Water shortage may affect 3 billion

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Mar 22, 2001

Water shortage may affect 3 billion

There may not be enough fresh water to drink and use by 2025. But Singapore has long-term plans to ensure that it has a sufficient supply

THREE billion people in 48 countries are expected to face a water shortage by the year 2025.

And by 2050, this will rise to 4 billion people in 54 countries.

Noting these sobering figures yesterday, Acting Environment Minister Lim Swee Say said: 'In other words, in 50 years from now, four in 10 people might not have enough fresh water to drink and use.

'These projections point clearly that we need to pay urgent and immediate attention to the global issue of fresh water sup- ply.'

Speaking at a desalination conference held at Raffles City, he noted that while the world faced a growing shortage of fresh water, it was not short of water.

This was because while 70 per cent of the planet's surface was covered with water, only 3 per cent of the world's surface was covered by fresh water.

Furthermore, only 0.3 per cent was accessible to humans for consumption, using traditional methods of filtering water for human use.

Although Singapore has a good supply of drinking water, it is not exempt from water worries.

It gets half of its water from its own reservoirs and catchment areas. The rest is bought from Johor.

There is a need to look at alternative sources of water, because the two existing water agreements with Malaysia run out in 2011 and 2061.

Speaking about Singapore's water usage, Mr Lim said: 'Every day, we consume about 300 million gallons of fresh water, or close to 500 million cubic metres a year.'

To boost its own water supply, Singapore has introduced strict pollution-control measures, and turned half of Singapore's total land area into catchment areas for the collection of storm water.

This water is then treated and used in homes.

Said Mr Lim: 'In the new towns, we have constructed a complex storm-water collection system. It comprises collection ponds, pumping stations and connecting pipelines, making our urban storm-water collection scheme fairly unique.

'As our population continues to grow and our economy continues to expand, we will need to complement our current approaches to water treatment with non-traditional water treatment technology.'

Singapore has already started doing this, by extracting water from the sea through desalination and recycling sewage water for industrial use.

Meanwhile, experts say global investment in desalination plants will hit $20 billion over the next five years, as the world tries to quench its growing thirst for water.

About $14 billion of these investments will be in the Middle East.

Copyright 2001 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 21, 2001

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