Study on S'pore's water risks 'wrong'

Singapore's Macritchie Reservoir. A Washington-based World Resources Institute study showed Singapore may face severe water stress by 2020, but Asit Biswas, founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, said SIngapore would not have any water risk even by the year 2050.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE might have been ranked as the country in greatest danger of running out of water by 2040 in a global study, but the authorities and researchers here are studying new ways to expand the water supply.

In a report last week, Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) singled out 33 countries, including Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar, as those likely to face extremely high water stress in 2040, out of 167 nations.

The ranking was based on an index measuring competition for and depletion of surface water, such as lakes and rivers, each decade from 2020 to 2040. The study did not give details on why Singapore's water risks were deemed so dire.

But Asit Biswas, founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, called the report the "usual scaremongering report that the world is running out of water" and said that he is willing to bet that Singapore would not have any water risk even by 2050.

"As far as Singapore is concerned, my advice... is to throw the report in the wastepaper basket," said Professor Biswas, a distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

"There is no question that Singapore's water management will improve radically over the coming years as we see scientific, technological and managerial breakthroughs, and as Singapore uses increasingly more effective economic instruments and behavioural sciences approach to further improve its water management," he said.

Singapore plans to build more plants to produce treated seawater and Newater, to meet up to 80 per cent of its water demand by 2060. It is also expanding its rainwater catchment area from two-thirds to 90 per cent of the island by 2060.

National water agency PUB told The Straits Times it is looking into whether there are naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater under Singapore.

It also disclosed that it started a one-year project earlier this year to investigate the groundwater potential in the eastern part of Singapore.

It said: "(This project) will involve literature research and the development of a hydrogeological model for an old alluvium deposit in eastern Singapore.

"It will also look into successful measures implemented in other countries, where groundwater is a water source, to assess and mitigate potential risks associated with groundwater extraction."

PUB had said last year that it was studying the possibility of groundwater in western Singapore.

While it remains to be seen if underground water could be Singapore's fifth tap, after imports from Malaysia, Newater and treated seawater and rainwater, such aquifers could act as "water banks" for drought periods, PUB had said.

A team of global experts, including chief hydrogeologist Roy Herndon from the Orange County Water District in California - which has been extracting groundwater for decades - is advising PUB on this.

Tender for new desalination plant: PUB

TO MEET future water demand in the city area and strengthen the country's drought resilience, national water agency PUB will build a fourth desalination plant in Marina East.

The agency said yesterday that it will call a tender for the provision of professional engineering services for the desalination plant, which has a planned capacity of 30 million imperial gallons, or more than 136,000 cubic metres, per day.

Located near water demand zones in the city and eastern Singapore, it will also have the capability to treat freshwater from Marina Reservoir.

The tender will include a call for the engineering design to develop the plant under a Design-Build-Own-Operate arrangement.


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