How in this time of climate crises, Singapore and the UK can lead the way on water management
How we use our water resources has never been more important. And, as world leaders prepare to meet at the COP26 conference in the UK later this year, this year’s SIWW event in Singapore helped set the tone for this crucial issue.
Both Singapore and the UK share similar challenges. Both face the complexities of managing rising demand for water. In Singapore, consumption stands at 430m gallons a day, enough to fill 782 Olympic pools – a figure that could double by 2060 according to PUB, Singapore’s national water agency – while England and Wales use about 149 litres of water per person per day, up from 85 litres in the 1960s. Both share a similar geography, too, enclosed on all sides by sea and – as a result of the climate crises – increasingly vulnerable to heavy downpour and flash floods.
Climate change is going to have a significant impact on the water sector, though due to its inherently unpredictable nature, we do not know to what extent. Yet Singapore and the UK, because of their shared challenges, can learn a lot from each other.
For example, take desalination – the process of purifying sea water into drinking water. Like Singapore, the UK is surrounded by the sea, yet the UK continues to draw more and more water from rivers, chalk streams and natural underground water sources causing damage to our environment.
Meanwhile, Singapore is streets ahead in this area now having four desalination plants, the newest of which earlier this month was recognised as a global leader in terms of its innovative capability to treat both seawater and freshwater from surrounding reservoirs. And while the UK and other countries debate the cost of such a process (and true, it can be high) Singapore is already examining how to reduce the energy requirement for desalination by more than half.
The UK can also learn from Singapore on better managing its stormwater. We’re no stranger to storms in the UK, yet currently, we’re not maximizing the potential in this area. On the other hand, Singapore is one of the few countries in the world to harvest urban stormwater on a large scale.
Where the UK is leading the global pack is in the sphere of digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) in water management. Sewer inspection and monitoring, for example, is notoriously challenging due to difficulty of access, but one of the RSK Group’s companies, the Water Research Centre, is working with United Utilities and other partners in the UK to use AI and machine learning to automatically recognize features in the CCTV inspection of sewers. The AI & Sewer Defect Analysis project means a better understanding of sewer deterioration and will reduce the cost of inspections.
Companies in Singapore and the UK are already coming together in partnership in the water sector so our joint expertise can benefit both countries. Last year, the RSK Group acquired the Singapore-based Black & Veatch (SEA) Pte Limited – which has now been rebranded as Binnies, a nod to its Singapore heritage and its long history in sustainable and resilient water, wastewater and food resilience projects. And during Singapore International Water Week, it was announced that Binnies Singapore has been selected by PUB for the reconstruction of Choa Chu Kang Waterworks (CCKWW). The reconstruction works will transform CCKWW into a state-of-the-art drinking water treatment plant with the latest water treatment technologies and smart features, adopting advanced digital technology.
The commitment to innovation doesn’t stop there. We will soon be opening the RSK Centre for Sustainability Excellence in Singapore. In addition to digital water, the new centre will look at carbon accounting, sustainable agriculture and renewable energy while more people will be trained to deliver innovative solutions and to advocate sustainability initiatives globally. I believe that through the centre, Singapore will become a global leader in sustainability-related research.
Both Singapore and the UK are world leaders in water, and by sharing our ideas, we can become even better at managing our water use – crucial in a time of climate crisis.
Alan Ryder is CEO and founder of the RSK Group, the UK’s largest privately owned environmental, engineering and technical services business.
This article was published in Asia Water, July/August 2021 edition and can be found on page 22 here. For more details on the award winning desalination plant in Singapore, click here. To find out more about our digital technology introduced at the Singapore International Water Week 2021, click below.
At Binnies, we create new possibilities for humanity through our innovative approach to delivery. Backed by a culture that has stayed true since the company’s founding over 100 years ago, Binnies develops intelligent water and environmental solutions using a whole-life-cycle approach to deliver functional infrastructure and lasting environmental and social legacies. We strive to elevate the quality of life for our local communities today and for generations to come.
Binnies is an RSK group company and was formerly part of Black & Veatch.
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About the RSK group (RSK)
RSK is a leading integrated environmental, engineering and technical services group made up of over 100 businesses. The group is headquartered in the United Kingdom and has an established presence in more than 40 countries around the world.
For over 30 years, RSK has been helping organisations realise their business goals efficiently, cost-effectively and with the minimum environmental and social impact. We deliver practical solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time. As a client-focused business, our services are constantly evolving to directly respond to or pre-empt global conditions and legislative drivers.
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