Sarah Teng, Director of Water Quality Department, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, Singapore

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I lead the Water Quality Department at National Water Agency PUB. My team ensures that the water supply in Singapore is clean and safe. We collect water samples regularly from reservoirs, waterworks, service reservoirs and customer tap points for analysis at PUB’s Water Quality laboratory.

We have established a comprehensive and robust sampling and monitoring programme to maintain our water quality from source to tap.

Apart from collecting water samples for tests, online sensors are also used for real-time monitoring for both raw and treated water. Over 500,000 tests are conducted annually on over 300 physical, organic, inorganic, radiological and microbiological parameters.

What was the most impactful project you worked on?

We have developed a mobile laboratory for rapid on-site water quality testing. This allows us to gather as much information and as quickly as possible, without having to wait for the delivery of water samples to the labs.

This enhanced capacity in water quality investigations and problem resolution complements our lab analyses and significantly improves our customer service delivery. Our customers are assured that we are taking their feedback seriously as they can see for themselves that we are carrying out the testing on site.

Our mobile lab can be deployed to water incident sites within one to two hours as a quick response to attend to any water quality feedback. Over 16 parameters can be tested on-site, enabling prompt onsite water quality assessment to ensure water safety.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

Amid the many uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, I am heartened to see the team’s unwavering commitment and openness to innovate and to adopt technology to transform their work processes.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

We will continue to work towards smart automation incorporating artificial intelligence to transform not just the manual work processes, but also to create integrated and sophisticated platforms for water quality data management.

What are your priorities for 2021?

Over 500,000 of water quality tests are conducted annually at our laboratories and the number will continue to increase over time. While we push for automation whenever possible for less complicated testing, we need to continue to develop the science as well as to enhance the robustness of our methodology for compounds of emerging concern which often occur at extremely low levels in the aquatic environment. Developing and integrating automated platforms for laboratory analysis will continue to be one of my top priorities in 2021, as we continue to work towards the building of a SMART LAB of the future.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?

Never forget where you came from and just be yourself!

Write a message for your future self.

To the future me, please keep going, keep learning and continue to break new grounds!