Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reusing water cheaper than desalination

June 25, 2009

By Victoria Vaughan

SMART money prefers backing water reuse projects over desalination ones, according to a joint study by Singaporean and foreign consultants.

This is because it is cheaper to purify the outfall from water reclamation plants than to turn seawater into drinking water.

A sneak preview of the findings of the study by home-grown PUB Consultants and Global Water Intelligence (GWI), a leading analyst of the international water industry, bodes well for Singapore's foray into Newater, the product of reclaiming used water.

PUB research associate Wong Xin Wei said: 'Instead of just discharging water from reclamation plants into the sea, you can make the investment to capture it and treat it to a higher level and then reuse it.'

There are buyers for this know-how.

Singapore's water agency PUB has already exported its technology to countries such as Saudi Arabia.

On home ground, the latest Newater factory in Changi will step up recycled water production from 69,000 cubic m a day to 228,000 cubic m a day by the middle of next year.

So how much cheaper is reclaimed water compared to desalinated water?

When the Newater factory in Changi begins treating water next month, Sembcorp will charge the PUB 30 cents for each cubic m of Newater.

This is a steal when compared to the 78 cents for each cubic m of desalinated water coming out of SingSpring Desalination Plant in Tuas.

The PUB-GWI report was put together to list the facilities which are involved in water reuse around the world and to analyse and predict market trends.

The study shows that if the current total of 2,659 plants work at full capacity, they will be able to churn out 93.5 million cubic m of recycled water for domestic use each day.

The Asia-Pacific is capable of producing almost 60 per cent of the global output - 55 million cubic m a day.

If all planned projects between next year and 2019 come onstream, this output will grow by 2.4million cubic m a day during the period.

In the next nine years, the global market is predicted to expand to 13.8 million cubic m a day, particularly in the Americas and the Middle East.

The recycled-water market is expected to grow almost twice as fast as that for desalinated water in the Asia-Pacific - from next year until 2019.

The study is due to be published at the end of August.

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