Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Singapore: The Lean, Mean, Green Wastewater Machine
August 2011

By Cezar Tigno Web Writer After the success of NEWater, water technology hub Singapore now turns to technological innovations in wastewater management with the help of private sector partners. New Wastewater Technology Singapore is fast becoming the leader in water and wastewater technologies. Since the success of NEWater, Singapore’s own brand of reclaimed or recycled water, as a major source of water supply, the country’s scientists have been busy with developing and innovating technologies. Together with Siemens, Singapore has been cooking up something to make wastewater management more efficient, less costly, and more environment-friendly. Called “The Green Machine,” it is an innovative process of wastewater treatment that can be easily adopted, with a little upgrading and expansion, by existing wastewater treatment plants. It is meant to replace conventional wastewater treatment that consumes a lot of energy, generates a lot of sludge, and releases carbon dioxide, contributing to the global greenhouse effect. The Green Machine has comparable COD removal efficiency as the conventional process. However, it consumes less energy, and more importantly helps generate more energy in the form of biogas. It combines contact stabilization with anaerobic digestion to create the hybrid process that produces about 50% less sludge than conventional treatment. Water Technology Hub Global city Singapore is home to about 4.5 million people that consume some 300 million gallons of water per day, not counting the tourists that arrive by the tens of thousands daily. Lack of water in this small, multi-cultural country could have serious repercussions, but as early as the 1970s, Singapore has foreseen its freshwater sources problem. Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) built a pilot water reclamation plant in 1974, but implementation plans were shelved because of huge costs and unreliable technology. It wasn’t until 1998 that the project was revived through a joint initiative between PUB and the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. The 1998 Singapore Water Reclamation Study (or NEWater Study) clinched the deal on NEWater as a raw water resource to supplement the country’s water supply. NEWater is a product of stringent purification and treatment processes capable of making sewage water clean, clear, and sparkling. PUB started adding NEWater into its reservoirs at about 1% of total daily consumption following an evaluation by an Expert Panel from the National University of Singapore that gave the go-signal for indirect potable use. PUB plans to increase this to about 2.5% of total daily consumption by 2011. The Green Machine Project was financially supported by the Economic Development Board, Environment & Water Industry Development Council The Green Machine In essence, the Green Machine is a combination of two processes: Biosorption, a physiochemical process that occurs naturally in certain biomass, which allows it to passively concentrate and bind contaminants onto its cellular structure. It provides an economical alternative for removing toxic heavy metals from industrial wastewater and aid in environmental remediation. Anaerobic digestion, a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to release energy. In this hybrid process, organic matter is absorbed into the microbial floc surface during contact stabilization and retention time is controlled before microbes have time to degrade the organics. Microbes carry the adsorbed organics into the anaerobic digestor where biogas is generated. The Green Machine offers:

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Lower Energy Consumption: Less aerobic degradation / less aeration Easy for Retrofit: Upgrade existing wastewater treatment plants with minimum structure change Low Sludge Yield: Combined bio-sorption & anaerobic digestion lead to low sludge production Waste to Energy: Recover more energy from wastewater Reliable Process: Activated sludge process and anaerobic digestion are accepted and proven Design Flexibility: Operate with or without primary clarifiers Piloting and Return of Investment Ruediger Knauf, Vice President of Siemens Global R & D in Singapore, said, “This treatment process consumes lower energy and at the same time is energy-neutral since it harvests energy.” “Large plants can be retrofitted with this process, and where the cost of energy and availability of land are critical, this process has great relevance,” Knauf added. Pilot testing of the Green Machine began in October 2010 in Singapore, the Philippines, and the United States. Upgrading and expansion of the existing wastewater treatment plants gives a ROI of 5 years for US, 3 years for Singapore, and 4 years for Philippines. It is expected to be commercially introduced into the market in 2012.

References Singh, Sahana. “Singapore: Setting the Stage for New Technologies.” In Asian Water, April 2011, Vol. 27, No. 03. Bobby, Ding Hong-Bo, Xiao Lan, Rohan Wikramanayake and Shouvik Chanda. “Green Machine-A Hybrid Process Combining Bio-Sorption and Anaerobic Digestion.” Presentation at the session on “Technology Options For Different Settings: Making Sanitation Effective”at the 2nd ADB and Partners Sanitation Dialogue: Making Sanitation a Sustainable Business, 23-25 May 2011; Manila, Philippines.

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in August 2011: http://www.adb.org/water/actions/sin/Green-WastewaterMachine.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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