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Asia Minute: Singapore’s technology helps turn wastewater into beer

A couple enjoys the view of Singapore's financial center. Conservatives saw Singapore as a free-market success story, but Lee Kuan Yew's government played a big role in the economy.
Wong Maye-E

Supplies of clean water are a growing concern in many parts of the world. In Singapore, the national water agency has been recycling wastewater for a number of years. But they’ve recently started to use it in a different way.

The presence of recycled wastewater has been growing in Singapore over the past 20 years — and it flows through some very sensitive areas.

The government calls it “NEWater.”

It’s used in semiconductor manufacturing plants, which have very high standards for cleanliness.

NEWater is also pumped through cooling systems in office buildings, and even sold as bottled water for drinking.

Now there’s a new product using that recycled and treated wastewater: beer.

Brewerkz, a local craft brewery, is producing a “tropical blond ale” called “NEWBrew.”

It’s been on sale for about six weeks now and has drawn attention from around the world.

India’s NDTV’s online story carries the headline “Beer Made from Sewage Water Goes on Sale in Singapore.”

The BBC goes a step further with the headline “Turning Urine into Beer in Singapore.”

A BBC reporter went around to cafes along the Singapore River to check with patrons on the taste. All the reviews that made it on camera were very positive.

Officials at Singapore’s water agency are welcoming the publicity.

One goal of the entire production is to raise awareness about Singapore’s scarcity of freshwater, and the creative ways the government is addressing the challenges.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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