Meet Jason Wong from Singapore


Brief introduction of your organization
As the national water agency, PUB manages Singapore’s water supply, water catchment and used water in an integrated way. PUB has ensured a diversified and sustainable supply of water for Singapore with the Four National Taps: 1. Local catchment water, 2. Imported water, 3. NEWater (ultra-clean, high-grade recycled water), 4. Desalinated water.

Why is water an important topic to you? 
Through my experiences and observations, both as an economist and as an executive in Singapore’s national water agency, I believe that providing a clean, reliable supply of water can help secure economic growth, create jobs and stem conflict. A lot of potential for change will result from our collective work in water, particularly in emerging economies. I am a Christian, and my faith affects every aspect of my life. I believe I have a calling to help heal divides between people in the world; and for water, I want to be part of the solution when our generation is called to shoulder the burdens in a few decades’ time.

What are some of the contribution (projects, campaigns or any other works) of your organization in the Singaporean youth water sector and beyond?
Last year, we organised the inaugural Young Water Leaders Summit (YWLS) at the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) that saw about 100 participants under 35 from over 30 countries. We set out for YWLS to become a platform to influence, equip and transform the water leaders of the future to become effective catalysts of change in the water world, and we were happy to have our young professionals attend key conference events such as the Water Leaders Summit and Water Convention, where they got to interact with global water CEOs, industry decision-makers and senior water experts.

A big part of what we do is to engage and connect our youths and the community to each make a small effort so that together, we can achieve a sustainable water future for Singapore. To do so, we encourage everyone to be our Friends of Water and take stewardship of this precious resource. To educate our youths and the community, we have co-created a range of programmes such as the ‘Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC Waters) Waters Learning Trails’ and the Water Education @ NEWater Visitor Centre. The Learning Trails brings people closer to nature as they learn about eco-friendly features that help cleanse our water before it flows to the waterways and also helps to bring back biodiversity for all to enjoy. On the other hand, the series of hands-on experiments at the Water Education @ NEWater Visitor Centre facilitates learning about stormwater management in Singapore and membrane technologies behind the production of NEWater.

Importantly, every March, we partner with multiple stakeholders to encourage nation-wide activities and initiatives by community partners to celebrate Singapore World Water Day, encouraging everyone to build a relationship with water and conserve, value and enjoy water. Singapore World Water Day 2015 held earlier in March saw a record number of participants, 400,000 community members doing their part for water. Over 350 community partners took the lead in organising over 250 different activities to celebrate the significance of water in our lives. The celebrations culminated on 21 March at Singapore Sports Hub where over 6,000 people took part in activities such as walking, cycling and kayaking. It is a reminder that everyone can celebrate Singapore World Water Day in their own way. And every drop counts, every contribution matters, no matter how big or small.

What do you think is the biggest water challenge Singapore faces today?
In 2014, we faced one of our longest dry spells in 149 years; for almost a month, less than 1 mm of rain fell on any given day. Fortunately, we did not have to come to the point of water rationing. We did, however, have to run our desalination and NEWater plants at close to full capacity and increase the amount of NEWater injected into our reservoirs.

In my opinion, such incidents that impact Singapore’s water security will increase in frequency and intensity, given that “global weirding” (an interesting term coined by journalist Thomas Friedman) has been causing and will continue to cause our weather to go off its usual track. Singapore as a city-state is quite vulnerable to the global environment, and we must constantly stay vigilant, particularly when we are talking about the two extreme ends of droughts and flooding.

Are there any other specific water problems that Singapore faces? 
Two issues come to mind. First, we will need for our water supply to keep pace with our growth. Our industrial and commercial usage of water is projected to increase to 70% of total national demand in the next 50 years. Follow-on impacts of this for me would be rising energy costs and energy security, especially salient given that two of our national taps- NEWater and desalination, require large amounts of energy. To this end, PUB is aiming for energy self-sufficiency, to be gained through R&D, where our water treatment process generates enough energy to power itself.

The other challenging issue is that as we continue urbanising, Singapore’s land use will become increasingly complex. Even now, you see that the underground is becoming a snarl of telecommunication lines, electrical and gas mains, transport tunnels and so on. It will get trickier to plan the building and maintenance of water pipelines and other infrastructure, especially in a timely way that does not negatively impact provision of other services.

How do young people play a role? 
Already, young people in Singapore have been taking an active interest in water-related issues and playing their roles. It has been my privilege to meet with young professionals who have been passionate in making a contribution to water- from activists, to engineers, to PhDs and scientists- who want to make a difference through their respective fields.

I have come to understand that upholding high standards of water governance and management, in any country and in Singapore, requires high levels of competence. Young people can play an important role by being willing to serve, and being willing to continuously improve themselves. If you think that because you’ve finished your Masters, your PhD and you can stop, think again. You can never finish what you need to learn in the wide spectrum that water covers to make a difference. We need both the technical people and the people who understand policy and diplomacy and so on.

What one message you want to share with other water youth leaders?
Water is already such a challenge now, and will only become more so in the next 30-40 years. In the time that you have, learn, and learn to gain every drop of knowledge that you can. Don’t be content with no action. Constantly evaluate if your time is being spent well, if you are or will be making an impact with what you learn. Your time and your youth are precious commodities.

Be ready to rise up and meet the challenges that will be faced. Lead now where you are called, because we will need you in the future.

Minister Grace Fu and Young Water Leader Bart Devos on stage at the Young Water Leaders Summit Caption - Students learning about membrane filtration at the new Water E... Launching Singapore World Water Day 2015 with our community partners