In the previous blog we took a closer look at an environmentally friendly solution to provide drinking water; purified sewage water.
Even though, toilet to tap water has economic and environmental benefits it is a long way from being accepted by the general public. The “yuck” feeling we get when confronted with the idea of drinking our own poo-water, combined with the lack of trust in authorities and governments makes this technology hard to introduce.
In order to un-tap this water source governments need to work together with the industry, educating about water, the upcoming water crisis and the importance of preservation, but also about the technological advances that makes this process reliable and safe.
One of the most famous example were this water source has been introduced and gain acceptance with the end consumer is NEWater in Singapore.
The city-state of Singapore has no access to natural water sources and has long relied on importing water from the neighbor country Malaysia. Even tough this relationship has historically been cordial, Malaysian politicians have in two occasions (1998 and 2002) threatened to raise the price on this essential commodity. Singapore has in the attempt to free it self from this dependence pursued a new strategy: water independence trough a “Four Taps” plan. The strategy consists in the use of four different water sources that together meets Singapore’s water needs: Singapore’s rain water reservoirs; water imported from Malaysia, recycled wastewater and desalinated seawater.
Singapore initiative to recycle wastewater began in 1974 with an experimental pilot plant, due to high cost and unreliable technology the idea was put on hold one year later.
In 1998 Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) re-opened the investigation and in 2000 the first NEWater plant was finished. Since then, PUB has built a total of four purification plans producing 430 million liters of NEWater a day.
The Singapore government has worked hard to gain general acceptance for NEWater. With a public information campaign that emphasize on the economic and national security benefits of making the country’s water supply more independent, they aim to educate and change people’s mindset around recycled wastewater.
This video from the Singapore International Water Week 2009 explains the Four Tap strategy and shows the city’s efforts to gain acceptance among their citizens.
This animated video aims to educate children explaining the “Four Taps” plan and its benefits.
In Singapore the public acceptance of recycled sewage water has been good, one of the reasons is the trust the general public has towards their government. This is an important stepping-stone when it comes to convince the end consumer that this source of water is guaranteed safe.
See this video were people on the streets of Singapore are asked if they drink the city’s tap water.
According to experts this water source wins more sympathy from the public in places that already struggles with water droughts. The reality of having to live with severe lack of water, makes people more open to new solutions. As water scarcity will be more common, people will also be more prepared to accept this controversial water source.
To learn more about Singapore and NEWater see CNN’s report: Singapore’s quest for water independence.