Engineering solutions to water scarcity in Singapore.

Singapore, a small South East Asian country registered total sales of 664.5 million cubic meters of water in 2015. Out of this 664.5 million cubic meters of water, 514.7 million cubic meters were through sales of potable water, 124.8 million cubic meters were through sales of NEWater and 25 million cubic meters of water were through sales of Industrial water. This figure is expected to grow and water demand in Singapore currently stands at 430 million gallons a day. This is significant amount of water usage for a country the size of Singapore.


Singapore has four water taps which are used in meeting the water demand. Mainly, (1) Imported water from Johor, (2) Local catchment water, (3) desalinated water and (4) NEWater. Imported water makes up a substantial portion of the water used in Singapore. Receding water levels at Linggiu reservoir shows how vulnerable Singapore is in relying heavily on imported water. In November 2016, it was reported by the newspapers that the Linggiu Reservoir was down to 22% full. This poses a significant challenge for Singapore as Johor might not be able to meet our water needs if such circumstances continue to persist. As we battle for self-sufficiency in meeting water demand locally, it is important to note that Singapore-Malaysia has chosen not to renew the 1961 agreement for imported water from Johor. Since, the political will is weak, it is safer to assume that Singapore must become self-sufficient in her water needs by 2061 when the 1962 agreement expires.


The engineering contributions to becoming self-sustaining when it comes to water is as follows,

  • Building more desalination plants based on existing technology
  • Investing on research on water technology that also involves adsorption desalination.

Singapore’s fourth desalination plant is currently being built and the fifth one is in the pipeline. This engineering solution helps Singapore to survive even if we could not strike out an agreement with Malaysia. The second proposed solution includes investing in research and development on water technologies. In July 2016, the newspaper reported that an additional 200 million Singapore dollars will be injected over five years in research and technology into the water industry. This shows the commitment of the government of Singapore in R&D.

Flowing water in Ang Mo Kio -Bishan Park (One  of the major parks in Singapore)


The public and private sector must work together to achieve water self-sufficiency if we are to survive the next 50 years. In my next article, I will share some portions of adsorption desalination systems and how we could use it in Singapore.




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