Turn on a tap, and clean water flows out, as much as we want, anytime we want. It is easy to forget that Singapore’s journey to provide secure and sustainable water did not come easy. As a country with no natural water resources and limited land to catch and store rainwater, it is important that we do not take our water for granted, and we continue to educate our young to cherish and value this precious resource.
On 10 July 2019, over 200 students from 11 secondary schools, junior colleges and polytechnics participated in the Singapore Youth Water Conference (SYWC). Organised by Raffles Institution and supported by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, this inaugural conference aims to create a deeper awareness and knowledge of water security and sustainability issues among our youths.
The Conference kicked off with keynote speeches by Mr Ng Joo Hee, Chief Executive of PUB and Professor Asit K. Biswas, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Glasgow, followed by a dialogue session. Mr Ng impressed upon the students that total water demand is projected to double from the current 430 million gallons of water per day by 2061, and that is water that we do not have today. As such, we need to find alternative sources of water, such as the sewers (water reclamation) and the sea (desalination).
“First of all, we have to maximise our yield, we strive to collect every drop of water that falls on Singapore. Second, we have to think of water as an endlessly reusable resource. Water can always be reclaimed and retreated so that it can be drunk again. Today, we are able to literally turn dirty toilet water into sweet water. Third, because Singapore is surrounded by the sea, we can desalinate salty seawater and make it drinkable.”
Professor Asit K. Biswas, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Glasgow, gave an overview of the global water situation and shared how Cambodia, China and India dealt with their respective water challenges. He also cited Singapore as one of the leaders in urban water management.
Professor Asit noted that many countries lacked sufficient water for drinking, agriculture and industrial development due to lack of proper water management. To that end, political will and sustained public action are important in ensuring water resilience and sustainability.
“The world does not have a water problem; it has a water management problem,” he said.
On a whole, the students and panellists had a fruitful discussion and sharing of thoughts on the future of water at the Singapore Youth Water Conference. When asked about the key takeaway from the conference, one student shared that she now recognises how valuable water is, and the importance of sustainable water management not just for Singapore, but for the entire world.
Let us all work together to ensure that we will always have enough water, and no one will ever have to go thirsty.