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Research Themes

Urban Water Cycle

Water is essential for life. It is constantly renewed by the natural water cycle through processes such as evaporation, condensation and infiltration. These processes recycle water on a global scale and maintain the condition of soils and water bodies. Urbanisation, however, disrupts this natural cycle; impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs and walkways are unable to support infiltration, a process that replenishes the ground with water, thus requiring a localised water management system. The urban water cycle relates to the collection, treatment, distribution and recycling of water to meet the specialised needs of an urban community.

Research projects

Components of the urban water cycle have been core research areas for SCELSE and Singapore since the centre began. Research covers the microbial processes associated with major components of the urban water cycle – used water treatment; engineered waterways (concrete open storm water canals); and drinking water distribution. Using comprehensive bioreactor biology, meta-’omics and systems biology analysis, and an ecological framework, this research systematically assesses microbial community composition, structure, function and resilience. The focus is directed towards elucidating the key role microbes play in the removal of excess organic carbon/nutrients and pollutants in wastewater treatment, bioremediation of engineered waterways, and safe supply of water to the city. The research outcomes drive the translation of fundamental biological insights into sustainable water management and practices.

 Topics include:

  • Physiology and role of specific wastewater bacteria in nitrogen and phosphorus removal
  • Anaerobic digestion microbiome in sludge treatment
  • Used water treatment and global warming preparedness
  • Understanding ecological functioning of urban freshwater ecosystems
  • Biofilms in drinking water distribution systems
  • Fate and transport of pathogens in the environment

Replicated laboratory-scale bioreactors are used to understand the dynamics of microbial-based used water treatment.

Microorganisms in urban waterways can act as bioremediators of contaminants.

Urban Water Cycle publications

    Urban Water Cycle in the media