By Elisa Speranza, President of CH2M HILL’s Operations & Maintenance Business Group
I had the good fortune to attend Singapore International Water Week, the Water Leaders Summit and the World Cities Summit last week in the city-state of Singapore. It was a very impressive gathering of the who’s who in global water, including manufacturers, consultants, contractors, academics and owners. Our own Glen Daigger, President of the International Water Association, was the rock star, of course. I spotted him on BBC News during the conference and had to snap a photo. Our client, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore, was the gracious host.
Singapore has a master plan for everything, and has become an economic powerhouse in Asia in just a few short decades. The PUB’s massive investment in water, wastewater, reuse and drainage infrastructure is an integral part of the economic development plan. I got to see our award-winning ABC Waters and NEWater projects up close. We toured ABC Waters (“Active, Beautiful, Clean”), an impressive array of parks and community spaces that has replaced linear concrete drainage canals, with our client Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati and two of his aides. Our knowledgeable colleagues Tuck Wai Lee and Howie Tan were along to answer questions, and the client was obviously quite proud of this impressive project.
The ABC Waters project also won Lee McIntire’s CH2M HILL CEO Excellence Award last year and the team volunteered to donate some of their prize money to Water For People. The Singapore office has a longstanding track record of generosity, consistently topping the charts among offices in our Water For People Workplace Giving Campaign. While there I got to meet Allison Foo and some of the Water For People team for Singapore to thank them personally for their efforts. At our Singapore office visit, CH2M HILL Energy, Water and Facilities Division President Bob Card gave a good overview of where the company is headed and where our Asian colleagues (including a whole new group from Halcrow) fit into the strategy. We have a long history working in Asia, and our commitment to the region continues.
There were many “aha” moments throughout the week. Since this was my first trip to Asia, I was blown away by the extent to which Asian countries are investing in infrastructure and technology, in some cases leapfrogging the U.S. (The contrast between the airports in Singapore and Tokyo versus LAX was a stark example!) Some of the conclusions reached and questions raised from the Water Leaders Summit include:
– Technology is developing faster than implementation. The challenge is how to drive development where the need is urgent. “Technology is not an alibi” for denying people the right to safe water and sanitation.
– Singapore has done a remarkable job of implementing innovative technology. How can their success be replicated?
– Governance (policy, competent management, transparency, integrity, accountability) needs to set the right conditions with the right incentives for sustainable development; people will not treasure water if it’s given away for free or heavily subsidized.
– Better education is needed to drive sound infrastructure policy.
– Holistic thinking integrates agricultural, industrial and household needs—“economies of scope, not scale.”
– Collaboration with common key performance indicators, accountability, risk-sharing and funding alternatives will help unlock innovation.
– Progress has been made on the Millennium Development Goals on access to water, but sanitation “is a disaster” and much more work is needed (including partnering with businesses).
– We should be agnostic with regard to public or private sector delivery of services. What’s important is sustainable, affordable access.
– Governments should have a single cabinet level minister to oversee water policy, and should invest in research and development, especially for the treatment of “used” water.
All of these points were reflected in the showcasing of Singapore’s achievements, and in the Lee Kuan Yew Prize Awards given to a Dutch water reuse researcher and to New York City for its sustainable, integrated approach to land use and resources. CH2M HILL was a proud sponsor of the conference, and as Global Water Company of the Year was very visible and engaged with SIWW attendees.Tags: ABC Waters, CH2M HILL Access Water Blog, glen daigger, NEWater, SIWW12, Sustainability, Water For People, Water Leaders Summit