Singapore’s Next Water Story: Accelerating Urban Water Solutions across Southeast Asia

Urban Drinking Water Innovation Series

In partnership with Enterprise Singapore, Imagine H2O Asia is a new strategic initiative that engages Singapore’s innovation ecosystem as a springboard to solve regional water challenges

Singapore’s trailblazing efforts to build a water-resilient city are widely celebrated, and rightfully so. Born out of necessity and nurtured through good governance, forward-thinking policy planning and a commitment to innovation, the city-state’s methods are ripe for learning and adoption by others. From underground sewage highways to intelligent watershed management, Singapore is showing no sign of taking its foot off the pedal. For fast-growing cities globally, these actions not only serve as inspiration of what is possible; they provide a living roadmap for smarter resource management.

Marina Barrage, Singapore

This story is not a new one. Spearheaded by PUB, the country’s National Water Agency, Singapore has long been recognized as an early-adopter of water innovation — a prime testing ground for breakthrough water technologies. The Four National Taps approach, a strategy driven in part by a commitment to wean the country’s water supply away from imported sources, is regularly praised and studied as a progressive blueprint for water security. While Singapore’s resolve has successfully positioned the country on the path to self-sufficiency, it has also allowed for a burgeoning water innovation ecosystem to take shape. In the offing is the promise of a global hydrohub with the capabilities to link vetted innovation, expertise, and resources with Singapore’s neighbors as they confront their own water challenges.

As this new dimension to Singapore’s water story emerges, you don’t have to travel too far to appreciate the opportunity for cross-border action on water technology transfer and deployment. Fifty percent of the world’s population can be reached within a six-hour flight from Singapore. ASEAN as a single entity represents the third largest market in the world, behind only India and China. While the region has made dramatic headway in combating poverty, among other indicators of economic progress, tomorrow’s megacities in this part of the world are struggling with a looming drinking water crisis.

In Jakarta, a city of over 10 million inhabitants, only half of the 6,000 tons of waste generated every day is properly treated; much of the rest enters heavily polluted waterways. In water-scarce Ho Chi Minh City, estimates of clean water lost through leaking pipes run as high as 30%. In Bangkok, 40% of domestic wastewater is untreated and only 5% of treated wastewater is reused. Across Myanmar, less then 1 in 10 households have access to piped water. While the prognosis may be somber, this diverse region is also home to some compelling success stories where despite resource constraints, cities have cut non-revenue water loss, expanded access to disadvantaged communities, and reversed harmful contamination in ecologically critical lakes and rivers. Progress is not achieved by technology alone. However, more efficient access to water innovation — from real-time water quality monitoring to small-scale water recycling systems— can equip leaders with the tools and technologies to build resiliency.

Jakarta, Indonesia (Gary Andrew Lotulong / Pacific Press / Alamy Photos)

Entrepreneurs are needed to solve water scarcity for Southeast Asia’s cities. As a result of a 20-year government-led effort to build a global startup hub, Singapore is poised to give a hand. There is no shortage of technical resources available for water innovators, with extensive research and testbedding facilities across the university system. The appetite for entrepreneurship among Singapore’s younger generation is palpable, with 32% of millenials reported starting a venture while in school. Partners are also plentiful, with many leading corporations choosing Singapore as a base for their global R&D facilities. Singapore now has the opportunity to fuse this vibrant and growing entrepreneurial community with its track record in water.

Imagine H2O Asia, a strategic initiative launched in partnership with Enterprise Singapore, will support a new wave of water entrepreneurs in the region. By cultivating Singapore-based startups as well as international companies in Singapore’s water innovation ecosystem, Imagine H2O Asia will bridge market-ready, high-impact water solutions to the region’s cities. As a first step, Imagine H2O Asia will feature as a dedicated track within the inaugural Urban Drinking Water Challenge 2018 — a global innovation competition to identify and deploy decentralized drinking water solutions. Finalists will be supported in their path to commercialization — receiving targeted mentorship, industry-wide visibility, and funding support. By harnessing Singapore’s unique strengths and regional connectivity, we can ensure the health and prosperity of this dynamic, fast-growing region.

Bangkok, Thailand

About the Urban Drinking Water Challenge 2018

Apply Today

Register today to receive access to the Urban Drinking Water Challenge 2018 application and Imagine H2O Asia program benefits. Deadline for Full Application: July 2, 2018.

About Imagine H2O Asia Partners

Enterprise Singapore is the government agency championing enterprise development and supporting the growth of Singapore as a hub for global trading and startups.

Startup SG represents the shared interests of the startup community and showcases Singapore as a leading startup hub. It is the brand for all local support initiatives and provides stakeholders with a platform to connect globally.

Partner competition status with SLINGSHOT@SWITCH powered by Startup SG, an initiative of Enterprise Singapore, will unlock additional support for eligible applicants through the Imagine H2O Asia Track.

Partner with Us

Partnerships opportunities are available to support Imagine H2O Asia.

Contact us at connect@imagineh2o.org to learn more.

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