The MEM Seminar Series 2002/2003




“Where to find NEWater?



Prof Ong Choon Nam

Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine,

National University of Singapore







Saturday , 28 September 2002

10:00 am – 12:00 noon

Executive Room ER 4

SDE 2  Level 3







For more information, please call

Jennifer @ 6874-3563 or e-mail


Universal access to clean water is a fundamental human need, yet over a billion people in our planet do not have access to clean water, and millions die from water-borne diseases each year. Pollution, climatic change and destruction of natural ecosystems threaten the availability of this precious resource. Using water efficiently thus becomes the key to meeting current and future demands. A fundamental change in our perception and use of water resources is obviously needed and alternative approaches should be considered. Non-traditional sources, made possible through technological advances, will play an increasing role in meeting the demand for water.

As an island nation, Singapore has a dearth of natural resources, especially water; with minimal of its own and imports most from our neighbouring country. Singapore consumes over 300 million gallons of water a day and this is expected to go up by a third in the next 10 years. To meet current and future needs, Singapore has had to explore alternatives for managing the demand for water, and to achieve self-sufficiency in water supply.

While high quality reclaimed water treated with filtration, reverse osmosis and UV disinfection (NEWater) is being used by the IT industry, scientists in Singapore have spent the last few years analyzing the quality of the water with a primary objective to determine its suitability for indirect potable use. So far, more than 20,000 tests have been performed on over 190 parameters. This list covers tests on physical, chemical and microbiological analysis. The exhaustive range of tests exceeded the WHO and the US-EPA requirements. The evaluation included tests for newly emerging compounds and pathogens, carcinogenicity studies in mice, and observations for potential endocrine effects in fish. An expert panel that oversees these studies recently concluded that the NEWater is a safe supplement to Singapore’s existing water supply and recommended that the reclaimed water be released into reservoirs; a practice that has been carried out in several US communities using different reclaim technologies. If the Singapore government accepts the panel’s recommendations this island nation will soon have a new source of water that has been treated with the latest technology.


About the speaker

Prof Ong Choon Nam is the Director, Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health at the Faculty of Medicine, NUS. He has an excellent international reputation for his research. He has made important contributions to the understanding of environmental exposure to xenobiotics and carcinogenesis, in particular the molecular mechanisms of how carcinogen caused cellular and DNA damage and has published more than 170 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. Prof. Ong is a member of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) based in Washington DC and he was the recipient of Astra-Zeneca Award for 2001.  Since 1985, Prof. Ong has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization on Environmental Health and was involved in 12 of its Environmental Health Criteria publications. He has been an Associate Editor of Environmental Research, the foremost journal in the field of environmental health, since 1995. He is also on the editorial or advisory board of several international Environmental and Occupational Health journals. He has been a Visiting Professor to Fudan University, and Sun Yet-Sen University since  the 1990’s, and recently, to Nanjing Medical University.   He is the Chairman of the International Expert Panel on NEWater.