Singapore has come a long way in achieving universal access to affordable and high quality water, as well as 100% modern sanitation. In the 1960s, Singapore was like many other countries facing poor water and sanitation conditions. These challenges were more acute given the constraints as a small island city-state with no natural resources. Their journey towards water-sustainability is guided by long-term integrated planning to pursue economic growth while protecting the environment in a balanced way.

Below is an overview of how Singapore is supporting the three aims of the Decade:

Advance Sustainable Development: Expanding water resources through investments in R&D and innovation
Singapore has built a robust, diversified and sustainable water supply known as the Four National Taps – Water from Local Catchment, Imported Water, high-grade reclaimed water known as NEWater, and Desalinated Water. In integrating the water system and maximizing the efficiency of each of the four national taps, Singapore has overcome its water challenges to meet the needs of a growing nation.
PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, invests in research and development (R&D) and innovation to enhance Singapore’s water sustainability, particularly through water reclamation. Advancements in membrane technology in the 1990s improved the effectiveness, reliability and cost efficiency of membranes, and led to the large-scale implementation of NEWater with wide public acceptance today. NEWater cushions Singapore’s water supply against dry weather and moves Singapore towards water sustainability.
PUB also maintains close links with local and international water companies, research and tertiary institutions, such as the Global Water Research Coalition and Technologiezentrum Wasse (TZW), to stay relevant and keep abreast of new water technologies. In addition, PUB’s Water Quality Office has been a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for safe drinking-water management and integrated urban water management since 2012.
Besides collaborations for R&D, PUB has also been offering test-bedding sites at its facilities to the public and private sectors, to help new technologies establish good track records for them to be competitive in the water market. With water being both a key strategic and economic asset in Singapore, PUB and Singapore Economic Development Board work closely with other government agencies, companies and research institutes to develop Singapore into a thriving global hydrohub.
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was introduced in Singapore in 2004 as an alternative procurement method for major public sector development projects. It leverages the strengths of the public and private sectors through risk sharing, financial discipline and private sector expertise and innovation. The PPP model has been adopted for several desalination and NEWater plants in Singapore, as follows:

Desalination plants

  • SingSpring Desalination Plant – Hyflux Ltd
  • Tuaspring Desalination Plant – Hyflux Ltd
  • Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant – Keppel Infrastructure
  • Jurong Island Desalination Plant – Tuas Power-Singapore Technologies Marine consortium

NEWater plants

  • Keppel-Seghers Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant – Keppel Seghers
  • SembCorp Changi NEWater Plant – SembCorp NEWater Pte Ltd
  • BEWG-UESH NEWater Plant – Beijing Enterprises Water Group Ltd, UES Holdings Pte Ltd

Energize implementation of existing programmes and projects: Engaging stakeholders
A multi-pronged approach is adopted to manage water demand and drive the water conservation messaging: pricing water to reflect its scarcity value; mandating water efficiency standards; and encouraging water conservation practices.
To increase water-use efficiency in the industrial and commercial sectors, PUB works closely with stakeholders to lower water consumption through provision of funding for water efficiency initiatives, consultation on solutions, and advocacy of water stewardship. An example is the Water Efficiency Management Plan, whereby large water users analyse their current water use, identify potential water savings and an implementation timeline, so that they can better understand their water consumption patterns and seek ways to improve its efficiency.
Besides the industrial and commercial sectors, the commitment and participation of the community is also instrumental in achieving a sustainable level of water consumption and managing the impact of water on the environment. Community programmes include ground-up activities to commemorate the annual Singapore World Water Day through month-long celebrations in March, and ‘Friends of Water’, which aims to recognise, inspire and encourage community stewardship of Singapore’s water resources. On the school education front, PUB works with the Ministry of Education, to include, among others, water conservation topics in the school syllabus for students. Through the NEWater Visitor Centre, a focal point for NEWater public education, visitors are offered interactive tours and educational workshops demonstrating how NEWater is produced. Similarly, the Sustainable Singapore Gallery showcases Singapore’s efforts towards environmental sustainability. The Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme is also applied to water appliances and fittings that are sold in the market, to encourage efficient water usage in the home.
In addition, the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme was launched in 2006 to transform drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes. By integrating these waterscapes with parks and gardens in a holistic way, new community and recreational spaces are created to bring people closer to water so that they can better appreciate water.

Inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda: Building capacity and co-creating solutions
Singapore shares its development experience in water with other countries through two platforms – the Singapore Water Academy and the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW). Both are key to exchanging knowledge with the global community and charting solutions that will strengthen the effort to achieve Agenda 2030.
Singapore benefitted from technical assistance and cooperation with the World Bank and UN agencies in the early years of its national development. To help give other countries similar opportunities, the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) was established in 1992 to share development experience, in areas such as developing sustainable water and sanitation solutions. For water-specific SCP capacity-building programmes, more than 250 international participants have been trained over the past five years. More recently, in support of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Singapore launched a new Sustainable Development Programme under the SCP.
The Singapore Water Academy was set up in July 2016. As a practitioner-focused learning institute in urban water management, the Academy enhances capability development for water professionals both locally and internationally. In addition to delivering technical assistance programmes under the SCP, such as the Singapore-UNICEF Joint Training Programme, it also offers its flagship Singapore Water Management Series courses, which combine lessons from both Singapore’s experience in urban water management and international best practices.
The biennial Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is a leading global platform to facilitate and showcase integrated water solutions SIWW delivers a range of flagship programmes and platforms that bring together the global value chain of water to share the latest in business and technological innovations, as well as policy developments in water.