Cost of supplying water has more than doubled: PUB

Two workers inspecting the reverse osmosis trains at Singapore's fifth Newater plant at Changi, on Jan 16, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The cost of developing and operating Singapore's water supply system has more than doubled in 15 years.

In 2000, it cost about $500 million to run the system, national water agency PUB said yesterday. This included water treatment, reservoir operations, Newater production, desalination, used-water collection and treatment, and the maintenance of water pipelines. By 2015, the cost had risen to $1.3 billion.

Citing the figures following media queries, the PUB said: "(The) water price needs to be raised to reflect rising costs."

The price of water has been a hot topic since Monday, when Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech that water prices will be raised by 30 per cent to reflect the true costs of supplying water. The hike is the first in 17 years, and will be implemented in two phases: July 1 this year and July 1 next year.

Singaporeans have questioned the timing of the increase as it comes amid an economic slowdown.

Yesterday, the PUB said that since the last price increase in 2000, the cost of treating and supplying water has been going up.

The resources needed for the task, such as chemicals, materials and manpower, have become more expensive over the years, said the water agency.

It also has to rely on more costly methods to develop Singapore's water system, as the environment becomes increasingly urbanised, the PUB added.

For instance, it can no longer just dig trenches to lay water pipes underground. As Singapore becomes more built up, it has to use pipe-jacking, a more expensive method which involves assembling pipes into shafts and then pushing them into position with a hydraulic jack.

From 2000 to 2015, the PUB also invested $7 billion in water infrastructure, it said.

The agency expects to spend another $4 billion on such infrastructure from this year to 2021, to meet growing demand and boost the resilience of the water system, especially to face the challenges posed by climate change.

Currently, about 430 million gallons of water are used daily. Homes account for 45 per cent of demand and the non-domestic sector, the rest.

A Newater conservation tax, which will be 10 per cent of the Newater tariff, will be imposed on industrial users to encourage conservation from July 1 .

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline Cost of supplying water has more than doubled: PUB. Subscribe