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Conserving water needs to become a 'daily way of life' in Singapore: PM Lee

Conserving water needs to become a 'daily way of life' in Singapore: PM Lee

A person jogging by the water at a reservoir in Singapore. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Conserving water should be a “daily way of life” for people in Singapore with climate change making reliable water supply harder to come by, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Feb 4).

Speaking at the official opening of the Keppel East Marina Desalination Plant, Mr Lee said that water was not an “inexhaustible gift of nature”.

“It is a strategic and scarce resource, and also a precious fruit of our labours, always to be husbanded and used wisely,” he explained.

“We are always pushing the limits of our water resources. Producing each additional drop of water gets harder and harder ... We require more infrastructure, new technologies, more extensive treatment, all of which inevitably means a higher incremental cost.”

This comes in the face of climate change, which was making weather conditions more “volatile” around the world, said Mr Lee.

“It will become harder for us to ensure a stable and reliable water supply,” he added.

READ: Singapore's first large-scale desalination plant capable of treating both seawater and freshwater opens

READ: Construction of new S$230m NEWater factory in Changi expected to start in 2022

Mr Lee said that while this January was the second wettest January on record, it was just as easy to imagine more frequent and longer periods of drought. 

“This happened to us just a few years ago, in 2016. Linggiu Reservoir went down to 20 per cent of its capacity. I was really worried, and tracking the situation daily, because there was a real risk to our water supply,” he said. 

“It was a vivid reminder of why we have to be obsessed with saving water, and make every drop count.”

And while the Government will continue to plan ahead, and build up infrastructure ahead of time, people in Singapore need to get involved, added Mr Lee. 

“Singaporeans also need to play our part, to use water only when we truly need to, and to make conserving water our daily way of life,” he said.

READ: Singapore to launch multi-ministry Green Plan to tackle climate change challenges

READ: Commentary: Beyond scarcity and security, does Singapore need a new water narrative?

IMPORTANCE OF DESALINATION

In his speech, Mr Lee noted that Singapore has come a long way since Singapore’s first desalination plant, the SingSpring Desalination Plant, opened 15 years ago. 

Desalination remains key to a sustainable water supply, he added.

“We have expanded our desalination capacity because our water demand continues to grow,” he said.                                

“Currently Singapore consumes 430 million gallons per day.  In the next 30 years, we expect water demand to almost double.”

With local catchments and water imported from Malaysia being insufficient to meet Singapore’s daily needs, it has supplemented its supply with NEWater and desalination, noted Mr Lee. 

“Both of these were the fruit of many years of planning, research and innovation by PUB engineers,” he added.

READ: Raising carbon tax, improving public sector’s sustainability standards among MPs’ proposals to tackle climate change

READ: In striving for sustainability, important for Singapore not to 'lock into' technologies prematurely, says Grace Fu

And with each new plant, Singapore has improved its technologies and capabilities to produce desalinated water more efficiently, noted Mr Lee. 

“Water treatment technology will keep on improving. We will surely never stop building newer waterworks and facilities, each one different and slightly better than the previous ones,” he added. 

Mr Lee noted the new plant was part of Singapore’s long-term planning. It is Singapore’s first desalination plant capable of treating both seawater and rainwater. 

“In dry weather, the plant will treat seawater, like our other desalination plants but during rainy weather ... like last month, the plant will draw fresh water from Marina Reservoir,” added Mr Lee.

“This will consume less energy than treating seawater. Having this option to switch to treating reservoir water will save costs and give us more operational flexibility.”

Source: CNA/kg

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