Follow-up Perspective on Singapore’s NEWater

Today we visited the NEWater plant and Visitor Center in Singapore, and it was exciting to see their development with water. The NEWater plant treats waste water in a three-step process and then feeds the water back into Singapore’s system. As part of the tour, we got to taste the recycled water, and I must admit, there is little difference from other tapwater.

The plant treats water by microfiltration firs,t which filters out microscopic particles including bacteria. Second is the reverse osmosis which removes undesirable contaminants by flowing the water through a filter in reverse. The last step is the ultraviolet disinfection in which the water passes through ultraviolet light to ensure any remaining organisms are removed. After this process has been completed, chemicals are added to the water to restore the pH balance. Now the water is ready for drinking.

These steps are similar but also different from the steps we apply in the United States. In my home town of Seaside, CA, waste water is treated by the MontereyOne Water company which is in the process of treating and feeding waste water back into the public flow upon voter decision. Currently they also use a three-step process and the fourth step is being introduced to bring into consumption. Their steps include, first running the water through a large screen to remove large materials. Second, the water flows into primary clarifiers where gravity sinks or floats solids in the water and then are removed. Next the water is introduced into a bioflocculation basin which contains millions and millions of microbes that decompose the organic matter in the water. Lastly the water is distributed back into the ocean.

The idea of recycled water to the tap has brought a lot of controversy in California. Many of the arguments against this process are because of the thought of drinking “toilet” water. To be sustainable in the future, the process of using recycled water is a must otherwise production of water will become a much bigger issue. Although I strongly suggest another step should be added to insure the water quality is adequate and this step should include a testing step. Somehow and in some way, we have to change the minds of the people that treated water is the same or better quality after the treatment. The best way to do that is with a public campaign. It’s a difficult topic to understand but it’s the future for our society.

Alexander Miller

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