Johor makes water pledge despite drought

Water pipes are visible on the Singapore-Johor Causeway. Source: Wikimedia

The minister in charge of public works for Johor State in Malaysia has assured Singapore that water supplies would not be interrupted despite shortages.

Johor’s public works, rural and regional development committee chairman Hasni Mohammad said the state would respect its 1962 agreement between Malaysia and Singapore.

Under the 1962 Water Agreement, the Malaysian border state buys purified water back from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, a fraction of the cost to Singapore of treating the water, which includes building and maintaining the water-purification installations.

“Under the agreement, we have to supply 250 million gallons of water at three sen per litre to Singapore daily. Even though the selling price does not make sense, given the current environment, it is stipulated under the agreement,” he said. It is a 100-year agreement.

Hasni said Johor State was being urged to stop supplying water to Singapore to address its own shortages.

In August 2015, Singapore temporarily raised the amount of potable water supplied to Johor from the usual 16 million gallons to 22 million, to counteract a dry spell.

“The first 50 years of the agreement had already ended with Singapore handing the Pontian and Gunung Pulai reservoirs back to us in 2011,” Hasni said.

The state, meanwhile, needed central government assistance to replenish its supplies beyond 2018, he said. “We must meet the demand… for development and investment being poured into the area, especially for Johor Baru and Pasir Gudang,” he said.

“We have asked for an allocation of RM660 million (US$161 million) under the 11th Malaysia Plan to build a new dam at Sungai Ulu Sedili,” he added. The plan is a five-year economic blueprint prepared by the federal government.

Hasni had said that water rationing near Johor Baru and Pasir Gudang that could affect around 800,000 residents might be introduced before June although the newly arrived rains might relieve the crisis, Malay Mail Online said. Water rationing is already affecting around 85,000 residents of Mersing and Kota Tinggi districts.

Singaporean Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced in April that city-staters should increase efforts to conserve water with rationing hitting several Malaysian states and a new low level of 35 per cent reached at Johor’s Linggiu Reservoir, which meets half of Singapore’s needs.