Water Reuse for Singapore’s Circular Economy and Sustainability

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Water Reuse for Singapore’s Circular Economy and Sustainability

Water reuse or recycled wastewater is one of the solutions to address water scarcity for present and future demands. Scientists think that water demands will surpass available freshwater sources in the future to population and industrial growth.

Water reuse or recycling of wastewater is also an approach to close the water loop and extend the lifetime use of water, bringing about environmental, economic, and social gains. Singapore’s small but highly developed economy lacks the water resources it needs as it does not have natural aquifers and lake. At the same time, its land area is limited in collecting and storing rainwater.

The supply of fresh water to its residents and industries comes from 4 sources – imported water from Malaysia, water from the local catchment, desalinated water, and water reuse.

Chapter 3 Water Reuse in Singapore, The New Frontier in a Framework of a Circular Economy from the book – Water reuse within a circular economy context discussed water reuse technology in Singapore quite thoroughly. The UNESCO publishes the book in 2020.

Chapter 3 of the book says that the country has been implementing water reuse as early as 2003 for potable and non-potable uses applying the concept of a circular economy.

It says further:

“Water reuse is part of a comprehensive framework of water security in the city-state that considers long-term policy, planning, management, governance and technological developments. As essential foundations for a reliable water reuse system, we discuss water resources management related institutional and legal frameworks and their evolution over time water reuse is a part of its comprehensive framework for water security”.

Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) gave the name “NEWater” for its water reuse and recycled wastewater product. Water reuse supply 40% of its water needs and projected to expand to 55% by 2060.

Municipal and industrial provides the wastewater source for water recovery that goes through various stages of water purification depending on its intended use either for potable use or non-potable applications like landscape irrigation, agriculture use, groundwater storage, wetland remediation, etc.

Water recycling aims to alleviate pressure on water resources and protect the environment within the framework of sustainability.

The book discusses how NEWater started, its water purification processes, and its many benefits and contribution to urban water resilience.

When Singapore began its water reuse program in 2003, Windhoek, Namibia and Orange County, California are already applying the technology for many decades. Singapore was able to study the experience of these two countries in water reuse and proceeded to establish its system and large-scale implementation of it.

Public acceptance of drinking recycled water or ‘toilet water’ is a challenge that Singapore faces. However, through widespread education and campaign, Singaporeans eventually embraced and accepted recycled water as an essential water source.

Water reuse or recycling is a great solution to alleviate water problems in rapidly growing urban areas that do not have access to safe drinking water or natural water resource that is what Singapore exemplifies.

Countries with water scarcity issues and vulnerability to climate change can also benefit from this technology, helping them extend their water supply and build resilience to climate change.

Read the entire Chapter 3 of the book by clicking the link below:

Source Citation:

Cecilia Tortajada and Ishaan Bindal, Chapter of the Book: Water Reuse within a Circular Economy Context, edited by UNESCO and UNESCO i-WSSM, UNESCO Publishing, Paris. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000374715.locale=en


“Water pipeline from Malaysia” By Mohamed Shaaz – [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6008606

“Bottles of NEWater for Distribution” by CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=269932

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