In Singapore Water Is Made Of Pee? By Newater

SINGAPORE — They call it "NEWater" but it's just the opposite: recycled sewage water packed in clear plastic bottles, ready for drinking.

Surrounded by oceans but lacking adequate clean water resources, Singapore hopes to get 55% of its drinking water from recycled sewer water by 2060.

Water Treatment Process of Newater.

The level might seem ludicrous if so many other countries weren't confronting their own water shortages.

But it's still not enough to make up for the lack of rain, so water districts are also considering new sources— say, the Pacific Ocean — that for years was considered too expensive. Recycled water is another option that's coming to the fore as affordable and environmentally friendly.

"In many countries, you call it sewage, but that sound so … messy," said George Madhavan, ‪director of corporate development with Singapore's Public Utilities Board.‬‬

"Basically, you drink the water, you go to the toilet, you pee and we collect it back and clean it," he said.

Today NEWater makes up 30% of Singapore's water, almost all of it used for industrial purposes. But bottles are also given away at civic events to get people used to the idea of drinking what once would have been poured into the ocean. Singapore isn't the only place looking for new ways to get potable water.

Process Of Newater 

The recycling process produces water that's extremely pure and extremely clean, using technology has existed for years. Effluent is first sent through a microfiltration system, then through reverse osmosis and finally sterilized under UV light.

That's simply a version of what happens naturally, water experts say. Ocean water evaporates to become rain and falls into lakes and rivers or ends up deep underground. Eventually, it finds its way back in the sea and the entire process begins again.

"The water you drink today is the same water the dinosaurs drank. Water recycling just speeds up the process," Dorsey said.

Countries like Singapore foster innovation because they have to, providing lessons that the United States can learn from, experts say.

Newater requires less energy than desalinization and is cheaper than pumping water long distances. There's also less wastewater discharge into rivers and oceans, which helps control water pollution, she said.


So far, just as in Singapore, U.S. water districts either use recycled water for industrial or agricultural purposes or add it to water heading toward water treatment plants.

While it might seem to make more sense to just drink the recycled water, two things get in the way. The first is public perception.

"We need to overcome that 'yuck' factor and embrace the natural systems that have worked for thousands of years," Finn said.

"Water is naturally filtered as it goes through the earth and we've all been drinking it for a long time and we're all fine," he said. Getting the public to embrace recycled water will require "reinforcing that fact and tying it to nature."

There's also a practical reason to send the recycled water through water treatment plants— that's where water distribution systems begin. "If you wanted to pipe recycled water direct to customers you'd have to redo the system," Dorsey said.

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