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A complete makeover

Besides boosting water supply, Singapore’s latest reservoirs are also set to transform the landscape in the northeast, bringing waterfront living to HDB heartlanders.

Seletar Water Reclamation Plant
Kayakers and windsurfers at Serangoon Reservoir; Aerial view of Punggol Reservoir.

Singapore chalked up another milestone on its journey toward water sustainability when the Punggol and Serangoon Reservoirs were declared open on 3 July 2011.

An area that used to be known for pig and poultry farms and a landfill has been transformed into Singapore’s 16th and 17th reservoirs respectively. Together with Marina Reservoir, the two new reservoirs have increased Singapore’s water catchment area from half to two-thirds of its land area.

“And it is nothing short of amazing,” said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources when he officiated the opening at Serangoon East Dam. “It is quite extraordinary and remarkable, if we just reflect on what this area used to be just over a decade or so ago,” he said, referring to the farms and landfill that are long gone.

The Punggol and Serangoon reservoirs are set to boost Singapore’s water supply. Both reservoirs have a combined catchment area of 5,500 hectares and can meet about five per cent of Singapore’s current water demand. Created by damming Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon, the two reservoirs collect rainwater from estates and areas within Punggol and Sengkang, and parts of Hougang and Ang Mo Kio. Construction of the $300 million project began in 2006.

Due to competing demands for limited land to collect rainwater, PUB’s strategy has been to create estuarine reservoirs by damming the major rivers to collect and store as much of the 2,400 millimetres of rainfall that it gets annually as possible. This led to the creation of urbanised catchments in the 1980s, starting with Bedok and Lower Seletar reservoirs. Today, Singapore has eight reservoirs collecting water from urbanised catchments in the densely populated city areas and residential towns.

Apart from local catchment water, Singapore also draws on imported water, NEWater and desalinated water under the Four National Taps strategy. To meet water demand which is expected to double in the next 50 years, Singapore is not just augmenting catchment areas, but also has plans to triple the production of NEWater and ramp up desalination as well.

Besides augmenting water supply, another advantage of tapping on urbanised catchments is that HDB heartlanders get to experience waterfront living right at their doorsteps. Punggol Town is built along Punggol and Serangoon reservoirs, and its centrepiece is the Punggol Waterway, a 4.2-kilometre waterway that connects both reservoirs and runs through the town centre.

Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) projects such as the Sengkang Floating Wetland in Punggol Reservoir and the Lorong Halus Wetland along Serangoon Reservoir were opened in the past year. These projects help to safeguard the quality of water in the reservoirs and have also become recreational hotspots that residents rave about.

In addition, Punggol Town will serve as a ‘living laboratory’ to testbed new ideas and technologies in sustainable development. Work on the first Eco-Precinct, Treelodge@Punggol, is already underway, with eco-friendly features such as the collection of rainwater to wash common areas and rooftop greening.

All these developments point to the fact that people have to be more aware of the need to take care of Singapore’s water resources. “Every drop of rain that falls on the ground or lands in our drains ends up in a reservoir and ultimately in our drinking cups. And that requires all of us to play our part to make sure it stays clean and safe,” added Dr Balakrishnan.

Seletar Water Reclamation
Plant Decommissioned

In a move to centralise used water treatment at the Changi Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), PUB closed the doors on the 30-year-old water reclamation plant at Seletar on 30 June 2011.

The Seletar WRP is the last of three conventional water reclamation plants to be phased out as used water is progressively moved over to the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System, a superhighway for the collection, treatment and disposal of used water. The Kim Chuan WRP was closed in 2008, and the Bedok WRP in 2009.

Mr Wah Yuen Long, PUB’s Director of Water Reclamation Plants, said, “Phasing out conventional water reclamation plants is part of our long-term water master plan to centralise the collection and treatment of used water. This allows for greater economies of scale, and is more cost-effective in the long run. It is more sustainable in land-scarce Singapore, and will also ensure the sustainable supply of NEWater, Singapore’s own brand of high-grade reclaimed water.”

In line with the closure of Seletar WRP, the Seletar NEWater factory has been decommissioned as well. NEWater supply remains unaffected, and plans for it to meet 50 per cent of future water demand remain on track.

Used Water Superhighway

Used Water Superhighway

The Deep Tunnel Sewerage System is an innovative, efficient and cost-effective solution that will meet Singapore’s used water needs for the next 100 years. The heart of the system is the 176-mgd Changi WRP, Singapore’s largest and most advanced used water treatment facility. Used water is sent to Changi WRP for treatment through a 48-kilometre deep tunnel sewer running from Kranji to Changi before it is channelled for further purification into NEWater or discharged through the deep sea outfall.

Picture above, from left
PUB Chairman Mr Tan Gee Paw, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Hyflux CEO Ms Olivia Lum, and Hyflux non-executive independent director Mr Gay Chee Cheong at the Tuaspring Desalination Plant groundbreaking.

Desalination to Play a Bigger Role

Singapore has embarked on the construction of its second and largest seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant in Tuas. PUB and Tuaspring Pte Ltd (Tuaspring), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hyflux, signed a 25-year Water Purchase Agreement (WPA) in April 2011.

Under the Water Purchase Agreement, the Tuaspring Desalination Plant will supply PUB with 70 imperial million gallons (mgd) or 318,500 cubic metres of desalinated water a day from 2013 to 2038.

The plant is constructed under a Design, Build, Own and Operate (DBOO) model. This outcome-based approach offers bidders flexibility to design and develop the most innovative and sustainable proposal that meets the specified performance standards.

PUB Chief Executive Mr Khoo Teng Chye said, “This plant marks a significant milestone in Singapore’s journey towards water sustainability. Desalinated water is an important pillar of Singapore’s Four National Taps and it is set to play an even bigger role. Water demand is expected to double from its current levels by 2060 and we aim to ramp up desalination capacity to meet 30 per cent of the water demand by then.”