OneWater Reflections Jun 18, 2024

Reimagining the Future of Water in Singapore

By Patrick Hill, President of Global Operations

OneWater Reflections

I recently wrote about pivotal global trends and how we’re laying the foundations for a more sustainable, prosperous and secure future at Jacobs. This week, I have the opportunity to discuss these trends as they relate to the global water sector at Singapore International Water Week (SIWW).

SIWW provides a platform to reimagine the role of water utilities and explore how themes like infrastructure modernization, the energy transition and climate response will shape the water sector’s future.

In many parts of the world, we have allowed critical infrastructure to reach end-of-life condition – sometimes unavoidably through the passage of time, often because of insufficient maintenance. The water sector is a standout example of this. Despite the essential nature of water services, our systems are often overlooked, undervalued and in severe need of modernization. Going forward, we have a tremendous opportunity to reimagine our water systems and demonstrate their wider importance to our cities, economies and environment. How can we modernize our water systems to be more connected, resilient and sustainable? One answer I’m keen to explore is how AI and other Digital OneWater solutions can prepare our water systems for the future. 

Water also has an important role to play in supporting the transition to a decarbonized society. The water-energy-food nexus demonstrates the intrinsic link between water and energy – and how these systems support the food production we all depend upon. Beyond reducing the water industry’s own carbon emissions – which are not insignificant – the sector can support the transition to cleaner energy. Wastewater treatment plant sites, for example, could be leveraged for hydrogen production, with access to excess land, on-site renewable energy and abundant amounts of recycled water.

The theme that is perhaps most critical for the water sector is climate response. Most of the climate change impacts we experience are felt through water: droughts, severe rain events, coastal flooding, sea-level rise. As I indicated above, there is a severe investment deficit in the water sector that won’t be sufficient to deal with the significant climate change impacts we face and deliver the integrated solutions required to support the water-energy-food nexus. The good news – as seen in a poll taken by the US Water Alliance earlier this year – is that many water consumers would accept higher water bills if they were to guarantee water quality, availability and reduced pollution.

Another silver lining is that the technologies already exist to solve many of the water challenges we face – we just need to find ways to deploy them. The most impactful solutions will be those that integrate public/private, industrial/utility and span jurisdictional boundaries. This is where events like SIWW are so important – they facilitate necessary collaboration and raise awareness of the need to invest. I’m pleased to be in Singapore to discuss these issues. As a nation they continue to push the boundaries on water management and demonstrate that the water challenges of today, and tomorrow, can be solved. 

I look forward to expanding on these perspectives during the Titans of Industry session at SIWW on June 19. Please connect with me and my Jacobs colleagues throughout the week and view our full SIWW schedule here.

About the author

Patrick Hill

Patrick Hill is President of Jacobs’ global operations overseeing more than 40,000 professionals worldwide. He began his career as a process engineer - designing, delivering and commissioning water and wastewater treatment plants – before holding various executive roles in Jacobs’ global operations.