Achieve sustainability for your business with water efficiency standards
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Quality & Standards: Achieve sustainability for your business with water efficiency standards

How important is water to your business?

An estimated 844 million people around the world lack access to clean water, making them especially vulnerable to chronic illnesses from consuming contaminated water. Although 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, barely 2.5% of it is fresh water suitable for human use2. This supply will continue to be stressed by climate changes, global population growth and increasing industrial and agricultural demands.

In Singapore, every household and office enjoy an uninterrupted supply of clean drinking water right from the taps, at any time of the day. Despite being a tropical island blessed with abundant rainfall, Singapore is ironically one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. Without groundwater, big freshwater lakes, or enough water catchments to collect and store rainwater, we have developed a diversified water supply strategy to meet our needs, known as the Four National Taps – imported water, water from local catchment, NEWater, and desalinated water.

Currently, Singapore’s daily water usage is about 430 million gallons, an amount enough to fill 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The country’s total water demand is expected to almost double from now till 2060, with the non-domestic sector accounting for the majority of the increased demand. Thus, the onus is on non-domestic users such as businesses to play a bigger role in conserving our water resources, especially if the operations consume a large amount of water. Using water more efficiently also keeps your water bills manageable.

Achieve sustainability for your business with water efficiency standards

SS 577: First in the world – a national standard on water efficiency

In 2012, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency (PUB), together with Enterprise Singapore (then SPRING Singapore) and industry stakeholders, developed a national standard to support Singapore’s water sustainability journey. The Singapore Standard SS 577 Water Efficiency Management Systems is the first standard in the world that provides organisations with a guideline to establish a management system and have a systematic approach towards achieving water efficiency.

SS 577 specifies requirements that would allow organisations to have a systematic approach towards monitoring, measurement, documentation of existing water usages in premise as well as establishing, identifying and implementing measures to achieve improvement in water efficiency3.

ISO 46001: From national standard to international standard

After SS 577 was published, it inspired the development of an international standard applicable to organisations around the world. Taking reference from SS 577, ISO 46001 Water Efficiency Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use is the first of its kind in the world to help organisations benefit from the use of a water efficiency management system.

Ms Wong Wai Cheng, Chief Engineer in the Water Supply Network department of PUB, was the Convenor of the ISO working group that developed ISO 46001 and was also involved in developing SS 577. She pointed out the importance for organisations to play a part in water conservation and how standards can help.

“As one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, managing industrial water use has been a priority for Singapore, given that the bulk of our water demand comes from the non-domestic sector, which is expected to increase further. Therefore, we strongly believe that ISO 46001 will be an important tool for all organisations around the world to bring about greater water efficiency and savings in their operations.”

ISO 46001 includes a clear framework and guidance on water efficiency management. If you are looking for a systematic approach to use water more efficiently at your workplace, you can use the methods and tools in this standard to assess and account for water usage, as well as ways to identify and implement measures to optimise water use. This set of standards is applicable to businesses and organisations of all sizes and can be adopted across all industries.

How SS 577 and ISO 46001 helped this company save 1.15 million m3 of water a year

Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company Pte Ltd (SSMC) specialises in semiconductor wafer fabrication solutions, which require large amounts of ultra-pure water to operate. It adopted SS 577 and was subsequently the first company to be certified to ISO 46001.

Since adopting the standards, SSMC has implemented several measures for water efficiency, such as using alternative water sources – NEWater now makes up 100% of its process water usage – and treating exhaust gases with recycled water to achieve an additional 11% total water recycling rate. SSMC now recycles 70% of its water, including recycling and reusing used water several times before discharging it. Through these water efficiency measures, SSMC saves around 1.15 million m3 of water annually, or the equivalent volume from 461 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This translates into sizeable cost savings for the company.

“ISO 46001 provides a framework to rethink how every drop of water can be put to better use before it leaves our plant. It is also a useful tool to communicate our plans and vision for water efficiency both within and outside the company,” said Mr Chua Hian Choon, Quality Senior Director of SSMC.

Is your business keen to adopt and be certified to ISO 46001? Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Know your objective

Start with “why” to clarify your goal. When you have a measurable target and a timeline, it is easier to make plans and garner resources to get there. For example, you may want to increase your water recycling rate, reduce leakage or simply shave off a portion of your water bills.

2. Start small

ISO 46001 addresses critical aspects of water efficiency performance, including water use, measurement, documentation, reporting, procurement and others. You do not need to cover all areas at once. Start small, and gradually beef it up.

3. Get buy-in

Rope in your top management and employees on the benefits of adopting the standard. Appoint a manager or a group of personnel to be your stewards and champions of water efficiency.

4. Gather resources

Prepare to dedicate personnel, time, infrastructure and finance to implement the standard. This signals your company’s commitment to reach the goals.

Even if your business does not consume large amounts of water, you can still adopt ISO 46001 and use water more efficiently to help Singapore achieve water sustainability.

If you are a small and medium-sized enterprise and wish to adopt ISO 46001, Enterprise Singapore is here to support you. You may apply for the Enterprise Development Grant for projects related to adopting a standard. The grant covers up to 80%4 of qualifying project costs including consultancy, training, certification and equipment. Get more details here.

For more information on ISO 46001 and the other standards, please refer here.

If you have further queries on ISO 46001 or how to adopt this standard, please write in to with the following details:

  1. Company name (and company registration number)
  2. Name of contact person
  3. Email address
  4. Company’s website address
  5. Your query