U.S. Water News Online
SINGAPORE -- Singapore will start pumping water reclaimed
from sewers and sinks into the city's water system later this month
to deliver it as tap water, making it one of the few cities in the
world to offer reclaimed potable drinking water.
The reclaimed water will be mixed and blended with water from the
city's reservoirs, from where it will be piped along with raw water
to taps in offices and homes.
The reclaimed water, called ''NEWater,'' has been touted by
international experts as good enough to drink, being well within the
drinking-water standards specified by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.
Ready-to-drink samples of the reclaimed water in transparent
bottles with cheery orange labels have been distributed free at
public functions in Singapore as part of an education campaign over
the last few months to dispel the concerns of the public.
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and his cabinet ministers have been
seen drinking NEWater in public.
The sewage water is purified with state-of-the-art technology in a
three-stage process of microfiltration using one of the
highest-quality membranes in the world, reverse osmosis and
ultraviolet light disinfection.
The government has said it will start pumping 2 million gallons
per day of recycled water into its raw-water reservoirs this month,
which will be less than 1 percent of Singapore's total daily water
consumption. But the percentage will be raised to about 2.5 percent
Most of the recycled water is destined for industrial use.
NEWater underscores the small island state's intense efforts to
pursue technological innovations for the production of alternative
sources of water in recent years in a bid to gain a measure of
self-sufficiency in water supply.
The government has a plan to meet at least one-third of its water
demand through nonconventional sources such as water-reclamation and
Meanwhile, private companies are following suit.
Hyflux Ltd., a water-treatment specialist in Singapore, plans to
market a machine for offices and homes that can produce potable water
from water vapor in the air starting in the middle of this year.
Hyflux plans to sell the machine for between $570 and $1,700.
The city state is currently heavily dependent on neighboring
Malaysia for cheap raw water, with two water agreements signed
between the two countries in 1961 and 1962 assuring a steady supply
of water to Singapore.
However, the two pacts are due to expire in 2011 and 2061, and
ties between the two countries have been strained by frequent
squabbles over a wide range of issues, including water itself.
Both sides have not been able to resolve their differences over
the price of the raw water Malaysia sells to Singapore and also the
future supply, despite many rounds of negotiations.
Most Singaporeans seem to have rallied in support of NEWater. This
is not surprising given the level of concern over water supply in the
city state. For example, a water-conservation policy has been in
force for years requiring all toilets in homes and offices to be
fitted with flushing systems that do not use more than one gallon of
water per flush.
Those who are uneasy about the idea of drinking water recycled
from sewage have taken to buying bottled spring water imported from
overseas, with suppliers reporting brisk sales in recent months of
imported bottled water.
One company which supplies a popular brand of mineral water
imported from Indonesia said sales have increased about 30 percent in
the last couple of months compared with the same period last year.
Nevertheless, observers say that despite the initial qualms,
people here will probably get used to drinking NEWater in the long
run due to their known propensity in the past to go along with
''The percentage of those who are really concerned is probably
less than 1 percent of Singapore's population. People are much more
worried about the future. They don't care or bother about NEWater,
but are more concerned about other more pressing issues such as
money,'' said Lawrence Chua, managing director of Pureland
International Pte. Ltd., which sells water-filtration systems.
Singapore is already one of the few countries in the world where
water is safe enough to drink straight from the tap. So while dozens
of brands of bottled mineral water from all parts of the world are
available on supermarket shelves, these have always been more popular
with Western expatriates living here than with the locals. Sales of
water-filtration systems have also been sluggish.
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