Water is an essential element for the survival of all living things in the world; including human beings. The current consumption of domestic water per capital in Singapore stands at 158 litres per day (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources 2011).As Singapore's population and economy is increasing, the industry and its people requires more clean water daily.However, Singapore does not have sufficent source of natural water supply for the growing consumption and have been heavily dependent on Malaysia to supply raw water since the 1961 agreement between both neighbhouring countries.However, Singapore has now decided not to extend her water agreement which terminates this year (Singapore Press Holdings Ltd 2010).Therefore, can the government still cater to the growing water demands of its population?
1.2 Singapore's Water Reclaimation Study
The solution to the above problems lies in the unlikely sources from dirty and used sewage water.Scientists in Singapore mastered the process of using reverse osmosis technology to produce safe and clean drinking water for its population.Every housing and toilets are well connected to an independent sewerage system and as long as the residents keep flushing, the country will never run out of sewage water! This technology was projected to solves 7% of the country's demand during the introduction but now this figure is expected to rise rapidly to replace the initial water agreement with Malaysia when it expires this year. Imported water from Malaysia supplies 33% of the water needs.There are also local catchments throughout the country which provides 50% of the water needs and the remaining 10% through desalinated water by converting seawater (Cezar Tigno 2008).However, for research purpose of this study; the focus will be purely on Singapore's recycled water which is branded as NEWater.
The NEWater Brand
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NEWater is the result of high graided reclaimed water which is the output of treating used and dirty water.It has been certified a pass grade after being scrutinised by over 65 000 vigurous scientific tests and has even surpassed the requirements of the World Health Organization.Its most notable and recent award includes the "Water Project of the Year" held by Global Water Awards in 2009 (PUB 2010).Figure 1 below shows a screenshot of a NEWater Bottled drink which is 100% made from recycled water.
Figure 1. Screenshot of NEWater bottled drinks (Ong Dailin 2009)
These bottled drinks are the combined efforts between the PUB(Public Utility Board) and the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources(MEWR) since initiating the Singapore Water Reclamation Study in the year 1998.Since its interception in 2003, NEWater has primarily served Water Fabrication industries and also acted as a coolant for large machineries.In due time, it was introduced to household residence (Lin Jiamei 2010). However, PUB has constantly backed off from the idea of selling the product commercially to mainstream consumers.Its main objective was to raise the awareness with its residents and it achieved that by distributing a sample of the NEWater bottled drink at a public exhibition during the National Day Parade Celebrations in 2005.Currently, there are a total of 5 NEWater plants in Singapore.They are located in Kranji, Ulu Pandan, Seletar, Bedok and in Changi.SembCorp NEWater Plant located in Changi is the latest and the biggest project to date.This project is a joint collaboration between SembCorp and PUB (Net Resources International 2011).
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 NEWater's Advanced Membrane Technologies
Figure 2. Screenshot of 16 and 8 inches Advanced Membrane System (PennWell Corporation 2011)
The entire NEWater's process is actually based on Advanced Membrane Technologies.The two major equipments involved in this techological process includes the NEWater Pilot System and the nanofiltration or Reverse Osmosis membrane skid.Firstly, the Pilot System consists of Ultrafiltration, Reverse Osmosis and Ultraviolet disinfection units.Secondly, the Nanofiltration membrane skid is highly versatile in performing feasibility studies on liquid waste treament and recovery.
Figure 2 shows the screenshot of a 16 and 8 inch Advanced Membrane System used in Bedok NEWater Plant in Singapore.This assembly consists of a spiral-wound and a tubular pressure vessel where different types of Reverse Osmosis and Nano Filtration membranes could be tested based on the liquid waste's nature and requirements.This test skid allows easy optimization of membrane operations through various imperative process parameters such as flow rate and pressure (Temasek Polytechnic 2011).PUB regularly conducts more than 80,000 tests on a monthly basis to cover up to 290 water quality parameters pertaining to physical, biological and chemical conditions (AsiaOne 2011).
