10 Facts About Water in S’pore ‘Coz Everyone’s Talking About It

Image: Nuttawut Uttamaharad / Shutterstock.com

As a wise man/woman once said, “Water is life”.

#deep.

Image: Brainy Quote

In Singapore, the importance of H20 is multiplied by a million. And if you multiply that by 250 and add the word ‘gallons’, you’ll get the amount we’re fully entitled to draw from the Johore River every day under the 1962 Water Agreement

If you’re bad at math, that’s 250 million gallons.

But hey, we’re not gonna focus on that today. Not entirely anyway. Instead, giving you 10 facts about water in S’pore.

So the next time your peers/family/colleagues start talking about this recurring contentious issue (I mean, let’s be real, this happened before and will happen again), you’ll know what they’re talking about, and be able to join in the discussion:

1. Water demand in Singapore is currently enough to fill 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Image: Rudmer Zwerver / Shutterstock.com

It makes sense, given our densely populated nation of about 5.9 million.

And that Singapore is so hot, we need to consume even more water to replenish all the fluids lost through excessive sweating (I’m looking at you, random guy from MRT).

About 45% of the water demand comes from homes (i.e. us), whilst the non-domestic sector consumes the remaining 55%.

This demand is set to almost double by 2060, just one year before our second water agreement with Malaysia expires, which makes it even more critical that Singapore is able to put in place new water infrastructure before the contract expires.

So that we have sufficient water for future generations.

2. S’pore has 4 national taps from which we draw water.

Self-sufficiency is in our blood. As a small city state with little to no natural resources,  self-reliance is our roadmap to survival. Since the early nation-building years, we’ve built a diversified, sustainable supply of water from four water sources:

Image: PUB

Granted, more than half of our daily water supply is currently fulfilled by the water imported from Malaysia.

But by 2060 that’s set to change, with PUB looking to make sure 85% of S’pore’s water demand will be met by NEWater (highly purified used water) and desalinated water (treated seawater) instead.

3. SG tap water is safe to drink. 

Despite the horror stories we’ve heard about bodies in water tanks, S’pore’s water is confirm-plus-chop safe to drink from the tap.

Rooftop water tanks are checked at least once a year by PUB, all water from reservoirs is treated and purified, and water quality is well within World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.

If you’re not so kiasu, you can even drink SG tap water without further filtration or boiling.

Image: Thinking Meme

4. We’re the Jedi Masters of the global water industry.

As the leading global hydrohub, we’re recognised experts in developing innovative products and solutions to manage water demand using cutting edge technology.

We often even share our water sustainability solutions with other countries and engage in international collaborations to advance their water and environment programs.

In fact, countries such as the Philippines and India have since adopted our “circular water approach”, reusing and recycling wastewater (i.e. NEWater) to meet their local water demand.

So it’s not just us drinking pee water, eh. 

5. We have signed 4 water agreements with Malaysia.

Let’s just all sit down and talk, like civilised people (doesn’t this line sound familiar?).

We’ve usually only heard about the 1961 (which expired in 2011) and 1962 (which expires in 2061) water agreements, but did you know S’pore has actually signed 2 other pacts with Malaysia before?

The first was in 1927 but was later declared void when the 1961 agreement came into force. The other was signed in 1990, as an add-on to the 1962 agreement, and is set to expire in 2061 as well.

6. The 1990 agreement adds to the capacity of the Johore River.

Not sure how that works?

TLDR; Singapore paid for the construction of a regulatory reservoir that releases rainwater into the Johore River during dry spells and high tide (Linggiu Reservoir), and for use of the land to build the reservoir.

This basically increases the water yield from the Johore River so no drop of water (from the 250 million gallons we’re entitled to) is wasted. Because we’ll always be able to reliably extract water from the river.

A for effort.

Image: Me.me

7. The 1961 and 1962 water agreements were guaranteed since S’pore gained independence from Malaysia.

Let’s just address the elephant in the room (google keywords “Bloomberg” and “Mahathir” lest you’re unaware of the whole fiasco).

Fact is, the water agreements were and still are part of the Separation Agreement that both countries are obliged to honour. And neither country has the power to change the terms on their own.

The time to review prices has passed (that was in 1986 and 1987), so that ship has long sailed. Moving on with life.

Image: quickmeme.com

8. S’pore provides Johore with treated water daily in exchange for the imported supply of water. 

Once upon a time, S’pore supplied Johore with treated water. The volume was up to 12% of raw water drawn from Gunong Pulai, Sungei Tebrau and Sungei Scudai (in the expired 1961 agreement).

Today, we still provide treated water (but only up to 2%) in exchange for the raw water supplied from the Johore river. The Johore River Waterworks is owned by none other than PUB and is located near Kota Tinggi in Johore.

9. Per capita household water consumption went down from 2003 to 2017.

Sounds fantastic, but hold up, it’s not a free ticket to start taking 40-minute showers several times a day. Because our target for water consumption is even lower than it is now (PUB aims to reduce consumption from 143 to 140 litres by 2030).

It might not feel like we have a water problem now, but managing water demand is as important as securing water supply, and adopting better water saving habits will also be important in making sure our future generations even have water.

10. Rivers, canals and reservoirs have been beautified to encourage citizens to better appreciate water as a resource.

Fun fact #1: It took 10 years to clean up the Singapore River to become the world-famous attraction it is today.

Fun fact #2: there are in total 17 reservoirs, 5 NEWater plants, and 2 desalinated water plants as of today.

Image: PUB

Ok so the second fun fact isn’t that fun lah, but my point is, next time you have nothing to do, consider heading out to one of these water bodies for some pretty awesome recreational options. Take some time to really get to know water, and learn to cherish and love it.

Start at Marina Barrage or Macritchie Reservoir for great first date options with water.

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Lean Jinghui

Lean Jinghui

Life is short and the world is wide, so this girl wants to try out everything at least once in life. She‘s a self-proclaimed professional (ok la aspiring to be) wanderer/backpacker, and believes coffee and wine are a sacred gift to mankind.
Lean Jinghui