With a growing population and expanding economy heaping the pressure on Brunei Darussalam’s water supply, the Sultanate has upped investment in storage and processing infrastructure, while also calling on its people to reduce consumption.
Bruneians use an estimated 450 litres of water per person daily, according to data from the Ministry of Development, giving the country a consumption rate which is almost double that of its neighbours and one of the highest in the world.
The Sultanate subsidises the cost of potable water for its citizens, which some officials believe could be contributing to the country’s high usage. Driving down usage could help the government achieve its aim of having capacity eventually exceed consumption. However, the task may prove to be a challenging one, despite the investment being channelled into new infrastructure.
Less is good
To date, campaigns aimed at urging Bruneians to use water more sparingly have met with only limited success. Pehin Dato Suyoi Haji Osman, Minister for Development, said in May that BN$400m ($313m) had been made available under the 10th National Development Plan (NDP) to expand the country’s water supply infrastructure.
“If the usage of water could be lessened by 40%, which is around 250 litres of water per person, development and expansion of water supply system can be slowed down or postponed,” the minister said, during a ceremony held to mark World Water Day.
The Department of Water Services (DWS), which oversees the water utilities sector, has launched a series of public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing consumption. Its efforts have included arranging school visits to water treatment plants, using social media and supporting the adoption of “green” technology and practices, both at home and elsewhere.
Alice Lim, the acting director of the DWS, said that even small modifications to a daily routine could make a difference. “We simply need to make certain changes in our lifestyle and realise that these little adjustments translates to major long-term impacts,” she told local media in April.
The government has been keen to promote energy-saving and eco-friendly products, which could offer new growth opportunities for businesses. Narrower showerheads have been suggested by the DWS as one means of saving water, while toilets with a duel flushing option, water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers are other options.
The Brunei National Energy Research Institute (BNERI), and specifically Xunpeng Shi who is the Director of Energy Efficiency and Conservation, has been studying these products and options as well as working with the government in the past few months to develop a regulatory framework for Energy Standards and Labelling. The minimum standards are being rolled out this month and this measure follows the installation of prepaid meters by the Department of Electrical Services in every Bruneian household since 2011.
The authorities are also playing their part by upgrading and renewing distribution networks, stemming leaks and fixing broken pipelines, in a bid to reduce water wastage. However, while conservation efforts are gaining pace, the Sultanate’s expanding economy is making its own demands on the national water supply.
The government’s drive to diversify its economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons has sharpened the focus on manufacturing industries, with emerging segments, such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and food processing, all requiring access to clean water.
New dams and storage reservoirs are set to be rolled out to help meet growing demand, together with an expanded distribution network.
One of the key projects earmarked under the latest development plan is a BN$28m ($22m) water treatment plant in the Brunei-Muara District. The seventh stage of the Bukit Barun Water Treatment facility, which is due to come on line in the early part of Q3, will add up to 60m litres daily to the Sultanate’s current potable water supply of around 430m litres. However, with consumption expected to reach 772m litres per day by 2035, according to the DWS, more investment will be needed to meet rising demand.
A membrane technology filter - another project linked to the Bukit Barun plant – will play a key part in improving supplies by producing clearer water with fewer chemical processes. The new filtration technology, which is currently in the operational testing stage, will also cut costs.
Efforts to expand the country’s economic base are gaining ground. While new infrastructure for the Sultanate’s water services is set to add much-needed capacity, the government will also be hoping that its awareness campaigns continue to produce small but important reductions in consumption on the ground.