Water for Life: Realizing Sustainable Water Practices in Society

28th February, 2020

A turn of the faucet handle and out gushes clean water. While it sounds like a commonplace sight, the truth is that many countries face intensifying water problems rooted in such matters as global warming and population growth – particularly in the developing world, where plumbing and water infrastructure remain a distant possibility for some nations. Guaranteeing access to safe, clean water has evolved into a global concern, which makes water treatment processing technologies and management and control systems for water treatment plants vital for future growth. Can you imagine life without clean water? What about a world where it’s available to all?

Growth’s Wellspring

Currently only about eight countries in the world can realistically provide tap water sanitary enough to drink without any concerns*.

These numbers may be a lot to take in. But for someone living in a country where the faucet conjures safe, drinkable water, it’s difficult to imagine places that lacks this resource – where people struggle to get the water needed for their everyday lives. Many nations enjoy an abundance of water – well-equipped with purification centers, sewage treatment plants, and other water infrastructure. These luxuries have perhaps instilled the impression that water is, by default, safe to drink; but often left unsaid is how water scarcity affects many other places in the world.

Tasked with providing a safe, sanitary supply of water, water infrastructure industries play a vital role in humanity’s survival and sustaining urban development. With population growth expected in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in particular, such projects play an essential part in determining how to provide water sustainably – and by extension, supporting further development in these regions.

One of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) homes in on this problem: "[To] Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." As the existence of this goal reflects, the stable provision of safe, sanitary water is a matter of profound concern, worthy of global attention.

*Refer to "Reiwa 1st edition Current status of water resources in Japan" (Japanese only)

Reimagining Water

So how does one go about solving this water-shortage crisis? In considering the implications of this problem, use cases in Singapore may be worth referring to.

Until its independence in 1965, Singapore existed as part of Malaysia – and such history has context here considering that Singapore imports much of the water it consumes from Malaysia. But Singapore also takes numerous measures to acquire its water domestically – developing water catchment areas, treating wastewater, and desalinating sea water. One deadline looms on the horizon, however – the water agreement in place with Malaysia and Singapore terminates in the year 2062. This signifies a challenge for Singapore, and it must now consider how to secure a permanent source of water during the next 40 years. Requiring multilateral attention, this is a national problem in every sense.

One symbolic measure devised to address this problem is the implementation of a revolutionary system called "NEWater", a purifying process first implemented into water plants in 2003. This system recycles water by further sterilizing typical, pre-treated waste water and elevating it to a drinkable, sanitary state. In Singapore, one of the most water-stressed countries, Mitsubishi Electric conducts experiments with an ozone technology called EcoMBR® (Eco Membrane BioReactor: a system using ozonated water to clean the membrane filters), an instantaneous disinfectant that implements deodorizing ozone, among other solutions. EcoMBR functions as a state-of-the-art water filtration device for sewer water and industrial drainage, and here ozone technology plays a powerful role – it not only purifies the filtration membrane and allows for high-speed filtration processes on water, but the ozone water itself can also be repurposed for consumption.

Purifying facilities under Singapore’s Public Utilities Board also implement Mitsubishi Electric’s ozone systems in creating drinkable water for the country. In essence, the technology exhibits remarkable veracity – it elevates tap water to fit better standards of taste while also helping repurpose sewage water into a recyclable resource. Singapore’s government is tackling this water problem at a national level – and as use cases demonstrate, this state-of-the-art ozone technology plays a part of vital role in this context.

Water for Development

While nations like Singapore dedicate much of their national budget towards solving their water issues, many states have yet to lay down the groundwork that makes safe water provision a possibility. One example is Sri Lanka, a country whose water infrastructure struggles to keep up with the speed of the nation’s development; Sri Lanka has yet to find a way to sustainably and efficiently provide water to its people. Most facilities, for example, continue to manage critical records with handwritten logs – leaving officials unable to tap into valuable data on water quality and quantities. Until recently, the provision of stable water once appeared a distant possibility, and water quality problems remained largely unaddressed.

Limited within a diminished national budget, Sri Lanka has enlisted the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. JICA’s mission is to apply the impressive product lines and technical know-how of Japan’s private firms in developing countries, sparking economic prosperity and enabling sustainable national growth. JICA works in coalition with the city of Kobe for this particular endeavor, assisting Sri Lanka in increasing the efficiency of their water management efforts. More specifically, Kobe has implemented the wide-area monitoring system developed and operated by Mitsubishi Electric for water management systems in Sri Lanka. In addition to providing this highly sophisticated monitoring and control systems for water treatment facilities – marvels in Japanese engineering – they have also invited Sri Lanka’s field supervisors to Kobe for further instruction. There, personnel participated in training that exposed them to the insight and experience garnered from local use cases in Kobe and the rest of Japan, further equipping them with the skills they need to manage these systems. Through projects like these, Sri Lanka lays the groundwork for furnishing basic waterworks management and monitoring systems in the region – working toward the overall goal of making safe, sanitary water available to 60% of the country.

Flowing to the Future

In addition to applications in Singapore’s waterworks management, Mitsubishi Electric’s ozone system performs in a wide variety of settings – industrial drainage treatment, cleaning systems in aquarium tanks and beyond. And while the need for cutting-edge technology grows, Sri Lanka’s situation illustrates that stark technological gaps exist at the same time. Such a contrast reinforces just how important it is to tailor localized solutions to these issues; a practice that, one could say, plays a vital role in building a sustainable society. Whether it be in the developing or the developed world, manufacturers like Mitsubishi Electric play a significant part in providing safe, sanitary water to society – and by extension, creating a world more firmly rooted in sustainability.

At present, Mitsubishi Electric is involved in water businesses not only in Singapore and Sri Lanka, but also in the United States, China, India, Germany, and other nations. With state-of-the-art technology at its disposal, one can expect Mitsubishi Electric to continue in its pursuit to provide efficient and high-quality water – contributing to sustainable water practices in society.

The content is true and accurate as of the time of publication.Information related to products and services included in this article may differ by country or region.

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