IDA releases key findings from 2008 Water Leaders Summit

Sustainable development of cities -- and the ability to provide reliable sources of water to supply their growth -- underscored 1 1/2 days of rich discourse at the 2008 Water Leaders Summit. Held during Singapore International Water Week and co-organized by the International Desalination Association (IDA) along with PUB and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the Summit tackled questions about the technologies and business practices needed to achieve this goal...

• Event explores water strategies for sustainable development of cities

TOPSFIELD, MA, July 8, 2008 -- Sustainable development of cities -- and the ability to provide reliable sources of water to supply their growth -- underscored 1 1/2 days of rich discourse at the 2008 Water Leaders Summit. Held during Singapore International Water Week and co-organized by the International Desalination Association (IDA) along with PUB and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the Summit tackled questions about the technologies and business practices needed to achieve this goal. Built upon the success of the Desalination and Water Reuse Summit, held in 2007, the invitation-only event was expanded this year to include top policy makers, ministers, mayors, leaders of the industry, international organizations, and renowned academics, all addressing the issue of "Sustainable Water Solutions for Cities."

IDA president Lisa Henthorne discussed advances in water technologies and the use of desalination and water reuse to meet the world's growing demand for potable water. Henthorne chaired and was lead speaker in "The Right Environment for Water Technologies," the first of three roundtables for Summit participants. She pointed out that technology has always featured strongly in solving municipal water problems.

"Desalination is a critically important water solution for the 21st century. Desalination has the advantage of actually increasing a community's water supply, whereas other water supply options are dependent on natural renewable water resources with clear finite limitations," said Henthorne.

According to Henthorne, the desalination industry has made significant progress in designing energy efficient and environmentally-friendly desalination facilities. She pointed out that, in recent years, advances in membrane technology and distillation have lowered costs, enabling more widespread adoption of desalination and water reuse, not just in the Middle East but also in Asia and Australia.

"Australia is experiencing an annual growth in desalination of over 30%. These facilities are largely powered by renewable energy with high design standards for environmental requirements and monitoring. Using these successes as guiding strategies for the future, desalination can evolve into a primary water solution for our planet in the 21st century," she noted.

The Water Leaders Summit opened with a Plenary Forum, "Good Governance, Sustainable Cities," chaired by Prof Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore and Chairman of the Asia Pacific Water Forum Governing Council. In his closing remarks, he shared observations about his learnings from the Summit.

"I take to heart the Prime Minister of Singapore's point that the sustainable development of cities will be one of the key challenges of our time. We share a common vision to make our cities sustainable, vibrant and livable," he said, pointing out that cities should strive to achieve a certain number of common goals including safe drinking water, sustainable sanitation, clean air, good living environment, and the efficient use of natural resources including water and energy. Good governance, he noted, is vital to tackling these challenges.

Prof Koh reiterated the need to implement appropriate water solutions. "Water is essential for life. There are over 1 billion people in the world -- 700 million in Asia alone -- who do not have access to safe drinking water. The time has come for us to recognize the people's access to safe drinking water and to sustainable sanitation as a human right," he said.

"Recent progress in water technology, such as desalination, reverse osmosis, membrane technology and their declining costs, have enabled cities, regions and countries, such as Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Bahrain, Orange County in California, and Singapore, to solve their water problems," he said.

Membrane technology for filtering water can also be used at the local level and at affordable costs, he added, calling attention to the efforts of a young Singaporean, Dr. Adrian Yeo, who, following the Tsunami in 2004, developed a portable filtration unit at a cost of US $1,500. "With financial support from the Singapore Red Cross, Dr. Yeo and his NGO, Water Initiative for Securing Health (WISH), were able to make safe drinking water available to 100,000 people in Aceh," he stated.

Prof Koh noted another key learning from the Summit -- that water is a viable business, and, in cases where, for various reasons, the public sector is unable to deliver safe drinking water to its consumers, it is economically feasible for the public sector to either outsource the water business to the private sector or to enter into a Public-Private Partnership.

IDA president Henthorne concurred with this view. "The emerging trends in water solutions are not only technological and regulatory in nature. As the capital infrastructure needs and complexity of projects escalate, public utilities increasingly struggle to independently provide water solutions," Henthorne noted. "The need for public/private and privatized programs are becoming more evident to our future water supply. Cooperation between regional and national utilities is paramount to future long-term water solution successes. The Water Leaders Summit provided rich opportunities to exchange ideas, concerns, and experiences that will help our growing cities succeed in providing appropriate water solutions to meet their needs," she added.

The International Desalination Association is a non-profit association of over 2,000 members in fifty-eight countries. The membership is comprised of scientists, end-users, engineers, consultants and researchers from governments, corporations and academia. IDA is associated with the United Nations as part of a growing international network of non- governmental organizations (NGOs).

###

More in Technologies