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SINGAPORE took another step towards strengthening its water security on Wednesday with the opening of its fifth NEWater plant - also the first involving an overseas company.
The plant, built on top of the existing Changi Water Reclamation Plant, will add 228,000 cubic metres, or 50 million gallons per day (mgd), of high-grade recycled water every day to Singapore's water supply, mainly for industrial purposes. This accounts for some 10 per cent of Singapore's current water demand of 430 mgd.
Together, all five NEWater plants will meet up to 40 per cent of the Republic's total daily water demand, said national water agency PUB. It plans to raise this to 55 per cent by 2060.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that the plant is one of many major pieces of infrastructure that the Singapore government will be developing in the coming years. "In the context of rising uncertainties such as the drying up of Linggiu Reservoir (in Johor), and rising costs of production and conveyance, we need to take necessary measures to strengthen water supply and sustainability," he said.
The S$170 million facility is designed, built, owned and operated (DBOO) by a 80-20 joint venture between Chinese water utilities company BEWG International and Singapore environmental engineering firm UES Holdings. It will purify effluent from the Changi Water Reclamation Plant using microfiltration and reverse osmosis, followed by ultraviolet disinfection.
BEWG International is wholly owned by Hong Kong-listed Beijing Enterprises Water Group which builds and operates water treatment plants, and provides construction and technical services for the water environmental sector. The project marks its first major contract as a developer outside of China, and is expected to accelerate its global expansion plans.
The group opened its international headquarters in Singapore in June 2014 to oversee its foreign operations and manage overseas investments of about S$2 billion over five years.
UES Holdings was formerly part of Singapore-listed United Engineers Ltd, which was already involved in the construction of waterworks in the region in the 1930s and also in the building of the Changi Water Reclamation Plant in 2007. It was sold last year to investment holding company Giant Maze.
The joint venture had beat six other bidders to bag the 25-year concession in 2014. PUB said then that it offered the most competitive tariff at a first-year price of 27.6 Singapore cents per cubic metre.
The project was also awarded Water Deal of the Year 2016 by Oxford-based industry publication Global Water Intelligence (GWI).
The joint venture had worked at "phenomenal speed to finalise and pull together a financing package" within four months of being chosen as a preferred bidder in Sept 2014, it noted. "As the first water public-private partnership in Singapore to be led by a foreign company, Changi NEWater II is testament to the rise of China as a global power in the water industry."
The Changi plant is the fifth DBOO project between the PUB and the private sector. The first four, all with local companies, are: the SingSpring Desalination Plant, Keppel-Seghers Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant, Sembcorp Changi NEWater Plant, and Tuaspring Desalination Plant.
The desalination plant that Keppel Infrastructure Holdings is building in Marina East is also a DBOO project.
George Madhavan, PUB director of 3P Network, said the agency's method of procuring services for large infrastructure is based on factors such as the strategic importance of the plant, technical advantages and financial merits of the partnership model, and the capacity and capability of the industry to carry out the project.
"Private-public partnership projects such as this DBOO plant offer opportunities for private sector companies to bring the latest technologies and innovations to the table, allowing the public sector to acquire services that are most cost-effective," he said. "In turn, the private sector gains by building its track record through their involvement in such large scale water projects."