Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Denmark-Singapore Water Dialogue on 25 June 2021
Ms Lea Wermelin, Minister for the Environment of Denmark,
1 Good morning to those joining us from Denmark, and good afternoon to everyone in Singapore.
2 I am very happy to join you for the Denmark-Singapore Water Dialogue, organised as part of the Singapore International Water Week 2021. As I listened to Minister Wermelin make her speech, it struck me with the kind of similarities that we have between our two countries. It's almost as if she was delivering my speech, and what I am going to say later will seem very familiar to all of you, as if I'm delivering her speech.
3 So I thought I would start with a story which is going to be quite different. It's about water and outer space. There are currently seven astronauts at the International Space Station. These men and women rely on a complex water management system that extracts every last drop from their breath and sweat, their shower water, residue from handwashing and also from the toilet. Producing a bottle of water in space costs approximately US$10,000, and the Universal Waste Management System (I think it's a fanciful name for the toilet) installed last October for recycling water was developed at a cost of US$23 million.
4 I share this to highlight how innovative we as human beings can be in conserving water. Back on Earth, a quarter of the world's population are facing extremely high water stress – making water scarcity a potential source of conflict. According to the World Resources Institute, Singapore will be one of the most water stressed countries in the world by 2040. Climate change will exacerbate this. On 17th April this year, Singapore experienced the highest daily rainfall since 1980, with more than a month's rainfall in a single afternoon.
5 However, we have no intention of accepting this possibility as the most water stressed country in the world as our fate. We will rise to the challenge of water resource management with three strategies: innovation, policies and collaboration.
6 In 2002, after more than three decades of research and innovation, PUB our water agency, launched NEWater, our high-grade recycled water. This journey required significant investments by the government, many failed pilot studies, and a relentless pursuit for better membrane technology at low cost. Today, we have closed the water loop with five NEWater plants. They complement our four desalination plants, including the newest large-scale dual-mode desalination plant, dual-mode in the sense that it can treat both freshwater from Marina Reservoir and if necessary, seawater as well.
7 As water recycling and desalination are energy intensive, we aim to reduce the energy intensity and carbon emissions from their operations. We are exploring electro-deionisation and biomimetic membranes to improve the NEWater recovery from 75 per cent to 90 per cent with no increase in energy consumption. We also aim to reduce the energy required to produce desalinated water from 3.5 kilowatt hours to 2 kilowatt hours per cubic metre by 2025.
8 Next month, we will unveil the world's largest floating solar panel system at Tengeh Reservoir. It will produce enough power for all our waterworks that treat reservoir water, and makes us one of the first countries in the world to have a waterworks system fully powered by renewable energy.
9 Work on Tuas Nexus, which will be our first integrated solid waste and used water treatment facility, is also underway. When completed in phases from 2025, Tuas Nexus will maximise energy and resource recovery by harnessing synergies across the water, energy and waste nexus. It will co-digest used water sludge and food waste in the same plant, producing 40% more biogas than if the two waste streams were separately treated. Tuas Nexus will not only be fully energy self-sufficient, but will also provide electricity to the grid, and reduce more than 200,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, equivalent to taking 42,500 cars off the roads.
10 Next, innovation needs to be supported by good policies. We have a broad range of water demand management policies, from water pricing to conservation. Water in Singapore is priced to reflect its scarcity which encourage consumers to use it wisely. It is pegged to the cost of supplying the next drop of water, or the marginal-cost of producing water.
11 We have also implemented policies to promote water conservation. Since 2015, businesses and industries which consume 60,000 cubic metres or more have been required to submit annual water efficiency management plans to help manage their water usage better. With the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MWELS), household appliances and fittings, such as taps, flushing cisterns, washing machines, dishwashers, must bear water efficiency labels to help consumers make informed choices. We require minimum water efficiency for some products, nudging suppliers to introduce more water-efficient fittings and appliances to the market. From January 2022, these requirements will be extended to commercial fittings and appliances, such as washer extractors, dishwashers and high-pressure washers. And PUB is rolling out smart digital meters to residential, industrial and commercial premises early next year to help consumers track and save water.
12 Public education is a big part of our efforts in encouraging responsible use of water. Water conservation is taught in our schools. PUB actively engages the community on water conservation through awareness campaigns and events such as the Singapore World Water Day, which rally the people to treasure and conserve water.
13 These efforts enable us to advance our national agenda on sustainable development under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which is a whole-of-nation movement charting Singapore's sustainability targets over the next 10 years. Under this Plan, we aim to reduce our household water consumption from 154 to 130 litres per capita per day by 2030. And I've just heard from Minister earlier on that you have reached 101 litres, so that is something that we should learn from you in our next lap.
14 Finally, on collaboration. Tackling climate change and water issues requires collaboration. Partnerships between companies, government, utility companies and research communities are vital for solving global challenges.
15 As small maritime nations with advanced economies, Singapore and Denmark have been strategic partners in sustainable development. We have made progress in implementing the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all. Our populations enjoy high standards of living and well-being because of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services.
16 I am pleased that our partnership continues to flourish. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made good progress in implementing our 2020 MOU on environmental and water matters. Activities implemented include exchanges to facilitate technical sharing on limiting water loss, a business seminar on the topic of "Unlocking the Potential of Wastewater", and including today's events. Danish companies such as VCS Denmark, Grundfos and Ramboll have contributed to Singapore's water ecosystem.
17 Our partnership has extended to the region. Singapore and Denmark have been actively working with ASEAN countries through technical assistance in areas such as circular economy, waste and water resource management, and climate change. This has helped the region identify opportunities in the sustainability sector, and shorten the learning curve in building back better and greener.
18 I hope this Water Dialogue will catalyse more meaningful collaboration between Denmark and Singapore. I wish participants of the two breakout groups fruitful discussions.
19 Thank you very much.