Water Desalination, Purification & Wastewater Treatment



A lack of clean water and environmental degradation are acute problems in Asia – a region home to more than half of the world population, many of whom live in crowded urban spaces. This presents vast opportunities for the environment and water industries to address and serve these needs in Asia.

Singapore has come a long way since its water rationing days in the 1960s. Faced with the challenge of water scarcity, Singapore has been motivated to constantly innovate and develop new water management and treatment technologies such as water reclamation and seawater desalination. Over the last four decades, Singapore has established a sustainable water supply from diversified sources known as the Four National Taps - water from local catchment areas, imported water, reclaimed water (NEWater) and desalinated water. Alongside these developments, an innovative environment and water industry has flourished.

With a growing emphasis on water and the environment worldwide, Singapore is well positioned to take global leadership as an innovator and provider of solutions in this industry.


The environment and water industry was identified as a key growth industry for Singapore. In 2006, the government committed S$330 million to fund innovation and capability development in the industry.  In 2011, an additional S$140 million was allocated, bringing the total amount committed to S$470 million. With these commitments, the industry should see its value-added contribution to the GDP grow from S$0.5 billion in 2003 to S$1.7 billion in 2015. Jobs for this industry are expected to double to about 11,000.

The Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) – an interagency body led by PUB, the national water agency, and the Economic Development Board (EDB) - was also set up in 2006 to steward the R&D funding and spearhead efforts to grow the industry. Chief among these efforts was to attract more water companies to establish their business activities in Singapore. These activities include R&D, regional headquarters, sales & marketing, supply chain management, product development, procurement and manufacturing. EWI would also help Singapore-based companies and research institutes develop and commercialise cutting-edge technologies and solutions, before exporting globally.

Water Industry
Today, Singapore is recognised as a ‘Global Hydrohub’ with about 130 water companies. These companies represent the entire value chain of the water industry, spanning from upstream component players (e.g.membrane and pumps manufacturers), equipment OEMs, and system integrators, to downstream EPC players and project developers.

Environment Industry
Beyond water, Singapore is also nurturing the environmental industry which includes environmental consultancy, waste management and pollution control. Companies like Keppel Seghers, Veolia, Dowa and Golder Associates have established their presence in Singapore.


Singapore is an ideal springboard for environmental and water companies looking to serve the region. We have attracted companies from across the world. Some examples include

  • GE Water, Black & Veatch, CDM Smith and Xylem from the Americas

  • PWN Technologies, Arcadis, DHI and Veolia from Europe

  • Memstar, Nitto Denko, Toray Industries and Dowa from Asia

We have also seen local companies getting onto the world stage. These companies include

  • Hyflux, a leading global water solutions provider,
  • Sembcorp Industries, a world leading water utility company and the largest waste management company in Southeast Asia,
  • Keppel Seghers, the environmental engineering and technology arm of Keppel Corporation, and
  • Boustead Salcon, a leading international water and wastewater engineering specialist.

Singapore has been at the forefront of environmental innovation and was an early adopter of innovative solutions such as NEWater (wastewater reclamation) and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System. Today, water and waste treatment technology developed in Singapore, such as wastewater treatment, water desalination, and water purification, are increasingly being applied in markets overseas. Leading global players such as Black & Veatch and CH2M Hill are taking advantage of reference projects garnered in Singapore to address projects around the world. Hyflux, having built two water desalination plants in Singapore, has gone on to build one of the world’s largest seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants in Algeria.


To develop future-oriented solutions in meeting environment and water needs, Singapore has set up publically-funded research Centres of Excellence (CoE) at the Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS). In 2013, Lux Research ranked NUS and NTU the number 1 and 2 universities in the world respectively for water research. Singapore excelled particularly in the fields of membrane, water reuse and water desalination.

The Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) at NTU comprises 4 Centres of Excellence (CoE). NEWRI is gaining traction as the most comprehensive and integrated environment and water research institute in the world. The CoEs are:

  • Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC) – Founded by renowned membrane expert Professor Anthony Fane, the centre spearheads R&D efforts in membrane science and commercialisation of membrane technologies.
  • DHI-NTU Water & Environment Research Centre & Education Hub - A collaboration between NTU and DHI Water & Environment, a Denmark-based international consultancy and research organisation. The centre focuses on urban water quantity and quality modelling and management, environmental impact assessment, and process modelling and control.
  • Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C) – The centre provides a R&D platform for urban and industrial wastes, residues management and resource reclamation.

NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI) – NUS’ point-of-contact for industry and institutions for environment and water research. The institute brings together researchers and expertise from across NUS.

  • Singapore, Peking, Oxford Research Enterprise (SPORE) - A landmark tripartite collaboration between NUS, Peking University and Oxford University that focuses on developing sustainable water technologies.
  • NUSDeltares – A platform which brings together best-in-class researchers from the National University of Singapore and leading Dutch applied research institute Deltares to address challenges in Urban Water Management, Climate Adaptation and High Density Living from catchment to coast.