4.2 NEWater's Treatment Process
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Figure 3. Flowchart of NEWater's Factory Treatment Process (PUB 2002)
Figure 3 illustrates the brief flowchart process of a typical treatment process of NEWater in Singapore.The first process refers to the collection of dirty and untreated sewage water from home and industries.These water will then be channeled to water reclamation plant to process for the treatment.After which they will known as treated "Secondary Effluent" and will be linked to their respective NEWater factories in Singapore.This is where NEWater is transformed through 3 key stages.The first stage is known as "Microfiltration". The ultrafiltration membranes involved in this process are from Canada.In this stage the "Secondary Effluents" passes through membranes to filter out and a few contaminants will be retrained on the membrane surface.These include suspended solids, disease-causing bacteria, viruses, colloidal particles and protozoan cysts.The filtered water that passes through the membrane will contain only dissolved salts and organic molecules which will follow to the next stage; "Reverse Osmosis".
treatment2.pngFigure 4. Multiple Barrier Approach for the development of "NEWater" (PUB 2002)
In the "Reverse Osmois" process a semi-permeable membrane is used where its small pores allows diminutive small molecules like water molecules to pass through.This process will removes smaller sizes of bacteria, nitrate, sulphate, heavy metals, chlore, aromatic hydrocarbons, disinfection through products and pesticides.At this stage, the NEWater is already of a high grade water quality and proceeds to the next stage of "Ultraviolet Disinfection"(UV). Figure 4 clearly shows the multiple barrier approach to eliminate the different impurities during each development of the process before proceeding to the next stage.
The final stage is "Ultraviolet Disinfection".These "Ultraviolet Disinfection" units comes from England.In each individual units, there will 6 UV lights which will emit up to 800 degress in temperature.Since the boiling temperature of water is at 100 degree celsius, the water will be encased in a quartz casing. The pH level of the water will drop to acidic level since it has went through the first and second stage and now has lack of minerals and salt.Sodium Hyroxide will be added further to bring back the pH level.The resultant outcome from this final stage is "NEWater", which will then be pipped out to various homes and industries across the country (PUB 2010).
CHAPTER 3: DATA ANALYSIS
3.1 SWOT Analysis of NEWater
Michael Porter's SWOT Analysis is used to identify the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats for NEWater in Singapore.Table 1 below, shows the SWOT Analysis Model for this innovative product.
Table 1. SWOT Analysis of "NEWater"
Humans produce dirty and untreated water on a daily basis without fail.Its a natural process and one that is vital for the core development process for NEWater.This process was illustrated in Chapter 2.Currently in Singapore, there are a total of 5 NEWater plants.The latest and biggest among those plants was constructed in Changi.Together with the other existing 4 plants, 30% of the water demands in Singapore will be solved by these plants.In addition, NEWater process and technology is not dependent on any weather conditions as its direct source is from the dirty and untreated water; discarded by humans.These plants are also environmental and nature-friendly as they dont require any natural resource for its production.In fact, the SembCorp NEWater plant in Changi; is the only large scale recycling plant in the world ever to be constructed on top of a water reclamation plant (FaverSham House Group Ltd 2010).
With the water agreement signed by Singapore and Malaysia in 1961 before independence is poised to expire this year; it will poses no adversities to Singapore due to its reliance on the local NEWater plants to match the water demands of its citizens.As often in the past 50 years, Malaysian politicans would use water as a factor during serious bilateral disagreements with Singapore.More often,Singapore often had to submit to their favours as they have an upper hand in supplying water to the country.Now, this issue will no longer be a thorn between both these countries anymore as Singapore will no longer need to depend on them for imported water.This would also enable to bridge the broken relationship between these two countries (AsiaOne 2011).
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The entire infrastructure and cost of building a NEWater plant is a costly affair.For example, the SembCorp NEWater plant was constructed at a cost of $180 million in June 2010.Such cost will increase drastically when more NEWater plants are required to meet water demands in the near future.The machines in these plants are also of high cost and maintainence (Vincent Wee 2009).Secondly, Singaporeans are traditionally accustomed to drink directly from the taps and view the NEWater as dirty and unacceptable for drinking.They believe that NEWater isnt strong enough to eliminate toxic materials and chemicals which can be washed away at homes or small businesses.Currently, this proves as a big pschyological barrier in the mindsets of these people to readily accept the NEWater technology in Singapore (Singapore Press Holdings 2002).As explained in Chapter 2, the entire process of NEWater is complex and goes through various stages before completion.Since these processes are complicated; any human or computerized errors at any stage will not allow the product to be delievered within the required standards.
