Membrane technology has played a vital role in the development of NEWater in Singapore. Way back in 1974, a demonstration plant was set up to study the feasibility of reclaiming used water for water reuse using physico-chemical processes. However, it was not until 1998 that the idea of water reuse was revived and membrane technology was tested for its robustness for used water reclamation.
The NEWater Demonstration Plant, commissioned in May 2000, used microfiltration, followed by reverse osmosis (RO) and subsequently ultraviolet disinfection as an additional safety barrier, to produce reclaimed water from secondary effluent. This reclaimed water which was later called "NEWater", was of high quality, and surpasses the drinking water standards and suidelines stipulated by the USEPA and WHO.The rigorous study protocol, which included a comprehensive sampling and monitoring programme, a health effects study, and scrutiny from an international expert panel confirms that membrane technology is feasible and robust enough to produce NEWater which is safe for indirect potable reuse.
This NEWater Demonstration Study did not only pave the way for the successful implementation of water reuse in Singapore since 2003. It was also the antecedent to the continual study into membrane technology in PUB as well as the seed on which PUB's R&D efforts have grown and developed.
R&D in membrane technology is a continuous process in exploring innovative ways of applying and optimizing membrane processes for water treatment and used water treatment processes.