Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Day 1-NEWater

If you like pictures, you are just going to have to wait as driver issues are thus far foiling my best efforts to transfer the pics off my camera. However, I will be happy to describe some of our earlier experiences in greater detail . . .

After our first meal EVER at a hawker stand (a truly unique cultural experience as far as I am concerned), Ais Kachang toured Singapore's NEWater facility. First, I would like to briefly discuss the merits of "Joy Juice" as I experienced them. Put all of your dirty comments aside, this stuff is GOOD! It tastes just like "squirt" back home, but is called Joy Juice which is certainly more -um- interesting. But, I digress.

So, conservation is all well and good, but NEWater even tested some of OUR limits. First, I should begin with some background. Singapore is an island with a natural spring, but this spring cannot provide enough freshwater to meet the needs of the 4 million current residents. Singapore has developed their water supply to incorporate several different sources of water:

1) local catchments,
2) imported water from Malaysia,
3) desalinized water, and
4) NEWater.

In Singapore, these are known as the 4 national taps. As I mentioned previously, there are 14 local catchment areas which consist of reservoirs connected with pipelines and surrounding forested drainage areas. An additional development project hopes to add a 15th catchment area this year (2007). Singapore has an agreement to import additional water from Malaysia until 2061. Desalinization has potential to supply large quantities of water to Singapore, but currently the process is both too expensive and energy intensive to be used on a wide scale. NEWater is an effort by Singapore to extend their extremely limited water supply through the purification of previously used water. This water is widely used by industries in Singapore, but is also rated for human consumption. This allows Singapore to stretch its limited water supplies.

All the water you use during any normal day normally goes through a lengthy natural purification process, but NEWater accelerates this process allowing the water to be reused much faster. A three step process can take toilet water and turn it into drinkable water, NEWater.

After going through the proper sewage treatement, the first step is microfiltration or ultrafiltration. This step begins by filtering out much of the junk remaining in the water by forcing the water molecules through a series of porous straws. The second step is reverse osmosis which further filters out impurities in the water but also is only 75% efficient. Despite the inefficiency, anything larger than a water molecule is hard pressed to make it through these first two processes, and, at this point, the water is rated by the WHO for human consumption. To serve as a fail-safe and also to reasure users, a final step uses ultraviolet light to further purify the water.

As the population of Singapore grows, this innovative technique will allow the city/country to further stretch its limited water supplies and hopefully increase the supply of water held in the reservoirs. Additionally, it is unlikely that Malaysia and Singapore will renew the agreement for Malaysia to continue exporting water to Singapore. This further motivates the continued development of NEWater.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Sorry for any technospeak or jargon in that recap, but we found it a pretty interesting introduction to life in Singapore. Also, you can take our word for it that the NEWater tastes fine because we all sampled it! If you are lucky, maybe we will bring some back to the the US where to can taste Singapore's toilet water for yourself!

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