Singapore - A model city for water management

Today, Singapore stands among the world's major commercial hubs, boasting the fourth-biggest financial centre and one of the five busiest ports globally.

Bishan Park

By Martin Zoffmann, October 2014

From a fledging nation with limited land to collect and store rainwater, Singapore has come a long way in grappling with challenges like water shortages, pollution and widespread flooding in the 60s and 70s.

Rather than simply live with adversity, Singapore's government has turned the island’s vulnerabilities into strengths through an integrated and holistic approach to water management, and investments in research and development, thereby also earning international recognition as a model city for water management and a global hydro hub.

For example, Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, has built a robust and diversified water supply from four different sources known as the Four National Taps. These taps are local catchment water, imported water, desalinated water, and highly purified reclaimed water, branded NEWater. The plan is to become independent from imported water in 2061 and both NEWater and desalinated water augment Singapore's water supply, making the city-state more resilient to weather variability.

Water as an urban driver

The NEWater system is designed to treat and purify wastewater, primarily for use in industrial processes and recently also as supplement to the drinking water supply.

The PUB has also launched the 'ABC Waters Programme' (Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters) which will transform Singapore’s reservoirs and water bodies into clean streams, rivers and lakes. It was initiated in 2006 and in 2011 Atelier Dreiseitl, member of the Ramboll Group, was appointed chief master planner for the second phase of the project, which will be rolled out over the next five years.

In 2012 a large project was finalised with the Kallang River renaturalisation within the Bishan Park. In 2012, “Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park” – a flagship project under the ABC Waters Programme – was completed. This project has transformed a concrete canal into a naturalised river that is integrated with the park. “The ABC Waters Programme sees water as a driver for revitalising the city. Its aim is to turn Singapore into a ‘City of Gardens and Water’ and essentially, it will bring people closer to the water,” says Khoo Teng Chye, who is Executive Director of the Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore and former Chief Executive of Singapore's National Water Agency, PUB.

“We have provided a framework for an integrated planning process, where on each level multidisciplinary teams collaborate creatively among themselves and with the various government departments and stakeholder groups involved. This is not just a good ‘idea’ but is being put into practice and can be seen in outstanding projects such as the river restoration in Bishan Park designed by Atelier Dreiseitl.”

The first business park in a tropical rainforest

Atelier Dreiseitl has also carried out other large projects in Singapore. One of these projects, the JTC CleanTech Park, has become the first business park set in a tropical rainforest and has played an important role in spearheading Singapore's efforts to lead the global thrust towards sustainability.

This business park project retains the park’s natural topography and uses natural water elements to underpin the existing water flowing through the park. Bio-swales purify rainwater, while also channelling it from roadside drains into a central core, where it is stored in a swamp and circulated through a cleansing biotope for further purification before being reused for toilet flushing.

If all of these initiatives had not been taken, Singapore would presumably not be able to continue its impressive development. But now, Singapore is on an inspiring track, turning its water challenges into strengths, an ambition that Ramboll is helping the city-state to achieve.

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