SINGAPORE will build a desalination plant in Tuas to treat more seawater, to meet the country's growing water needs.
Announcing this yesterday in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the new plant will also help to tide Singapore over dry spells.
He noted that Singapore had experienced dry spells last year as well as reduced rain this year. "We need to prepare for periods of drought and dry spells in future," he said. Singapore currently uses about 400 million gallons of water a day, but this could almost double by the year 2060.
The new desalination plant will be the third in the country when it is completed in 2017.
With it, Singapore will be able to produce up to 130 million gallons of water a day from seawater, up from the current maximum of 100 million gallons a day. The Government is considering building more desalination plants.
Desalinated water, or treated seawater, now meets up to 25 per cent of current water demand and is expected to continue to meet up to 25 per cent of demand by 2060.
Newater, which is treated used water, is slated to meet up to 55 per cent of Singapore's water demand by 2060, up from as much as 30 per cent now.
Singapore's two other national taps are treated rainwater and water imported from Malaysia, but the agreement with Malaysia will expire in 2061.
Dr Balakrishnan noted, however, that Singapore's water supply cannot be expanded infinitely, so Singaporeans should help to conserve water.
The Government may have to impose water restrictions during prolonged dry spells and droughts, such as making it illegal for people to use water to wash cars, so it is now studying whether it needs to refine existing legislation, he added.
Separately, national water agency PUB is calling a tender to study the feasibility of using underground space, such as rock caverns, for the redevelopment of its water reclamation plant and Newater factory in Kranji.
The plant and factory are expected to be redeveloped and expanded around the year 2030, as part of the integrated used water system consisting of the Changi, Tuas and Kranji water reclamation plants in east, west and north Singapore respectively.
"The relocation of utilities infrastructure underground has the potential to free up surface land for other uses, and create a more pleasant living environment for people to live, work and play above ground," PUB said.
The feasibility study is expected to be completed by next year, and will look at the challenges of constructing and operating a plant in an underground cavern.
These include the need for back-up systems for power, odour control, air ventilation and other mechanical systems. Designs to cope with potential floods or fires will also be needed.
This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.