With countries realising the importance of water availability and the need to preserve it, there was substantial improvement in the performance of the water sector in Southeast Asian (SEA) countries in 2022. From deploying long range, wide area networking (LoRaWAN)- and internet of things (IoT)-based technologies to passing important laws on water security and focusing on sustainability along with development, growth has been observed in almost every aspect. A common goal that every nation seemed to be focusing on was ensuring full coverage of drinking water and sanitation facilities to every household. In addition to this, most developments were aimed at technological advancements and maintaining sustainability. Despite the ample progress made, the water sector in the region still demands increased attention and action to improve the overall situation of availability and quality. Southeast Asia Infrastructure takes a look at the developments in the water sector across the SEA region…
Among the ASEAN countries, Singapore continues to take the lead by ensuring 100 per cent access to improved drinking water and sanitation for more than a decade. Currently, the demand for water in Singapore amounts to around 430 million gallons per day (mgd), with domestic consumption of around 45 per cent of the total supply. The rest is consumed by the non-domestic sector. According to the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s national water agency, the demand for water is expected to double by 2065 with the non-domestic sector accounting for 60 per cent. The authorities aim to meet these needs by NEWater and desalination. NEWater is a high-grade reclaimed water produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultraviolet disinfection, making it safe to drink. Currently, five NEWater plants are operational in the country.
The authorities in Singapore have been implementing schemes such as the mandatory water efficiency labelling scheme, water closet replacement programme, and water efficiency awards that cover both the domestic and non-domestic sectors. Along with ensuring a continuous supply of water across the country, the authorities are also focusing on reducing the per capita usage of water. The figures have already come down to 141 litres per person per day in 2018 as compared to 165 litres in 2000. The aim is to bring this down further to 130 litres by 2030. The installation of new technologies is an integral part of the country’s smart water metering programme. In recent developments, the PUB has started using the Itron industrial IoT network canopy for smart water metering applications. This network can connect 300,000 commercial, industrial and residential smart water meters while promoting water conservation goals. The first phase of the smart water meter programme will be introduced in Butik Batok, Jurong West, Hougang, Tampines and Tuas.
Clean water supply is one of the four areas of focus in Cambodia’s Rectangle Strategy Phase-IV. According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Rural Development, the country has exceeded its interim goals for delivering clean water and adequate sanitation facilities to rural citizens with 80 per cent of the population covered. Efforts to achieve the new targets to provide 100 per cent coverage by 2025 are already in progress. The draft law on clean water management was also approved by the Cambodian government on January 13, 2023. The authorities have stressed the need for strong management of water supply to ensure safe, sustainable and affordable water supply facilities that will improve the living standards of Cambodia’s citizens.
The draft lays out the legal framework for the management and development of the country’s water supply system in order to achieve the targets. The government is pushing for the implementation of a clean water policy and drawing up plans to restore the water supply system infrastructure to improve public welfare and contribute to socio-economic development. In a recent development, on January 12, 2023, the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation of Cambodia has signed a deal with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on a technical cooperation project for the formulation of a development plan for urban water supply.The project, with a duration of three years, will contribute to the supply of clean, safe, sustainable and affordable water in Cambodia.
Drinking water and sanitation facilities have continued to expand in Vietnam at a slow but consistent rate. Rapid industrialisation in the country has led to increased demand for water. The government is now promoting the use of treated wastewater due to the limited availability of water and strict regulations to control water pollution. The water resource planning scheme for 2021-30 by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) was approved in December 2022, making it the first national planning scheme in the water sector. The scheme envisions increasing the rate of daily clean water use to 95 to 100 per cent for the urban population and 65 per cent for the rural population by 2025. Measures will be taken to prevent around 90 per cent of water exploitation activities and to bring the rates of water loss in supply activities by 10 per cent.
Brunei’s entire population has access to clean drinking water while 93 per cent have access to sanitation facilities. Brunei has announced its plans to continue providing clean drinking water to its population and increase the rate of sanitation facilities from 93 to 97 per cent by 2035 while ensuring sustainable development. Brunei has implemented its first project using the state’s new LoRaWAN IoT network by deploying ultrasonic sensors to monitor the water level in the country’s flood-prone rivers. Before the introduction of LoRaWAN-based sensors, river level monitoring in the country was primarily based on telemetry technology. The country has chalked out three strategies to address the problem of high water consumption. This includes integrated planning and development to create a data sharing platform, adopting alternative funding mechanisms to reduce dependency on government funds and increase financial robustness for effective implementation of water projects and maintaining a water balance that includes addressing non-revenue water, reviewing water tariffs, and strengthening water conservation awareness and enforcement.
The way forward
Climate change is destabilising the availability of freshwater, making the reuse of wastewater imperative. High costs and the management of brine make desalination a difficult option for SEA countries. Using treated wastewater is a more feasible option since it is comparatively cost efficient and is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals of these countries. The past year has brought about significant progress in the water sector ranging from technological advancements to the introduction of water conservation schemes, flood mitigation programmes, water supply policies and waste treatment plans. Countries are realising the importance of water and are taking initiatives to ensure water safety along with sustainable development. If this trend continues, then fears regarding a possible water supply shortage might be put to rest.