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Novel solutions to water shortage and flooding

23 March 2012

Prof Lui during the NUS Global-Asia Institute Speaker Series

Rock caverns can act as stores to alleviate flooding

Underground tunnels and rock caverns are possible solutions to water shortage and flooding in Singapore. These novel ideas were proposed by Prof Lui Pao Chuen, Adjunct Professor at the NUS Faculty of Engineering and Adviser to the National Research Foundation, during a talk at NUS Global-Asia Institute (GAI) Speaker Series, held in conjunction with World Water Day on 22 March.

Singapore's drainage system is designed to cope with about 80 millimetres of rain in an hour, said Prof Lui. If rainfall intensity increases, decisions will have to be made now to protect Singapore against flooding. With cost and land constraints limiting drainage capacity, other approaches will need to be considered, he noted.

One of the solutions is to build underground reservoirs in rock caverns. Such spaces can capture the stormwater from urban areas to alleviate flooding. They can also serve as freshwater stores in the event of droughts and help reduce the need for desalination. Prof Lui estimated that 20 caverns could hold up to 10 million cubic metres of water.

Prof Chan Eng Soon, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Engineering, who was present at the talk, said that Prof Lui's solution was "really refreshing, especially when we're not just looking at flood issues, but also at various other grand challenges related to energy and space utilisation."

The GAI Speaker Series seeks to nurture collaboration and networking to facilitate the advancement of research. Academic experts from a wide variety of fields are invited to present and discuss new research that they are working on.