Construction of Singapore's 4th desalination plant begins in Marina East

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SINGAPORE: The construction of Singapore’s fourth desalination plant began on Thursday (Jun 29) in Marina East. 

It is the first dual-mode desalination plant, meaning it can treat both freshwater from the Marina Reservoir and seawater, depending on weather conditions.

Currently, freshwater from reservoirs is processed at eight water works across Singapore, while seawater is treated at SingSpring and Tuaspring desalination plants. On rainy days when water levels in the reservoirs are high, the excess rainwater will be discharged into the sea. But with the new plant, the water will be treated for use.

Designed by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings, which will also build, own and operate the Marina East desalination plant, the facility will be able to produce around 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, enough to fill about 55 Olympic-sized swimming pools when it is completed by the end of January 2020. 

“SLEEK MODERN DESIGN”

The Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant is also the first to feature green spaces that can be used by the public for recreation. All of the plant’s water treatment equipment will be located underground, topped off by a green rooftop that can accommodate about 700 people.

Built on a three hectare plot of land, the plant will also be integrated with the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network that bridges East Coast Park and Gardens by the Bay East.

This “sleek modern design” breaks away from that of conventional water treatment plants, said Keppel Corporation and national water agency PUB in a joint media release. 

Artist impression of the promenade view at Singapore’s fourth desalination plant in Marina East. (Image: Keppel)

“The civil engineering component is very important in the plant because of the location, the type of soil condition we are facing, and also the way we want the plant to be low – to blend in with the park,” said chief executive of Keppel Infrastructure Ong Tiong Guan, 

He added that building the plant two or three storeys high would make it “stick out like a sore thumb”. 

While the plant will be able to treat both seawater and freshwater, they cannot be done at the same time.

During dry periods when the water level in the reservoir is low, water from the sea will then be channeled to the plant to be desalinated. Water from both sources will be filtered from the get-go, removing larger impurities before it goes through a “dual flow chamber”.

This chamber then pumps the water to the plant through a 1.8km underground pipeline above the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). Such a system has been years in the making – a similar dual-mode technology has been in operation since 2007 at a plant in Pasir Ris to test it out before applying it on a larger scale at Marina East.

There will be a play area above the dual-flow chamber which will pump water to the desalination plant through a 1.8km underground pipeline. (Image: Keppel)

DESALINATION PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN WATER SUPPLY: MASAGOS

At the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that desalinated water, as one of Singapore’s four “national taps”, plays an “especially crucial role in ensuring a diversified and sustainable supply of water”.

“Water has always been an existential issue for Singapore. Climate change impact will exacerbate our water issues if we are not prepared,” said Mr Masagos.

He added that Singaporeans are able to enjoy a reliable supply of water today, due to the country’s “relentless pursuit to secure a high-quality and reliable supply of water.”

“We need to continue right-pricing this precious resource, so that users can appreciate its scarcity value, and the cost of supplying water”, the minister said. 

Desalination costs more than treating freshwater as it is more energy-intensive, but Mr Masagos said PUB is exploring technologies to reduce the energy consumption of desalination processes, to “moderate” the cost of water production. 

A fifth desalination plant at Jurong Island is in the pipeline and will also be completed in 2020. That would bring the total daily water production in Singapore to 190 million gallons in three years’ time. 

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