Playing a part in water sustainability

22 March 2017 | General News
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Water is vital for many elements of human life; World Water Day celebrates that importance and promotes the sustainable management of freshwater resources

In commemoration of World Water Day on 22 March, the NUS community pledges its support to the critical mission of promoting sustainable management of freshwater resources and securing fresh water access for all.

Water covers nearly 70 per cent of the earth’s surface and is vital for many elements of human life; from agriculture to food processing, medicine and transportation. The NUS community’s efforts and contribution to water conservation ranges from ground-up initiatives on campus, to cutting-edge research in water technology and policies, and pioneering new ways to bring clean water to needy communities beyond Singapore.

As part of the Singapore World Water Day this year, the Water Management Task Force, a collective of NUS staff who seek to enhance optimal use of water on campus, launched a campus-wide “Save Our Water” campaign. Activities included a water-saving competition for halls, residential colleges, and faculties, as well as a photography competition with the theme ‘Water is Life’, culminating in a carnival and exhibition on 22 March. Student interest group NUS SAVE organised an escape room activity in conjunction with the campaign, challenging participants to complete puzzles and riddles related to water conservation.

“We hope that through the campaign, staff and students learn more about the various initiatives that they can take at home and in the University to conserve water, and that every bit of their commitment counts,” said Mr Chew Chin Huat, Director of NUS Facilities Management and Chairman of the Water Management Task Force.

At the NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI), researchers adopt interdisciplinary approaches to tackle diverse problems relating to water resources and the environment. Taking inspiration from nature, NERI researchers have developed a membrane that can potentially reduce the cost of water purification by 30 per cent. They also collaborated with the Tropical Marine Science Institute to design a low-cost robotic platform called NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network) that monitors water quality in real-time. The swans can be loaded with different sensors and actuators, as well as conduct instantaneous operations if the on-board probes sense an irregularity.

A study by researchers from NUS Chemistry also discovered a method for water purification using catalysts that more quickly break down and eliminate contaminants in waste water.

Beyond research, water conservation also features at the heart of some of NUS students’ community engagement projects and social enterprises. A start-up by NUS students, WateROAM, which innovates and builds durable and portable filters to quickly bring clean water to disaster-hit areas is making waves. WateROAM works with NGOs, government bodies and aid agencies and has reached out to over 25,000 people since its conception in 2014.

Working to tie all these different efforts together, the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kwan Yew School for Public Policy at NUS looks into ways to improve water policy and governance. Through independent research, participation in policy forums on policy-relevant research as well as taking on consultancy roles with government agencies and NGOs among others, the School works towards making a difference in water governance and management on a global scale.