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How Singapore’s water management is a global example of how to combat climate change
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How Singapore’s water management is a global example of how to combat climate change

How Singapore's water management has become a global model for how to tackle climate crisis


Singapore is at the forefront in nearly all countries that have developed a long-term strategy for managing climate change. It is diligently implementing this plan.

The small island state of 6 million people was among the 40 nations invited by the US President Joe Biden to attend his leaders’ summit on tackling climate change last April.

Singapore is one. most densely populated countries in the world. It must address the twin challenges of ensuring water supply during droughts and ensuring drainage during heavy rain seasons due to climate change.

Many areas of Singapore are flat as a pancake, and stand no more than 0.5 meters. 5 metres above the mean sea level. This puts the country at increased risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Singapore’s water system management has made it a resilient and adaptable city.

Water-resilient Singapore

The country needs to be ready for when water rights from Malaysia are granted. end in 2061. Singapore gets up to half its water supply from a neighbouring country.

For over two decades, Singapore’s National Water Agency, PUB, has successfully added large-scale nationwide rainwater harvesting, used water collection and treatment, reuse, and seawater deralination to its portfolios of conventional water sources, so that the nation-state can achieve long term water sustainability.

The agency has been collecting sewage and treating it to create high-quality reclaimed waters. The PUB has become a prominent advocate for recycled water, also known locally as NEWater.

In 2017NEWater successfully supplied 40% of Singapore’s total water consumption of 430 million gallons daily. The PUB plans to increase NEWater’s supply capacity to 55% to meet the projected demand.

Under the plan, desalinated water will supply 30% of total demand in 2060 – a 5% increase from its share in 2017.

The remaining share of the country’s water demand (15%) in 2060 will come from local catchments, which include 17 reservoirs, and imported water. Despite the abundance of tropical rains, there is not enough land in the country to collect and store sufficient run-off.

To increase the economic viability of these plans, much of the PUB’s current research and development effortThis is to reduce energy consumption for desalination, used water treatment, and desalination by half.

Singapore must reduce its carbon emissions and generate energy from the byproducts from used water treatment.

Embracing ‘life and death’ matters

This success story demonstrates that the Singapore government is committed to long-term planning, implementation, and mitigation of climate change threats, including rising sea levels.

In 2019, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, described the country’s seriousness in treating climate change as “life and death matters”. The government estimates it will need to spend US$75 billion, around 20% of the country’s GDP, on coastal protection over the coming decades.

PUB has been given the task of leading and coordinating whole-of-government efforts in protecting these coastal areas. The agency is working hard to ensure Singapore does not become a modern-day Atlantis, Plato’s famous sunken city.

PUB’s first order of business is to develop an integrated coastal-inland flood model. This will allow it the simulate the worst-case effect of intense inland rain combined with extreme coastal weather. PUB expects its flood modeling to be a key risk-assessment tool in flood risk management and adaptation planning.

The agency also has undertaken coastal protection studies for different segments. The agency began the first study in May 2021 along City-East CoastIt covers 57.8km along the coast. This section was identified as being prone to flooding. It has many critical assets, such as airports and industrial and economic districts.

Other segments to be studied include Jurong Island in southwestern Singapore. The study will begin later in the year and the north-west coast (Sungei Kadut, Lim Chu Kang) which will start in 2022.

Protection measures will not be limited to adaptation to the next crisis. They will be designed to allow multi-functional land use. When possible, nature-based solutions are to be integrated in order to create welcoming spaces for living, work and play.

It is certain that whatever Singapore does in climate mitigation won’t make a difference to the global trend. However, it is a great example of what a country can accomplish to adapt to climate change’s dangers through good planning.

If its policies are repeated in other countries it will most likely cause the needle move significantly.

After the United Nations High Level Meeting on Climate Change, COP26, which was held this month in Glasgow, UK (UK), Singapore can be considered a good example of how countries can adapt to the threats of climate change over the next decade.

Peter Joo Hee NgThis article is co-authored with him.


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