, diversified and sustainable water supply from four water sources known as the Four National Taps – Water from Local Catchment , Imported Water, high-grade reclaimed water known as NEWater and Desalinated Water.Is Singapore successful in managing water? ›
For over two decades, Singapore's National Water Agency, PUB, has successfully added large-scale nationwide rainwater harvesting, used water collection, treatment and reuse, and seawater desalination to its portfolio of conventional water sources, so the nation-state can achieve long-term water sustainability.What affects the water quality in Singapore? ›
The main sources of water pollution in Singapore are industrial effluent and domestic wastewater. Industrial effluent contains chemical and organic pollutants.Is Singapore doing enough to be a sustainable city? ›
One that tops most indexes ranking the world's most sustainable cities is, unsurprisingly, Singapore. With just over 5.6 million inhabitants, the Asian city-state has the second greatest population density in the world.Is Singapore doing enough for the environment? ›
Singapore's new climate targets still 'critically insufficient', says research group. SINGAPORE - Singapore's climate targets are “critically insufficient”, said a global climate research consortium, despite the Republic's efforts to implement a higher carbon tax and cut its greenhouse gas emissions.How can we improve water sustainability? ›
- Take shorter showers: Showers generally last around 10 minutes, which uses as much as 200 litres of water. ...
- Thaw frozen food early: You can do it in the fridge or at room temperature, as long as you don't run any water from the tap.
SINGAPORE'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE SDGs
Close to 150,000 officials from over 180 countries and territories have participated in SCP courses in areas such as water and sanitation (SDG 6), sustainable cities (SDG 11), and climate action (SDG 13).
Deforestation. Since the Singaporean revolution founding of Singapore in 1819, more than 95% of its estimated 590 square km of vegetation has been cleared.
Singapore has taken early measures on sustainable development, such as managing the growth of our vehicle population and making the switch from fuel oil to natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel, to generate electricity. Over 95 per cent of Singapore's electricity is now generated by natural gas.What are the greatest challenges faced by Singapore? ›
Perceived challenges facing Singaporeans 2022
A survey conducted in July 2022 in Singapore found that around 23.43 percent of respondents considered poverty and economic inequality to be the greatest challenges they had to face.
Sustainable development is based on three fundamental pillars: social, economic and environmental.Where does Singapore rank in sustainability? ›
Singapore ranks 5th in new index tracking sustainable global trade practices.What are the 3 values that has helped Singapore to achieve success? ›
The five Shared Values that were eventually adopted were: 1) Nation before community and society above self, 2) Family as the basic unit of society, 3) Community support and respect for the individual, 4) Consensus, not conflict, and 5) Racial and religious harmony. 1.What is the most sustainable city in Singapore? ›
Nicknamed the City in a Garden, Singapore's notoriety as the World's Greenest City is no surprise. Parks such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Botanic Gardens and the newer Gardens by the Bay super park are home to around 400,000 plants.How does Singapore protect its environment? ›
Singapore has built a robust, diversified, and sustainable water supply from four water sources known as the Four National Taps – Water from 17 Local Catchment, Imported Water, 5 NEWater factories, and 5 Desalinated Water Reclamation plants.How does Singapore recycle water? ›
Wastewater from sewers arrives at the plant through 48 kilometres of connected tunnels, where it is filtered and pumped to the surface. Bacteria, viruses and other impurities are then removed, first using a high-tech filtration system, then using ultraviolet rays to disinfect the water.What are 5 ways to solve the water shortage? ›
- Dams and Reservoirs. ...
- Rainwater Harvesting. ...
- Aqueducts. ...
- Desalination. ...
- Water Reuse (Water Recycling) ...
- Water Conservation.
- Installing special tanks that store rainwater for irrigation.
- Using drip irrigation for more efficient watering.
- Establishing schools for farmers where they learn how to adapt to climate change with drought-resistant crops, crop rotation, and sustainable ways to raise livestock.
Singapore has built a robust, diversified and sustainable water supply from four water sources known as the Four National Taps – Water from Local Catchment , Imported Water, high-grade reclaimed water known as NEWater and Desalinated Water.How can Singapore improve water quality? ›
To keep Singapore's water clean, soil pollution must also be controlled, as pollutants in the soil can enter the water system as run-off or groundwater. Soil pollution control in Singapore focuses mainly on the proper use of approved pesticides to control termites.How can we keep Singapore sustainable? ›
- Recycle right: Check, Clean, Recycle. If you recycle regularly, good for you! ...
- Adopt Good W-A-T-E-R Saving Habits. In Singapore, clean drinking water is readily available with just a turn of the tap. ...
- Choose Local Produce to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.
Singapore's largest industry by far is the manufacturing sector, which contributes 20%-25% of the country's annual GDP. Key industry clusters in Singapore's manufacturing include electronics, chemicals, biomedical sciences, logistics and transport engineering.What are the challenges faced by Singapore in maintaining sufficient water supply? ›
With limited land to collect and store rainwater, Singapore has faced drought, floods and water pollution in their early years of nation building. These challenges inspired Singapore to strategize and seek innovative ideas thereby developing capabilities and securing a sustainable supply of water.Why is sustainability important in Singapore? ›
Sustainability maintains the health and biocapacity of the environment, which in turn supports the well-being of individuals and communities. Sustainability also promotes a better economy where there is little waste and pollution, fewer emissions, more jobs, and a better distribution of wealth overall.Why is Singapore the most sustainable country? ›
Singapore is the second-most densely populated country in the world, but also ranks among the top cities in Asia-Pacific in terms of sustainability, due largely to the government's initiatives of recent years. The focus on sustainability has also become a differentiating factor in the real estate market.Is Singapore truly sustainable? ›
One that tops most indexes ranking the world's most sustainable cities is, unsurprisingly, Singapore. With just over 5.6 million inhabitants, the Asian city-state has the second greatest population density in the world.