Water Treatment: A Creeping Crisis

Hi! I’ve decided to start a blog to discuss water treatment technologies and issues in Singapore and around the world. Why water treatment you ask? I took an internship opportunity with MEWR and had the pleasure of working with NEA officers on a project that tasked me to find issues with our current water treatment system and propose technological solutions. It was from there that I learned the intricacies of how water treatment in Singapore is handled. I chose to work on industrial pollution of Singapore’s sewers, where I learnt how industrial pollutants are supposed to be handled(by these companies), investigated into the technologies they used, and proposed novel technologies that could solve the issues present (I’ll be using what I learnt in future posts). This internship was what led to my desire to share the intricacies of how we recycle vital and limited freshwater resources and eliminate the impacts of by-products released in our wastewater stream.

Personal anecdote aside, adequate water treatment facilities are a keystone in ensuring society has access to a resource that provides for their welfare and fuels the economy. Singapore is a testament to the importance of having adequate water treatment facilities. In terms of natural water resources(one of our National Taps), rainwater catchment is currently our only feasible source; and groundwater sources, if any at all, presents its own set of risks(USGS 2003). Even then, Singapore’s small land area means that there is only so much rainwater we can collect (Luan, I.O.B. 2010).

Pandan Reservoir with pipes leading to Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant

Hence, our 3 other National Taps come to the rescue! Our 4 National Taps are necessary to satiate our domestic and industrial water demands. All of these sources require various water treatment facilities to ensure that they are safe for consumption, or are sufficiently pure for industrial uses(as with NEWater for wafer fabrication).  With one of our National Taps(imported water) expiring in 2061, and PUB expecting our water demands to double by then(PUB, 2016), our water treatment facilities must make up for current losses and expand at the same time. That’s quite a tall order! PUB projects our water demand demographic to change too, with industrial demand surging ahead of domestic demand more than now(PUB, 2018). Some of these industries as mentioned earlier need cleaner water than domestic users, which means that NEWater and desalinisation facilities have to take the brunt of future water demands.

Ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis membrane array. Image by Khalid Baba. Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/singapore-opens-third-desalination-plant-in-tuas

Phew, that was quite the sombre reminder of our impending water crisis! So, with a more optimistic outlook on what we can do to change our fate, my blog will focus on:

Issues faced by our water treatment network;

our current and experimental technologies and techniques that we use to treat water;

and policies and technology suggestions that Singapore (not just PUB, but private industries too!) could adopt.

There will be terms and concepts used in water treatment that I will employ for these posts that you might not be sure of, so do check out the Glossary & Terms tab where I’ll be addressing some of these. If I miss out on any there or in my posts, post it in the comments and I’ll clarify(pun intended) them for you.


[i] J.R., B., & W.L., C. (2003). Ground-Water Depletion Across the Nation. U.S Geological Survey Fact Sheet 103-03.

[ii] Luan, I. O. B. (2010). Singapore water management policies and practices. International Journal of Water Resources Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/07900620903392190 p66

[iii] PUB (2016). Our Water Our Future p7

[iv] PUB (2018). Our Water Story  https://www.pub.gov.sg/watersupply/singaporewaterstory