National Statement by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference on 22 March 2023
1 Water is essential to life, to growing of food, to public health, and to ending poverty. The world is coming together for the first major UN conference on water in five decades to recognise the importance of water in sustainable development and climate action. And to find solutions to the many significant challenges in water management that are common to us.
2 Extreme weather patterns, brought about by climate change, are exacerbating water stresses. We need to double down on our efforts to achieve a sustainable and secure water supply for all, to transcend the growing challenge of water scarcity amidst climate change.
Singapore’s Water Story
3 I would like to share three points taken from Singapore’s experience in achieving universal access to clean water and sanitation, as a small island nation that is most water-stressed.
4 First, safeguarding our water resources. Given the scarcity of our water resources, safeguarding our catchments and waterways is our priority. In the 1970s, we embarked on a massive 10-year programme to clean up the Singapore River, which was heavily polluted from human and economic activities. This involved dredging the mud from the riverbanks and clearing the accumulated debris. We relocated highly pollutive activities and industries, such as animal farms. We also introduced regulations to penalise those who pollute our waterways.
5 Second, pricing water to reflect its scarcity to encourage the prudent use of water. Our water price not only recovers the full costs of supplying water, but also incorporates the higher cost of producing future drops of water from weather-resilient sources. At the same time, we ensure water remains affordable for lower-income households through progressive rebates on their utilities bills.
6 Third, leveraging technology as an enabler to increase efficiency. This includes using advanced sensors across our transmission network that allow us to detect and address water leaks early. Today, our distribution losses are among the world’s lowest, at around 8%.
Singapore’s voluntary commitments under the Water Action Agenda
7 Even though Singapore has achieved the SDG6 goal of provision of water supply and sanitation services for all, we remain concerned about water scarcity and the effects of climate change. The water crisis is as global as it is local, and global water action remains critical to ensure a concerted effort in tackling the myriad of water challenges that we face.
8 Singapore welcomes the Water Action Agenda, a key outcome of this Conference that can elevate global commitment to taking swift and decisive actions to deliver on our water goals.
9 We are proud to pledge three voluntary commitments to the Water Action Agenda.
10 First, we will reduce the carbon footprint of our water treatment processes, by increasing the use of renewable energy in our water system. We have opened one of the largest floating solar farms in the world, which can generate enough power to meet the energy demand of our water treatment plants. We will also conduct research and development to improve energy efficiency in the water sector, including exploring the use of membrane bioreactor technology that could help our used water treatment plants become more energy self-sufficient.
11 Second, we will capitalise on technology to enhance our water conservation efforts. To supplement existing water conservation efforts, we are implementing smart water meters in our public housing to help households manage water consumption, set water conservation targets, and detect leaks.
12 Third, we will build up our expertise in coastal protection and flood management. As a small, island nation in the tropics, we will need to protect ourselves from rising sea levels and storm surges. We will establish a Coastal Protection and Flood Management Research Programme to develop innovative solutions for coastal protection and to drive our research agenda. Over time, we hope to facilitate a collaborative research ecosystem with research institutes and industry partners within and outside Singapore.
13 In support of our commitments, Singapore will continue building on international partnerships to address global water challenges. Just as we are benefitting from experiences of others, we are sharing our experiences through technical and capacity-building programmes.
14 Singapore strives for excellence in water management. We are looking for innovative solutions, and would be happy to share our experiences with countries who have an interest. I also welcome friends and partners to visit Singapore to exchange learning points and best practices in water management.
15 Thank you.