May 09 2013
Are you looking for a uniquely Singaporean experience? Skip the malls and the theme parks and visit the NEWater Vistor Centre for a guided tour of the most high-tech water treatment plant in the world – one capable of turning sewage into drinking water.
As a tiny island surrounded by saltwater, natural sources of drinking water are rare in Singapore – and now with a population of 6,000,000 there’s a downright shortage. The Singapore government has historically solved this problem by importing water from their northern neighbour Malaysia, but advancements in water purification technology have given them an alternative.
After 30 years of research, Singapore’s water treatment facilities are able to purify water that is flushed down toilets and sinks to such a high degree that it can be put back into the taps. This reclaimed sewage is known as NEWater and if you’ve ever drunk the tap water in Singapore, you’ve tried it.
Each tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a video presentation and a guided walk through the factory while learning facts like that NEWater currently meets 30% of Singapore’s water needs, with the goal of increasing it to 50% by 2060. Each tour concludes with the part everyone’s been waiting for – NEWater taste test time. Participants on the tour are offered all the bottles of NEWater they like and it tastes no different than your average bottled water.
Tours of the NEWater Visitor Centre are free, but it is suggested that you register in advance. There are five tour slots throughout the day — 09:00, 10:45, 12:30, 14:15 and 16:00 — and generally four are conducted in English and one in Mandarin. You can sign up for a tour on the PUB website, listed below.
The NEWater Visitor Centre is located in the middle of nowhere by Singapore standards, but it’s still easily reachable by public transportation. First, take the MRT to Tanah Merah station. As you exit the station look for signs pointing to the bus stop for the NEWater shuttle bus. Pick-up times are about 15 minutes before the tours, so at 08:45, 10:30, 12:15, 14:00 and 15:45. This is a free service and it will take you back to the same MRT station after the tour.
NEWater Visitor Centre
20 Koh Sek Lim Road, Singapore
Nearest MRT: Tanah Merah, then a free shuttle bus
Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 09:00–16:00 (five tours per day)
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