Desalination: Singapore grapples with water insecurity

SINGAPORE--Those hoping to derail Poseidon Water's plans to build a desalination plant on Southern California's Orange County coast could look to Singapore for support. A branch of the Singaporean government is on the verge of taking over a private desalination plant, due to poor financial health.

Singapore's national water agency, Public Utilities Board (PUB), put Tuaspring Pte Ltd on notice this month. The agency demanded Tuaspring remedy its defaults associated with its desalination plant. Tuaspring and the PUB entered into a Water Purchasing Agreement in 2011, where the private company would deliver 70 million gallons of desalinated water, daily, to the Singapore government, between 2013 and 2038.

The desalination plant, however, has been losing money and is projected to remain in the red for the foreseeable future, according to the PUB.

"[Tuaspring] stated that the [desalination plant] has been and will continue losing money for the next few years," a PUB statement on Tuaspring's default situation said. "The power plant is also incurring losses and the market condition is not expected to significantly improve in the near future."

The PUB could terminate its agreement with Tuaspring and take over the desalination plant at no coast of Tuaspring does not remedy its default position by April 5.

Tuaspring's plant is the largest desalination operation in Singapore. The PUB designated desalination as one of four sustainable options for water security in Singapore.

"PUB calls on everyone to play a part in conserving water, in keeping our waterways clean, and in caring for Singapore’s precious water resources. If we all do our little bit, there will be enough water for all our needs – for commerce and industry, for living, for life," the public agency's staff said in a released statement.

Tuaspring Desalination Plant. (PUB photo)

Tuaspring Desalination Plant. (PUB photo)

The possible governmental takeover of Singapore's largest desalination plant is juxtaposed against a water crisis brewing in another island nation in the region.

Water rationing measures have reportedly been implemented in Manila, capital city of The Philippines. Various news reports are indicating the city has been without water supply for days. Rodridgo Duterte, president of The Philippines, reportedly met with the new Singaporean ambassador to seek advice on Manila's water crisis. The duo reportedly discussed desalination as a possible solution, though various news reports also indicated a freshwater-to-saltwater conversion plant might be too expensive of an option for The Philippines.

Singapore, meanwhile, reportedly plans to build two desalination plants by 2020, adding to the three already operational in the city-stated.