Price of water will go up to ensure sustainable supply

Mr Masagos Zulkifli was shown the Tuas Desalination Plant 3 facility by Mr Hew Kit San (right), on Feb 7, 2017.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli was shown the Tuas Desalination Plant 3 facility by Mr Hew Kit San (right), on Feb 7, 2017. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Details of first price increase in 17 years to be included in upcoming Budget, says Masagos

For the first time in 17 years, Singapore residents will have to pay more for water, as the nation seeks to ensure long-term water security.

Details of the increase in water prices for both domestic and non-domestic users will be in the upcoming Budget to be announced on Feb 20, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

He said on a visit to Singapore's partially completed third desalination plant in Tuas yesterday that water has to be priced correctly to ensure a sustainable supply and reflect the scarcity of the resource.

The tariffs for domestic potable water, calculated monthly, stand at $1.17 per cubic m for the first 40 cubic m, and $1.40 per cubic m thereafter, excluding taxes.

 

The last price increases were introduced progressively between 1997 and 2000, when tariffs went up by 20 per cent to 100 per centon a sliding scale depending on usage.

 

The cost of producing and supplying water has increased, because of reliable but more expensive methods such as desalination and the need to renew ageing infrastructure like old production plants and pipes.

"In many countries where it is not priced properly, the water ministry is not able to recoup cost enough to build new assets to replace old assets, and sometimes, assets are just left in disrepair to the extent that even though they may have water, the water cannot get to where it is needed," said Mr Masagos.

"Water is a very critical asset that we have to take care of."

Experts have long called for the relatively inexpensive water prices to be raised in Singapore, as this would encourage people to reduce consumption.

Mr Masagos also noted the importance of diversifying water production methods. "If there is a more prolonged dry season affecting the region, Linggiu will actually run out in about two years. And therefore, we always must be ready to ensure that we have enough assets... to supply water to Singapore."

The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor supplies Singapore with up to 250 million gallons of water a day under an agreement with Johor.

Mr Masagos said that even in a worst-case scenario, Singapore should not need to resort to water rationing, due to its diversified sources.

Desalinated water is the most expensive of Singapore's four National Taps - with the other three being imported water, water from local reservoirs and Newater - given the energy needed to extract salt from seawater at high pressure.

Nonetheless, said Mr Young Joo Chye, director of engineering development and procurement at national water agency PUB, it remains a key pillar of Singapore's water supply strategy. "As a source of water that is independent of rainfall, it bolsters the reliability of our water supply against prolonged periods of dry spells and droughts."

Two desalination plants are now in operation here, meeting up to 25 per cent of Singapore's water demand of 430 million gallons per day. Desalination will meet up to 30 per cent of demand by 2030, when at least five plants are expected to be operational.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Price of water will go up to ensure sustainable supply'. Print Edition | Subscribe