Strategic approach to water-planning crucial: DPM Teo

The price of water will rise by 30 per cent in two phases, from July 1, and the hike has drawn concern from residents and businesses.
The price of water will rise by 30 per cent in two phases, from July 1, and the hike has drawn concern from residents and businesses. PHOTO: ST FILE

It will ensure water remains available and affordable to every family in Singapore

Holding up a 330ml bottle of water which costs under $1 from a store, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the same amount of money will pay for 1,000 bottles of tap water, even after the recently announced price hike.

That water is readily available here and at a price affordable to every family is testament to the planning and investments Singapore has made over the years.

The cost of water here is comparable to that in major cities in developed countries with large rivers and lakes to draw from, said Mr Teo, who explained the need for current and future generations to learn the value of water and understand how it is critical to Singapore's survival and independence.

Water from Malaysia now meets half the island's water needs. But Mr Teo noted how Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which feeds into the Johor River from which Singapore draws its supply, is only a third full.

"This water source is under stress," he said. "So we must prepare, psychologically, to face water shortages if the Linggiu Reservoir dries up, and our reservoirs here also face a very dry year."

The price of water will rise by 30 per cent in two phases, from July 1, and the hike has drawn concern from residents and businesses.

Last week, three ministers explained in Parliament how water is a matter of national security, and has to be priced right to reflect its strategic importance and scarcity.

Yesterday, at the launch of Singapore's month-long celebration of World Water Day at Marina Barrage, Mr Teo put it more starkly.

"Our struggle to make sure our people have water, is the struggle for Singapore's survival and independence," he said. "To make sure that we could survive, preserve our independence and thrive, we have taken a strategic approach to planning for water supply."

This entailed planning early for future sources, and Singapore prepared well before its first water agreement with Malaysia expired in 2011. It included expanding catchment areas and building reservoirs where other cities would not have thought possible, including "this Marina Reservoir right in the middle of our city", he said, referring to the Barrage.

This was "so that we would not be held to ransom", he stressed. He pointed out that 2011 "passed almost unnoticed in Singapore" with no disruption in water supply, and no big price shocks.

Likewise, Singapore must make investments for 2061, when the second water agreement ends, added Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security. "For the 16 years from 2000 to 2015, we invested $7 billion in water infrastructure, or about $430 million every year. This will almost double to $800 million every year from 2017 to 2021... This will fund major investments in desalination and Newater plants, new and renewal of water pipes and pumps so that the fresh clean water flows into every home when we turn on our taps."

At the same time, middle- and lower-income households will continue to get help to offset the price hike, he added. For instance, a family in a four-room HDB flat will get $300 in U-Save rebates this year.

Describing the water story as the story of Singapore, one written and passed down by the pioneer generation, he said: "Water is precious. Water is survival. Water is life. Water is freedom and independence. Make every drop count."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Strategic approach to water-planning crucial: DPM Teo'. Print Edition | Subscribe