Extremely vulnerable to climate change and water insecurity, Singapore innovating its way to being a leader in sustainable water solutions.
Singapore is one of the most densely populated city-states in the world. Set on a low-lying island in tropical South Asia, it has limited land-area, dominated by urban landscapes. This unique set of circumstances makes the sovereign-city extremely vulnerable to climate change, and poses significant challenges for adaptation.
Singapore is also extremely dependant on imported fossil fuels, but in the wake of the Paris Agreement, and its pledge to cut emissions intensity – emissions per dollar of GDP – by 35% by 2030 (on 2005 levels), the city-state is shifting its focus towards decarbonisation.
Most notable are the city’s plans to boost solar from 2% to 5% by 2020 and to introduce a carbon tax from 2019.
And while the city-state looks to reduce its own carbon impact, it’s also examining how it can adapt to the impacts of climate change, most notably by innovating its water sector.
A water secure Singapore
For 40 years, Singapore’s “Four National Taps” water strategy has allowed the city-state to build a robust, diversified and sustainable water supply. The city-state has harnessed recycled water and desalinated seawater in addition to local catchments and imported water. With these new sources of water unaffected by changes in weather, Singapore has been able to become a water-secure city, despite increasing droughts due to climate change.
Recycled and desalinated water now meet up to 65% of the city’s water demand, and with three more desalination plants planned for construction by 2020, it could reach 85% of demand by 2060.
Through this innovation, Singapore has also become a global ‘hydrohub’, housing a thriving cluster of 180 water companies and over 20 research centres, including national companies Hyflux and Sembcorp, and international firms like Veolia and Nitto Denko.
Such companies have taken the know-how gained from building recycling and desalination plants in Singapore to implement sustainable water solutions on a global scale. For example, Hyflux’s projects include the largest seawater desalination plant in the world, in Algeria, and the largest in China.
With the importance of the water sector only set to grow as global demographic, economic and environmental trends continue, Singapore has set itself as a pioneer and will find itself in a good position to tap into the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon, water secure future