Singapore threatened by water shortages

Bedok reservoir in Singapore. Source: Wikimedia

Johor’s Linggiu reservoir, which provides Singaporeans with half of their water supply, has fallen to a historic low and if the dry spell continues, the risk of a disruption to the supply remains high.

Citizens are being encouraged to cut down on water use but businesses and construction sites are accused of paying little attention.

Singaporean Patrick Tan Siong Kuan said: “Every day, when I drive past a construction site in Outram Road, I see workers holding a hose with water running continuously, waiting to wash the dirt off the trucks before they exit the construction site.

“Most public toilets in Singapore are now equipped with auto-flush cisterns. Some of the sensors are set so sensitively that any slight movement will trigger an auto-flush … this means a pure waste of water.”

Johor will continue to meet its obligation to supply 250 million gallons of water to Singapore per day, even though the Malaysian state is suffering from a drought that is leading to water rationing in some areas, a leading civil servants said.

Johor State’s Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Hasni Mohammad told Malaysia’s Star newspaper that the state would still be able to meet the city state’s water needs despite falling reservoir levels.

“We will still be able to meet Singapore’s needs despite the drop,” he reportedly said.

The Separation Agreement guarantees Singapore the right to draw 250 million gallons per day from the Johor River until the deal expires in 2061.

To ensure a sustainable supply, the Linggiu reservoir was built on the upper reaches of the River Johor.

The reservoir collects and releases rainwater into the river, pushing seawater towards the coast and ensuring that the water is not too salty to be treated by the Singapore-run water treatment plant in the Malaysian state.

Linggiu is just over one-third full. Last October, levels in the reservoir fell to a low of 40 per cent and now the current 35 per cent while the level was 80 per cent early last year.

Hasni said the authorities would conduct cloud seeding around dams and a crackdown on those drawing water illegally.

“We will take stern action against those found drawing water illegally from the water catchment areas, including charging them with trespassing on state-owned land,” he told the media.

He said large-scale vegetable farmers had been asked to look for alternative water sources.

“We are also closely watching whether animal breeders and factories draw water illegally,” Hasni said.

He said the RM90 million Johor barrage scheme to reduce salinity in the river would be fully operational in the next few months, allowing water to be taken from the river without saltwater intruding into treatment plants.

Singapore’s Johor consulate said the city state had been cooperating over the projects.