Learn from Singapore: Key Take Away from the Island-Nation’s Water turnaround Story


  • Depleting water resources and the importance of water management.

Need of Water Management:

  • Indian cities have witnessed unprecedented growth over the past few decades that, in turn, have had a drastic impact on water availability.
  • Depleting water resources, changing climate and unsustainable water cycle management are exacerbating the water situation
  • Many Indian cities have witnessed water exigencies in the form of severe drought and flood.
  • Around 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress.
  • By 2030, India’s demand for water might be double the Available Supply.

Valuable Lessons from Singapore’s Water Management:

  • Singapore harnessed rainwater at the catchment scale, collected through a drainage network and stored in reservoirs before being treated and supplied
  • In Singapore, recycled water is treated using advanced Treatment Technologies(combination of micro and ultra-filtration followed by reverse osmosis and UV disinfection) to ensure that the recycled water complies with the highest water quality standards, and is fit for human consumption.
  • Recycled water has a high demand among industries. In addition, recycled water is also blended with surface water source to augment water supply during droughts.
  • Singapore utilises desalinated sea water as one of the water sources. Its strong experience in seawater desalination in bringing down per unit cost of water and developing seawater as a sustainable water source.
  • Supported by strong governance, Singapore’s National Water Agency (NWA) judiciously manages the price for its water services, and proactively invests in planning for the future next drop of water.
  • This is supported by strong public outreach and stakeholder engagement programmes, to bolster the value of water.
  • Singapore has prioritised water demand management to reduce demand supply gap.
  • Water agency mandated water-efficient taps and toilets, and championed campaigns such as the 10-L challenge—which encourages people to reduce their water use by 10 litres a day—water conservation week, public visits and engagement, and water visitor centres for people to understand and appreciate the value of water.

Way Forward:

  • Indian cities need to diversify their water resources portfolio. Few Indian cities have bye-laws that mandate rainwater harvesting. This will need strong legislation and engineering interventions.
  • Indian cities often fail to anticipate water-related issues and are left to react to these.
  • With ageing assets, water theft and non-revenue water, our cities cannot continue to dole out water subsidies, which eventually lead to paucity of funds that could have helped upgrade the water infrastructure.
  • The availability of smart metres, water-efficient devices and infrastructure monitoring devices to plug any leakages will be useful to sustain operations and maintenance.
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