Singapore says can meet water needs ‘if need be’ before Malaysia supply ends
KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Singapore will be able to sustain its own water needs ahead of its 2061 target when its 99-year agreement with Malaysia expires “if need be”, Bloomberg reported today, citing industry experts from the city state.
The international business wire quoted the republic’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) chief executive Chew Men Leong as saying that the country’s domestic supply systems already produced 40 per cent of the 380 million gallons of water that its 5.2 million populace use daily.
A downtown dam adds a further 10 per cent to that total, Chew told Bloomberg, while the remainder comes from its reservoirs and imports from Malaysia.
But Chew also estimated that Singapore’s requirement will exceed an estimated 700 million gallons in 50 years when its water agreement with Malaysia expires, which is equivalent to more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
“We have made progress to the point that we are now much more confident in terms of water security and sustainability,” the former naval chief was quoted as saying during his interview with Bloomberg last Friday that was released today.
“If you’re asking me this question about when will we ever get self-sufficiency, I will put it this way that we can be self-sufficient if need be,” he added.
Singapore has had to depend on Malaysia for a large portion of its water needs for decades, with the first of its four contracts signed as far back as 1927.
Disputes over the water supply agreements have overshadowed bilateral ties for many years.
“The water strategy goes back to Lee Kuan Yew with respect to making sure that Singapore, which initially was reliant upon imported water from Malaysia, that it not be put in a position where it was not able to depend on that source as a reliable supply,” CDM Smith Inc executive vice-president Paul Brown told Bloomberg.
CDM Smith designed the Marina Barrage, a dam in Singapore that holds water from the Marina Bay and the Singapore River.
Both Singapore and Malaysia are currently waiting out a final supply contract that expires in 2061, which sees Singapore paying three sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water and rent for land in Johor where its Linggui Dam extracts water from the Johor River.
This accord effectively gives Singapore about 250 million gallons of raw water daily.
To become self-sufficient ahead of the contract’s 2061 deadline, Malaysia’s regional neighbour has been spending some S$600 million (RM1.5 billion) to S$800 million annually since 2006 on new technologies to boost water supply.
In 2003, Singapore started its first wastewater recycling plant which has been labelled “NEWater” and according to previous media reports, four of these plants contribute to at least 15 per cent of the island’s water demand.
Quoting Chew, Bloomberg reported that the city’s desalination plants now produce 10 per cent of water in Singapore and is estimated to increase to 30 per cent in 50 years.
“NEWater is mainly for industrial purposes such as cooling machines and factory processes, and will make up 50 per cent of supply by 2061,” the wire wrote.
The boost in Singapore’s water industry has also helped draw more businesses into the city state, Bloomberg reported, noting that multinationals like General Electric Co and Siemens AG have parked investments there while local water companies like Hyflux Ltd have expanded abroad.
“Water is a priority area for Singapore, and this has set the tone and direction for water management in the country,” Hyflux chief executive officer Olivia Lum was quoted as saying.
Hyflux developed the Singapore’s first desalination plant and is building similar projects in China and Algeria, the wire reported.
“Here, water is an issue of life and death. That’s always been the message,” Chew was quoted as saying.