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NEWater: Singapore’s archetypal water management system



Singapore is one of the most developed countries in the world. It is one of the most-open economies according to the World Economic Forum and ranked as the fourth least corrupt country in the world. However, there is a catch. The recycled water is locally known as NEWater and is a prime example of how innovation and technology can promote a sustainable ecosystem

Singapore is made up of 63 interconnected islands and is topographically very flat. Standing at no more than 5m above mean sea level, Singapore is continually at risk from rising sea levels due to climate change. Sustainable water supply and effective drainage during the monsoons adds another set of challenges to the mix.

Human ingenuity and advanced technology has allowed this tiny island nation to come up with holistic solutions. Presently, Singapore draws up to 50 per cent of its water from Malaysia. Come 2061 and its rights to draw water from its neighbour will come to an end. To offset this problem, the country has leveraged large-scale nationwide rainwater harvesting projects for the past two decades. And it has been a resounding success.

Singapore’s water management system is a model worthy of replication as the threat of climate change looms large. The innovative system allows the city-state to recycle 40 per cent of its wastewater. Singapore’s National Water Agency, PUB, has been at the forefront of this initiative. Water collection, treatment, reuse and seawater desalination are some of the methods employed by the agency.

How it works

PUB’s water management strategy can be broken down into three distinct parts. First, every drop of water is meticulously collected through various water harvesting methods. Secondly, water is recycled and reused endlessly to minimize wastage. Third, desalinating seawater to make it fit for human consumption.

The country’s water recycling strategy is so efficient that it has been declared fit for human consumption. A network of water recycling tanks buried deep underground treat 900 million litres of used water every day. These tanks are fed by a large, 48km tunnel linked to the sewers. There the water is treated through advanced filtration processes and disinfected with UV rays to make it potable.


PUB’s recycling programme is so successful that water from these plants accounted for nearly 40 per cent of Singapore’s total water supply in 2017. The recycled water is locally known as NEWater and is a prime example of how innovation and technology can promote a sustainable ecosystem. PUB plans to increase the share of NEWater in Singapore’s water supply to 55 per cent by 2060.

In addition to addressing water supply concerns, NEWater is also utilized for industrial purposes. This has the added benefit of reducing maritime pollution as very little sewage is dumped into the sea. The used water from industrial sites make their way back to the treatment plants and the cycle continues.

Singapore’s water management system deserves credit for its resourcefulness and sustainability. It certainly is a model that can be replicated with some degree of success in countries that have to grapple with water scarcity. As global warming threatens our water resources, we as a global community need to work towards identifying long-terms solutions to our very real problems.

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