Currently NEWater is only channeled to homes and industries but is yet to be sold as a commercial bottled drink in the market.NEWater could enter the mineral water industry as a bottled recycled drink to compete with other brands in the market as well.This will enable the product to gain both awareness and confidence among Singaporeans.These bottled drinks which are made and manufactured in Singapore could also be marketed as a global product to target a wider audience. Attractive pricing will lure customers to this product since it has passed International Quality and received many global awards as explained in Chapter 1.3.
Everyday the world discovers new, emerging and deadly epidemic viruses due to the advancement of technologies.Toxic materials also play an integral part in poisoning the NEWater and imposes a severe threat to mankind.Therefore more stringent and sensitive instruments are required to perform additional parameters in the quality of the technology to ensure that the output NEWater is virus-free and safe for drinking.Any lapse in such technology will result in a huge disaster in Singapore (Amresh Gunasingham 2009).
Based on the SWOT Analysis, its evident enough that NEWater has more positive factors than negative factors internally. Externally, it has a balanced opportunities and threats for the product.It has numerous strength factors which makes it a reliable and innovative product in the current technological world.Therefore, the product still has scope for marketing it internationally and locally.However, It also has to keep abreast with the toxicological and microbiological issues affecting it externally.
3.2 Financial Implications for NEWater Technology
Although the infrastructure for the construction of such NEWater plants are high in cost as well as maintainence due to the technology involved in these machines; the local consumers are buoyed by the fact they were paying much lesser than what they used to pay before the interention of NEWater.For example, before the introduction of NEWater, Singaporeans had to pay $1.15 per cubic metre.
Now, this price was lowered by 15 cents to $1 per cubic metre. With the demand for NEWater rising to 30% through industries and homes; a price reduction will benefit the local small businesses and consumers as an incentive. The operational efficency from these NEWater plants also played an integral role in the price reduction by the Government when it was introduced in April 2007 (May Wong 2007).
CHAPTER 4: RECOMMENDATION
4.1 Future Direction for the NEWater Technology
With the current NEWater Technology solving up to 30% of Singapore's water demands, more NEWater plants will be commissioned.Currently, the other 33% of Singapore's water demands are satisfied through imported water from Malaysia.In an event of a distaster or a severe drought in Malaysia, Singapore's water supplies will also be affected in the process.Therefore, to reduce the over reliance on imported water from Malaysia, Singapore will need to develop more NEWater plants to meet the water demands of its population.It is also economical as the production of water will be within Singapore and fears of a price hike from Malaysia on its imported water will also be eliminated.This will also pave the future on the usage of untreated sewage water into a safe and drinking water culture for the entire country (Victoria School 2005).
4.2 Futher Improvements for the NEWater Technology
NEWater Technology is the only realistic solution available for Singapore to solve its future water crisis, besides its existing local catchments and desalination process which are dependent on weather and sea water sorely.However, NEWater has yet to be a commercial and global product.NEWater could be packaged in attractive bottles and sold globally.International and local celebrities could be used as "Models" to promote the drink so that worldwide and local customers are attracted to it.The pricing of NEWater as a bottled drink should be lower than the existing mineral water drinks in the market.The pricing will definately be a pull factor for most budget minded consumers who wish to try out a new and different taste than compared to most mineral water drinks in the market.A proper marketing mix through Product, Price, Place and Promotion should be practised by PUB to market its innovative product of the 21st century.Free sample sized bottles can be distributed in public road shows as a "bait" for customers to purchase the product. PUB should also tie up with major fast food outlets and restaurants in the Food and Beverage Industries like Macdonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC to bundle up NEWater as a package and sell together with their signature dishes to their loyal consumers.This will enable a wider market penetration rather than common advertisements in Television or the Internet.
NEWater is a growing brand in Singapore due its economical and simple soultion to future water crisis.However, efforts must be made by the Government to market it to the local singaporeans on the product and its safety as there are many Singaporeans still grippled with the pscyhological barrier of drinking from recycled water.PUB has yet to make its product a global brand and is keeping it as an internal project.PUB should break free by selling its product on the stores and enter as a new competitor in the Mineral Water industry.This will speed up the process of educating the locals here who are quite new to this technology.
On the other hand, PUB should place constant and high importance on its Research and Design Department for the NEWater project to constantly update the machines and ensure that safety isnt compromised through complacency.New and sensitive instruments are a must to ensure proper test is conducted at its highest quality.Only when PUB, has decided to balance its NEWater brand globally together with up-to-date precise technological instruments; it can achieve unprecedented quality for a local-made recycled drink!