Leveraging Singapore’s position as a global business hub and marketplace for green solutions, the biennial Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) brings together international policymakers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities, and celebrate achievements. The fifth SIWW took place from 1 to 5 July 2012 and attracted over 19,000 delegates and trade visitors. In addition, a record S$ 13.6 billion in total value was made for all the announcements on projects awarded, tenders, investments and R&D collaborations during the week.

The 2014 event will be held from 1 - 5 June 2014 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands. For more details, please visit www.siww.com.sg.


  • Within four decades, Singapore has transformed its vulnerability in water into its strength with the development of major national water projects such as NEWater, the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System and the Marina Barrage.
  • The city-state has also over the years established a diversified and sustainable water supply through four different sources known as the Four National Taps (water from local catchment areas, imported water, reclaimed water known as NEWater and desalinated water).
  • PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, won the prestigious Stockholm Industry Water Award at the World Water Week in 2007. The Award recognises innovative corporate development of water and wastewater treatment process technologies, contributions to environmental improvement through improved performance in production processes, new products and other significant contributions by businesses and industries that help to improve the world water situation through water desalination, water purification, and more.
  • Recognising the Environment and Water sector as an opportunity that could be nurtured into an economic growth engine, in 2006, the Government set up the Environment & Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) to spearhead the development of the industry. Since then, a total of S$470 million has been committed to develop Singapore’s research capabilities on environment and water solutions.
  • Efforts to grow the industry have been successful since EWI’s inception - the number of companies more than doubled, from 50 in 2006 to about 130 today. There are also 28 public and private R&D centres conducting research in various areas of water technology.
  • NUS and NTU have been recognised respectively as #1 and #2 universities in water research globally.


Environment and Water

Zweec Analytics
Fish activity monitoring system

Zweec Analytics is a Singaporean company working on the kind of hi-tech advancements that make a real difference to the city-state. One standout is the Fish Activity Monitoring System, which uses groups of fish to test water quality. The use of fish is not new but Zweec has taken the technology and improved upon it, creating a reliable algorithmbased system for water-quality management that’s fully automated. The system has been deployed around the region, notably in Taiwan and China, as well as all over Singapore. “Singapore is building itself up as a global hydro hub,” says Liaw Kok Eng, CEO of Zweec Analytics. “The Singapore government has done a very good job spending effort and time making it efficient and safe, becoming a global leader in water technology.” 

Environment and Water

Punggol Eco-Town
Eco Housing Development

Singapore’s new Punggol Eco-Town is the city state’s first eco-development and a showcase for urban living solutions by the Housing & Development Board (HDB). It’s also a test-bed for technologies that foster eco-friendly living and integrated communities. The award-winning Treelodge apartments utilise sustainable energy and smart design to improve life for citizens. “Instead of providing a functional and utilitarian kind of infrastructure we designed something that is beneficial and useful for the public to enjoy,” says Alan Tan Hock Seng, director of Environmental Sustainability Research, HDB. “We have incorporated various new technologies and solutions to encourage a green lifestyle for residents. HDB hopes to be a sustainable development solution hub so that we can share similar experience and knowledge with other cities of high-rise and high-density built environment.”

In association with Monocle, EDB brings to you a selection of people, places and products that make Singapore a nation that is punching far above its weight despite its relatively compact size and population (content first published in Monocle).

Innovation in Smart Water

Visenti is a recent spin-off from a highly innovative and successful research at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). The start-up is focused on supporting utility companies in monitoring their infrastructure and optimising their operations. Visenti integrates patent-protected hardware, wireless data transmission and software analytics, based around the end-to-end, real-time WaterWiSe monitoring system for water distribution. Visenti's system can provide valuable real-time decision support for water utilities world-wide to enhance their impact and efficiency. With energy costs representing a multi-billion dollar problem for these water utilities, Visenti's system allows utilities to reduce energy and maintenance costs whilst meeting quality and hydraulic standards, with minimum water wastage.

Meiden at Jurong Water Reclamation Plant
A living laboratory for industrial water solutions

Singapore’s Jurong Water Reclamation Plant (JWRP) receives the highest proportion of industrial used water (40% industrial, 60% domestic) among the 4 Water Reclamation Plants in Singapore and is located near major industry sites on Jurong Island – a petrochemical and industrial hub. The used water (UW) is traditionally treated via conventional activated sludge process and the treated effluent is discharged into the sea. Today, the JWRP is a test bed for industrial used water treatment technologies. A case in point is Meiden Singapore’s establishment of the first Ceramic Membrane MBR Demonstration Plant in Singapore to demonstrate the effectiveness of Meiden’s used water processing system by combining the use of the Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) technology and Meiden's Ceramic Membrane MBR system in achieving energy savings and a consistent high-quality output of recycled water. The project will also serve as a pilot for the future Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which will be built under Phase Two of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System to serve the western part of the island.


Mr GOH Chee Kiong

Mr GOH Chee Kiong

Executive Director
Clean Technology and Cities, Infrastructure & Industrial Solutions

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