Who is going to Solve the World’s Water Crisis? Singapore.

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Did you know that 3,900 children die every day from water borne diseases? Moreover, more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation. So with the population ever increasing, it’s only a matter of time before we face a critical shortage of drinkable and potable water. Luckily, the Singapore Public Utilities Board has found a solution.

In an effort to reduce reliance on water imported from Malaysia, Singapore turned to reverse osmosis – in essence, converting wastewater into H2O. Yes that’s right, water filled with urine and pooh. How did they do it?

Four treatment plants throughout the country take sewage, filter it through several membranes, and expose it to ultraviolet light to make it safe to drink. Now 30% of the country’s total water demand is met using recycled sewage water.

The most difficult challenge for Singapore to overcome was not building the treatment plants or implementing the reverse osmosis, but persuading people to drink the urine. To combat this, a dedicated communications team conducted a massive public education campaign which included a TV documentary. They also released the cleaned-up wastewater into resevoirs where it got re-treated along with regular tap water. Psychologically, this extra step was vital in helping the people of Singapore accept NEWater as drinkable water.

Original story ‘Gross National Product’ by Erin Biba, featured in WIRED, Sept. 2012.

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