The market in Singapore is ripe for new and innovative water treatment and wastewater recycling systems as it continues its effort to achieve water independence. Singapore is a small country of only 4.6 million people with limited water resources. The country imports approximately 52% of its water from Malaysia. However, two water agreements with its neighbor are due to expire in 2011 and 2061.
There is concern about Singapore's future water security, and to meet its water challenges, the island city-state has invested heavily in research and technology over the last four decades and has also developed world-class capabilities in total water management.
Singapore is becoming more self-sufficient due to development of major national water projects such as NEWater (recycled water), the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS), desalination and rainfall storage at the Marina Barrage. The result is a thriving water industry with more than 50 international and local companies active in the Singapore market. Singapore’s strategic location in Asia has also attracted major global players to use the country as a launching pad to expand into the region as well as a test-bed for new water technologies.
Since 2001, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s national water authority, has outsourced some $3.0 billion worth of water infrastructure projects, such as the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System, Marina Barrage, NEWater facilities and desalination plants, to the private sector. In addition, the Government of Singapore (GOS) is encouraging industrial users to conserve and recycle water through a media campaign, legislation and economic incentives.
The water conservation and recycling equipment market is growing in tandem with the flourishing water sector. The current size of the market for water conservation and recycling systems is estimated at $950 million. The recent economic upturn significantly increased water demand. In the past year, some trade sources reported that their sales of water conservation and recycling systems improved by as much as 50%. The sector has also seen much greater sales to the Government of Singapore.
The size of the market for water conservation and recycling systems is projected to expand by 10%-15% annually over the next three years. This growth will emanate from a strong demand for government projects including the construction of new desalination plants and NEWater facilities. Market prospects for industrial users are also good and future demand could be greater as Singapore’s economy is expected to continue robust growth.
Singapore’s water supply is currently derived from four main sources: water from local catchments, imported water from Malaysia, NEWater and desalination water. The local water catchments comprise 14 reservoirs and a network of stormwater collection ponds that help prevent flooding during heavy rains. By 2009, the local catchments will increase from half to two-thirds of Singapore’s land surface when the reservoir program, including the Marina Reservoir project, is completed. A series of pipelines are being built so that excess water can be pumped from one reservoir to another for storage. With these Reservoir Integration Programs, the yield from existing reservoirs will be increased. At the same time, advanced membrane technology will enable the PUB to undertake a wider range of activities in catchment areas without compromising the quality of reservoir water.
Singapore is importing water under the terms of two bilateral agreements with Malaysia. The first agreement, which will expire in 2011, provides Singapore with 100 million gallons per day (mgd) of raw water that Singapore treats at its own facilities. The second deal, which expires in 2061, gives the citystate a further 250mgd of untreated water. Singapore is striving to be self-sufficient in its water needs by 2061 when the second supply contract with Malaysia expires.
Currently, Singapore’s four NEWater plants process more than 45mgd. With the latest award of contract for the fifth and largest NEWater plant at Changi to Sembcorp Utilities, NEWater will meet 30% of Singapore’s current water needs by 2010, doubling the original target of 15%. NEWater is produced using state-of-the-art dual membrane (microfiltration and reverse osmosis) and ultraviolet treatment process.
Although Singapore has already put in place a sustainable water supply system through diversification of its water resources, PUB continues to invest in advanced water technologies and R&D work to look for even more efficient treatment processes. For example, the Bedok NEWater Factory was the first in the world to introduce the 16-inch reverse osmosis membrane in water reclamation in 2006. Another technology is the membrane bioreactor, which the PUB would like to use to streamline the NEWater production process and make it even cheaper.
As Singapore’s population and economy grow, demand for water will rise. PUB is responding by looking for more sustainable ways to augment the country’s water supply. As an island nation, the surrounding sea holds obvious potential. Hence, Singapore’s first large-scale seawater desalination plant was built and commissioned in late 2005 by Hyflux. Under a 20-year build-own-operate arrangement with the PUB, the $167 million desalination facility produces 30 million gallons of potable water a day that is pumped into PUB’s potable water distribution main. With the successful implementation of the first desalination facility, it is expected that more desalination plants will be built in the years ahead. As it stands now, power generation company PowerSeraya (PS) launched its 10,000 cubic meter per day reverse osmosis desalination plant in January 2008. PS’s plant is the first in the world to use the cuttingedge 16-inch membrane which results in a higher water yield and also cost savings, as it uses 30% less electricity than conventional small membrane plants. PS is interested in scaling up and building bigger desalination plants to supply the industrial needs as and when the PUB liberalize the water market.
In order to keep the city-state ahead in water technology, the Government of Singapore earmarked $40 million to fund world-class water research centers over the next five years. The money will be used to train a new generation of researchers and help start-up firms turn ideas into reality. The first beneficiary of the program is the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, an inter-disciplinary research center set up jointly by the National University of Singapore, Dutch water specialist Delft Hydraulics and the PUB. Other international water companies are also taking advantage of the opportunities and infrastructure by establishing operations here. Some of these companies are now partnering the PUB in pilot R&D projects and technology trials. US-based GE Water & Process Technologies signed an agreement to set up a research center dedicated to water technology at the National University of Singapore. GE Water will invest $87 million over the next 10 years in the research center with specific focus on water treatment and system integration, fundamental chemical and membrane application, and ion exchange technology. Black & Veatch will also invest $60 million over the next five years with a view to strengthen its Singapore base as a hub for desalination and engineering projects. Several other international players such as Marmon Water, Siemens Water Technologies, Deltares and Kiwa Water Research of the Netherlands and local firms Keppel Integrated Engineering, Hyflux, Salcon and Singapore Utilities International are significantly expanding their scope of activities in Singapore. Their strategic investments highlight the remarkable progress made in the water sector, reinforcing Singapore’s vision to become a Global Hydrohub.
By Haw Cheng NG