A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Monday, January 17, 2011

Extreme Clearwater

The frontpage news on the Sunday Oregonian newspaper is about how the water and sewer bills in Portland are *soaring* as the Portland Water Bureau spends its way to the poorhouse apparently on the backs of the ratepayers. The city's average monthly combined sewer and water bills have climbed 83% over the past decade to about $92 per month, and are projected to increase to $116 by 2015, making it fifth highest out of the 50 most populous cities in the US. The article goes on to say that many other big ticket items are going to be required to keep the city's water and sewer system in compliance with unfunded mandates of the Environmental Protection Agency. But some of the proposed expenditures have little to do with EPA mandates. For example, consider the Helicopter Landing Site Evaluation and the Water Resources Education Program, both probably worthy projects among the multi-page listing, but along with the $600,000 house that was built and scheduled to be sold in an area where the real estate brokers indicate that it is worth half that, leaves the water customer a little tense. Add in the uncertainty associated with climate change, and you get the picture. I don't live in Portland, so I just watch from the sidelines. But given the apparent wealth of water in this region of the world, especially this week with the record rains and floods, it does make one wonder why the water is more expensive than say, Phoenix.

Then I read this article titled "Bottling Wastewater Expands Island’s Oasis—Singapore’s NEWater Solution to Scarcity". Here is the answer to paying for all of the new water & wastewater infrastructure, in addition to the bike paths and bioswales that Portland wants to build. Sell Portland's wastewater as bottled water!

Recycled treated wastewater, which Singapore has branded “NEWater”, is providing 30 percent of  the Southeast Asian island city-state’s total demand for fresh water.

The small, densely populated island enjoys heavy rainfall (like Oregon), but lacks sufficient watersheds and natural rivers from which to draw water. Because space to store water is so tight, the city of five million residents has always relied for its drinking water on unconventional sources—including imports—and has transformed two-thirds of its landmass into storm and water catchments.

Until this year, imports from neighboring Malaysia accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s 300-million gallon daily demand for fresh water. For political and economic reasons, however, the government decided not to renew the import contracts, which were signed in 1961 and expire in 2011 and 2061. When imports end, Singapore’s three freshwater sources will be local—rainfall in catchments, desalination, and NEWater.

NEWater is Singapore’s own brand of reclaimed water and is essentially wastewater purified by two rounds of treatment. Initially used for industrial purposes only, a small portion of NEWater is now returned to reservoirs, where it blends with rainwater before entering the standard drinking water treatment and distribution system.

To make potable water out of what goes down the drain and toilet, Singapore’s NEWater recycling plants take water from standard treatment facilities and then use an additional three-step purification process: micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet treatment. The end product meets drinking water standards set by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Singapore’s own national agency.

The article goes on to say that NEWater is not sold in stores....yet.

Oregon has something similar where a clever entrepreneur figured out that they could make money selling the fruit of our grey skies - Oregon Rain. Now if only Oregon could figure out that to pay for all of these goodies, they need to work like other western states which require a *fee* to be paid to the state *rainy day fund* for natural resources like oil, gas, coal, uranium, trees, etc. But such an idea is blasphemy in Oregon where there is no sales tax to fund government, either. Water as "Oregon's Oil"? Not the first time or last time we will hear about this novel idea.

Clearly, new ways of looking at the way water is used and reused makes *cents*. Clearly, the colors of water all lead to a pot-o-gold, yes, even for those addicted to goldwater.


  1. Water is basic to life. It is a precious resource and has become precious commodity now. On going Industrialization, population & urbanization pose pressure on water availability...

  2. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him. So I should thank you for the free lunch I got.

    Military Wastewater Treatment & Containerized Wastewater Plants