National water agency PUB chairman Tan Gee Paw drew up the master plan to clean the Singapore River, helped to diversify the country's water sources and oversaw the development of Newater, Singapore's brand of reclaimed water.
For all these and many more achievements, the 71-year-old was feted last night with the Institution of Engineers Singapore's (IES) Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award.
Mr Tan said he was "deeply honoured", adding: "No engineer succeeds by working alone, so this award brings back memories of my five decades as an engineer working with some 300, 400 colleagues."
He said a project close to his heart was the opening of the Bedok Newater plant in 2003.
"It was the first time we were able to close the water loop. The technology was quite well-established, but putting the parts together was an engineering challenge.
"It's not an iconic building, but it was a project truly worthy of its place in history."
Mr Tan added that he hoped the award would inspire others, especially young people, to join the field.
"Engineers contribute to society and the nation quietly, away from the glare of publicity, but perhaps that is one of the reasons the profession is not as popular among young people," he said.
He received his award at the World Engineers Summit (WES) on Climate Change 2015 gala dinner and awards night, held at Resorts World Sentosa.
The IES also gave out 13 Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards to teams from the Housing Board, National University of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology and Research and other institutions.
Their projects included an innovative material to reduce air-conditioning energy consumption, a system to enable cost-effective eye-screening to detect glaucoma, and the Jurong Rock Caverns - South-east Asia's first commercial underground facility to store crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons.
"The winners demonstrate the diversity of engineering... and each winning team exhibits distinctive value in enhancing the quality of our lives and environment," said chairman of the IES awards committee Ho Siong Hin.
Seventy-one awards were also given for an international WES contest for photographs that capture the effects of natural, cultural and man-made activities that result in climate change.
The winners included Singaporeans Joel Ang, a student, and Mr Chan Wai Meng, an engineer.
This article was first published on July 24, 2015.
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