PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia and Singapore need to take further steps to ensure supply of fresh water from the Johor River, despite a barrage across its mouth that has solved saltwater intrusion.
Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Friday (Dec 16) that the Linggiu dam, which channels water to treatment plants in the Johor river operated by both the state and Singapore's water agency PUB, was currently at 26 per cent.
"On the back of the dry monsoon season next year, it is probably not going to recover very quickly," he told reporters after an annual meeting with his Malaysian counterpart.
He said the barrage is now fully operational mechanically, although automatic deployment will begin only in March.
"What that means is that salinity intrusion has been solved. I have been monitoring and it is very effective. But the natural flow of the Johor River is not enough to meet the needs currently of the Johor population as well as the Singapore population should Linggiu dam fail," he said.
Mr Masagos said the prime ministers of both countries had agreed during their annual Leaders' Retreat on Tuesday to take "timely and appropriate measures" to augment the supply of natural water to the Johor river.
Although he did not reveal what measures would be taken, he said Malaysia and Singapore will look at "many schemes that have already been proposed", and decide based on technical feasibility, cost and speed of implementation.
The Straits Times reported in May that Johor is studying plans to divert water from two rivers to the Linggiu Reservoir to reduce water shortage that has hit the state in the last few years.
This year's dry spell has raised fears over whether Singapore can continue to rely on Malaysia for the agreed 250 million gallons per day (mgd), or nearly 60 per cent of its current freshwater needs.
Mr Masagos met Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar on Friday morning. Delegations from both governments discussed land reclamation works in the Strait of Johor and the progress made in combating haze in the region.
Both ministers told reporters that all stakeholders need to recognise that the ecology of the waterway is linked to the value of developments along the shared Strait of Johor, and it is in everyone's interest to take environmental concerns seriously.
Mr Masagos also said he was confident that the Asean roadmap on transboundary haze would lead to a "haze-free Asean" by 2020.