Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tapping From Everywhere

Let's face it, Singapore is tiny and it is virtually a 'water stressed' nation.

When the little red dot was separated from Malaysia in 1965, one of the major concerns over its survival evolved around water resources. For many years, prevailing agreements with Malaysia ensured that there is water supply for this 683 sq km island state.

Today, this source is just one of the many more as Singapore proudly proclaims its 4 taps strategy to water supply.

Tap 1: Water from Malaysia

40% of water needs comes from Malaysia. The original tap of getting water from the neighbor is not sustainable in the long term. The 2 agreements will end in 2011 and 2061 respectively. Occasional cross border political tension further suggests that sole reliance on this source is undesirable.

Tap 2: Rain Water Catchment

Back in 1867, the first water catchment, MacRitchie Reservoir (then known as Thomson Road Reservoir) was built. It was followed by Seletar Reservoir in 1920. In 1975, 3 more were added: Kranji Reservoir, Pandan Reservoir and Upper Peirce Reservoir.

2 days ago, the 15th and latest addition to the list, Marina Barrage was officially opened. The project was challenging. Due to its poor soil condition, piling at the site is one of the deepest in Singapore. It is now the largest reservoir in Singapore and Prime Minister Lee called it an 'engineering feat'.

About 60% of Singapore land area has been adapted to harvest rainwater for the reservoirs.

Tap 3: Desalination Water

Being an island state, it would be a shame if Singapore cannot tap on the enormous amount of sea water around it. Thanks to the more advanced and cheaper technology known as the Reverse Osmosis, turning sea water into pure water is now commercially viable.
Desalination meets about 10% of Singapore water needs. By 2011, this will increase to 30%.

Tap 4: NEWater

NEWater is the brand name given to reclaimed water produced by the Public Utilities Board. Using the same Reverse Osmosis process, waste water (sewage) is purified to potable standard, even though the water is largely used for industrial purposes. Due its unconventional source, NEWater has drawn a variety of reactions. Overall, it is seen as a success.

The innovative strategy towards water management will move Singapore closer towards self-sufficiency. This is a happy story which sounds like a fairy tale to people in many parts of the world.

Half of the world's population still suffers with water services inferior to those available to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is a somber reminder for those who may have taken the convenience of water supply for granted.

We shall also be reminded that more than 1 billion people in the world still depend on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water. Some people in Africa do not even have this water source in their town and they will have to travel to get it.

Theoretically, the amount of water on Earth is a constant. Every time we use water, we either take it from the surface or underground. Used water in turn goes back to the Earth. If the process of returning water is not well managed, we get water pollution. The problem can be teething and life threatening.

80% of the Earth is covered with water. That might sound like a lot but 97% of it is seawater. Of the remaining 3%, 2% is locked up in frozen polar ice caps and only 1% is drinkable!

Yes! Get that fact right, only 1% of the water on Earth is drinkable!

At any one time, some water is in the form of water vapour in the air. Nature's way of harvesting this source is by creating rain water. This has inspired water dispenser makers such as the Singapore-based company, Airqua, to produce water from the air. Now, that is what I call ingenious!

An average Singaporean uses 160 litres of water a day. Compared to USA at more than 500 litres/person, we are doing OK. But in order to maintain Singapore in a sustainable living state, each and every one has to take ownership of the environment. Every drop counts.

Are you using water above the national average? Get you answer
here. (1 US gallon = 3.79 litre)

The search for water can never end and you are coming along.

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