-- groaningly obviously derived from "new water
and pronounced as such -- is the Singapore
brand name for what is officially called a sustainable
which could be gently described as recycled household water
less gently just distilled piss
. Since February 21, 2003
NEWater (at a share of 1% or so) has been introduced into drinking
water in the city-state.
Since their less than amicable separation in 1965
have made bickering into an art form. One prickly issue
that was thought to have been solved was that of water
has almost no sources of its own, so in two agreements dating back
to 1961 and 1962, Malaysia agreed to pipe water
across at a fixed rate to meet Singapore's needs.
Alas, the rate
agreed back in the sixties was 3 sen per 1000 gallons, a sen
being the Malaysian version of the cent. At 100 sen to the ringgit
and the current rate of 3.75 ringgit to the dollar, this works out to
0.8¢ per cubic metre, cheap by any standard and less than the cost of
production (says Malaysia). So how about 60 sen until 2011 (when
the first agreement expires), and 3 RM until 2061? But Singapore,
predictably, said "too bad" -- contracts are contracts, and it's not
their fault if Malaysia didn't index the rate to inflation. But as a
goodwill gesture, how about 45 sen until 2011, and 60 sen onwards?
Malaysia didn't like this very much, and grumbled loudly about
shutting off the supply unless something was done.
NEWater to the Rescue!
What then? Singapore has no other immediate neighbors to turn to;
it has negotiated with Indonesia
as well, but the nearest possible
water source is on Riau
, 450 kilometers away --
coutry's relations down South have been even worse
the past. Singapore has no sources of energy either (except
ism), so desalination
is too expensive an option.
So the answer was simple -- let's recycle water!
It's been done before, of course. Space stations, for example,
are as self-contained as possible and circulate their own water.
And really, any modern water system works by processing waste water
and dumping it into a reservoir (often cunningly disguised as a lake),
then sucking it back out and
sanitizing it into potable water. Sitting in the reservoir, if
only makes things worse; "fish fuck in it", as beer drinkers like to say,
and there's a host of other unwanted inputs as well. So Singapore just
decided to cut the reservoir out of the loop.
As the very brand shows, NEWater was launched with quite a bit of hype,
the attempted spin being that this was yet another technological
first, a win for independent Singapore and a slap in the face of
the nefarious Dr M. However, while Singapore's
long-suffering citizens didn't object loudly to drinking their own
piss, swallowing the government's BS was a bit too much to expect and
Newater instantly became the butt of a million jokes. Within a week
or two, the government realized that maybe this wasn't going to work
quite as well as planned, and the media stopped mentioning the issue.
So How Does It Taste?
The way water does in most hot countries, where it would instantly
start to breed nastiness if bacteria were not chemically nuked
into oblivion: in other words, like chlorine
. But no, not even
the most imaginative critic could conjure up a toilet bowl from it...
which hasn't stopped a boom in the sales of bottled water though.