Water use up 5 per cent; Government will review measures if trend persists

Singapore has been experiencing a dry spell over the past 2 weeks, hitting a record low level of rainfall for the longest time. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO 
Singapore has been experiencing a dry spell over the past 2 weeks, hitting a record low level of rainfall for the longest time. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO 

Daily water usage during the current dry spell has edged up again to 5 per cent above average now, and Singapore will have to "re-evaluate the adequacy of our current plans" if this trend continues, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on Friday.

He was responding in Parliament to MP David Ong (Jurong GRC), who asked at what point the country may have to consider water rationing, last seen in the 1960s, if the dry spell persists.

Average water consumption has now risen from 400 million gallons per day (mgd) to 420 mgd. This is up another 5 mgd from recent weeks.

Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that he does not see a need for water rationing in "the foreseeable future", as long as Singaporeans do their part to conserve water and cut usage.

Even so, he is "taking seriously" a suggestion he received from members of the public to conduct water rationing exercises. These would remind people about the value of water, he said, and allow them to rehearse the necessary procedure if rationing had to be instituted.

"On the one hand, we have what I define as a margin of safety (from desalinated water and Newater), but I'm also equally aware that conveying to Singaporeans (this) also carries a risk of complacency," he said.

The two desalination and four Newater plants here have been running at near-full capacity during the dry spell, providing 55 per cent of the country's water needs.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that despite the country's investments in desalination and Newater, imported water from Malaysia "remains an essential part" of Singapore's water supply. He noted that the more than $300 million Singapore spent to build Linggiu dam across Johor River in 1990 after Malaysia gave the go-ahead, has enabled the Republic to draw 250mgd of raw water even during this dry spell.

"All these additional investments have been a premium that we have paid for greater security and diversity of our water supply," he said.

Singapore aims to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2061, the year the second water agreement with Malaysia expires, he added. He reiterated Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam's remarks in parliament on Thursday that both countries have to honour the agreement.