Water levels at Linggiu Reservoir still low

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 16;

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli (centre, in blue) attending a focus group session on water at The Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay yesterday. Participants gave suggestions on how Singaporeans can be encouraged to conserve water.

Water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor - a major supply source to Singapore - are now at about 49 per cent, despite the start of the north-east monsoon season last month.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli revealed the figure yesterday, saying: "At the beginning of 2015, it was about 80 per cent... At 50 per cent, it is quite a precarious number, because starting at that level, if we are ever hit with a long spell of lack of rain again, the Linggiu Reservoir water level can fall all the way down.

"The weather is something we can't control and, unfortunately, the rain does not always fall where you want it to."

He was speaking to reporters after a discussion about water for future generations, organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. It is part of the series of SGfuture engagement sessions.

Dry weather has caused a steady depletion of water in Linggiu Reservoir over the last year. In August, water levels dropped to 54 per cent capacity before dipping to a record low of 43 per cent in November.

In 1994, Singapore built the reservoir upstream of the Johor River, to collect and release rainwater and to push sea water back into the sea. This ensures that the river water is not too salty to be treated by the Singapore-run treatment plant there.

The Republic can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) from the river - meeting up to 60 per cent of its current needs.

Mr Masagos said the Republic is working with Malaysia to ensure that its obligation of supplying Singapore with 250 mgd is met.

About 50 participants from non- governmental organisations, government agencies and members of the public gathered for yesterday's session at the The Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay.

Participants gave suggestions on how Singaporeans can be encouraged to conserve water, which they felt many take for granted here.

Some suggested introducing water rationing exercises or increasing the price of water so that Singaporeans would be more mindful of their water usage.

Ms Chai Ning, 20, who is doing environmental studies at the National University of Singapore, said that schools could look into installing water meters to show how much is being used and at what cost.

"Singaporeans are very spoilt, in the sense that water is so easily available," she said.

"Many of us are not aware of the amount of water we use."

Singapore's current water demand stands at 400 mgd - enough to fill 730 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

By 2060, total water demand is expected to double, with the non-domestic sector making up 70 per cent of total demand.


Dialogue session brings up ideas to conserve water
About 40 participants at a dialogue session on water conservation have suggested ways to help to save water.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 25 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Some ideas raised at a dialogue on water conservation on Sunday (Jan 24) included increasing the price of water, or equipping homes with devices to monitor water usage.

The dialogue involved about 40 youths, members of non-governmental organisations and industry leaders. The session, hosted by Environment and Water Resources ministry, is part of the ongoing SGfuture conversations, which provides Singaporeans with a platform to come together to share their views, aspirations and ideas for the future.

Singapore consumes 400 million gallons of water daily, the equivalent of 730 Olympic-sized swimming pools. About 45 per cent of this is from domestic use, as the average Singaporean uses 150 litres of water a day. Industries make up the remaining 55 per cent of demand.

At the dialogue, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that the nation needs to look at how it can cope with water demands in the long run, alongside the challenges of climate change.

Some solutions which participants came up with included equipping households with devices to view water consumption patterns in real-time. Some proposed educating the younger generation who have never undergone water rationing as well.

"Even though subconsciously we do think that it is important, but we don't really feel the pinch and the need, the very urgent need to save water when it comes out of taps so I think the solution to that is really how to bring the cost more upfront, like real-time scenarios of what happens when there is no water,” explained Chai Ning, a participant at the dialogue session.

There was also a proposal to increase the price of water. Currently, PUB charges S$2 for every 1,000 litres of water.

Said Ashokan Ramakrishnan, a participant: "In my home, water is the lowest cost item in my utility bills. And at that point, it's such a low amount it's difficult to make change. If there is a higher cost, it will force people to a point of discomfort and force us to change. The challenge here is around helping people understand how much they use and with that data available, people can make their own choices on how they want to change."

However, that is not a path the government wants to take.

"I hope we don't have to take tougher measures. But certainly like the episode the haze gave to us where air has always been free and then when it becomes polluted for a long time, we suddenly become more aware of how valuable it has been,” said Mr Masagos.

“We are pricing our water based on the long run marginal cost and because of that and the sources of supply, we are able to price it as cheap as possible, in fact, it is really cheap and therefore unfortunately because it is really cheap, people don't understand or cannot connect to the value it brings to us."

The ministry hopes sessions like these will spark more ground-up initiatives so citizens can take ownership of their water needs.

- CNA/xq

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