11 July 12 The Straits Times by FENG ZENGKUN
THE chief executive of the national water agency has called on owners of new buildings here to take responsibility for containing storm water on their property.
To do this, said Mr Chew Men Leong, they will need to build roof gardens or detention tanks to retain storm water, or reduce the amount entering the national drainage system.
Saying these are ideas the PUB will push out to developers by year-end, he added: 'The idea is to manage the water at source, before it reaches the drains. Each development is to manage the run-off it generates through its green features.'
This is among many moves the former navy chief outlined yesterday, in an interview with The Straits Times in his office at the Environment Building in Newton.
Following a series of serious floods last year, PUB introduced stricter flood-protection regulations for new buildings, but it said building owners were free to propose other ways of preventing floods if site constraints made it tough for them to fall in with the new rules.
Mr Chew, 44, took the PUB hot seat last December, succeeding Mr Khoo Teng Chye after a 22-year military career.
It was just at the time when the national water agency had become the subject of public ire as parts of Orchard Road went underwater during the year-end rainy season, causing millions of dollars in damage and lost revenue.
The public blamed poor drainage maintenance, excessive urbanisation and even the Marina Barrage for the water woes; PUB quickly responded by raising part of Orchard Road and rolling out a flood-alert service.
Mr Chew, acknowledging the good work PUB had done in flood management in the last 30 years, said of the road ahead: 'There continue to be patches which we have to deal with; some of them will remain costly and some will be more difficult to deal with.'
Flood control will continue to be a priority; the findings of a study on flood prevention measures, such as the building of a water retention pond or diversionary canal in Orchard Road will be announced by the month's end.
But Mr Chew is setting his sights farther in the future.
One challenge lies in the shrinking space available for water infrastructure, such as treatment plants.
A larger population and companies will continue to drive up demand for water here and reduce available land.
Another key concern is the rising energy cost of water.
Recycling used water and treating sea-water are energy-intensive, but these methods will grow in importance and supply at least 80per cent of water demand by 2060.
Mr Chew warned: 'At the current trajectory, if we don't find new technologies, the energy cost of water could triple in the next 50 years.'
For example, the possibility of putting reservoirs, power plants and facilities such as desalination plants underground is being studied. With these next to each other, heat and energy from one plant can be used to run another.
Another new technology to be rolled out: An intelligent water-management system using sensors to track the flow, pressure and quality of water in the water supply network and the used water level in sewers.
Mr Chew said the PUB will build on the success of the latest Singapore International Water Week, which ended last week. The event will be held every two years with the World Cities Summit and the CleanEnviro Summit.
'Combining the events will help us learn from the best urban practices of other agencies in Singapore and even of other countries,' he said.