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Transforming water systems for future resilience

Published on October 10, 2022

In order to withstand the modern pressures of both urbanisation and climate change, vital infrastructure across our cities must adapt. Transformational change through digitalisation and integration across the utilities and water sector will play an increasingly pivotal role in ensuring future resilience.

In Singapore and across much of the Asia-Pacific region, infrastructure is aging; it is not built to withstand the modern-day stresses of climate change and rapid industrialisation. As our big cities continue to expand into the future, measures to meet the needs of our cities tomorrow are required today. At the forefront of the climate crisis, city infrastructure must evolve to withstand the impacts of erratic and freak weather events and must cope with increasing demand as populations grow. In order to create resilient, sustainable and future-proof cities, critical infrastructure must adapt to these impacts.

The introduction of digital technologies to our water and wastewater systems has the potential to transform vital infrastructure to meet these evolving needs. Across Singapore, newly introduced smart technologies in these settings enables digitalisation across a site’s operations and through to its maintenance and safety procedures. Technologies such as digital twins, which create a digital replica of a physical site, utilise the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise, visualise and analyse systems for better decision-making and management. In the water and wastewater context, this means productivity and resource efficiency is maximised and can facilitate early warning and leak detection systems to minimise losses.

Innovative projects that embrace these new processes highlight how technology can be integrated into water plants, future-proofing their operations at the same time as streamlining processes. When combined with processing integrations and improvements to efficiency, the built infrastructure across our cities will withstand the pressures brought by future needs.

Growing populations, when combined with the impacts of climate change, place further demands on water and wastewater management services and opportunities to streamline processes will enable the necessary expansion to support sustainable growth. Combining water and waste operations into one integrated site maximises energy and resource efficiency. The Tuas Nexus project in Singapore is a clear example of this – the site integrates used water treatment and solid waste management into a single facility. Taking integrated approaches to resource management presents the further benefit of maximising operations, resulting in less energy- and resource-intensive operations.

Likewise, the expansion of desalination capacity across Singapore is opening up greater resource efficiencies at the same time as increasing water availability. To ensure resilience against changing weather patterns, self-sufficiency in water supply is ever more important. Desalination presents the opportunity to meet the growing need for water by using rain and seawater. Processing local supplies from both sources – as is the case at Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant – offers this much needed flexibility to combat combined climate and population pressures. Reductions in resource and energy use and lower carbon emissions create systems that can sustainably process water and wastewater now and into the future.

Embracing these smart digital technologies alongside integration is vital for the future of water management. If we are to meet the dual challenges of climate change and population growth, efficient water management will become increasingly more vital. Balancing supply against demand at the same time as efficient resource allocation and waste reduction will be pivotal in efforts to manage these modern challenges. Water sustainability must continue to be one of the key focus areas for the water industry in order to promote smart, resilient cities in the future. Sites that are utilising these advances are envisaged to change the landscape of water treatment practices across Asia. Expanding digitalisation and integrations is intrinsic to creating an efficient resource footprint and safeguarding quality, while fostering future sustainability and resilience.

William Yong is Managing Director of Binnies Singapore, which provides intelligent water and environmental solutions using a whole-life-cycle approach to deliver lasting environmental legacies.

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William Yong

Managing Director, Binnies Singapore

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William Yong is Managing Director of Binnies Singapore. He has 40 years’ experience in the water sector. As a professional mechanical engineer in Singapore, William has led many successful high profile projects, including the A$400 million Eastern Treatment Plant Upgrading Project in Melbourne, Australia and the US$4 billion Deep Tunnel Sewerage System Phase 2, the US$2 billion Integrated Waste Management Facility and the 136 ML/d Jurong Island Seawater Desalination Plant in Singapore.

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