Our Water Policy in a Nutshell
ENSURING WATER SUPPLY FOR ALL
Singapore depends on four sources for its water supply – local catchment water, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water. Known as the Four National Taps, this diversified water supply strategy ensures Singaporeans of a robust supply of water for generations to come.
CONSERVING OUR WATER RESOURCES
As our population and economy continue to grow, we need to ensure that water demand does not rise at an unsustainable rate. We need to look at ways to manage demand and conserve our precious water resources, so that our water supply will be sustainable.
Our Main Plans
We ensure that potable water that is well within the Environmental Public Health (Water Suitable for Drinking) Regulations 2019 and World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines for drinking water quality is available to all in Singapore.
We rely on our Four National Taps to help ensure that our supply remains robust and sustainable at all times. In particular, NEWater and desalinated water are weather-resilient water sources and will help Singapore better cope with the threat of climate change.
On top of securing supply, we seek to reduce water consumption of both households and non-domestic sectors. We actively promote the use of water-efficient household fittings and appliances and continue to work with various non-domestic sectors to manage their water demand.
We encourage the community to improve their water-using habits and educate them on the implications of living in water catchment areas.
Our water resources also provide recreational spaces. Singaporeans are encouraged to take ownership of them while enjoying these resources.
Increasing Demand and Climate Change
The demand for water is expected to almost double in the next 40 years - a result of projected increases in industrial activity and population growth. Coupled with the uncertainty of weather patterns in the face of climate change, we cannot take it for granted that we will always have enough water.
In Singapore, we are lucky to have easy access to clean water from the taps. However, this also makes it easy for us to end up using more water than we really need. When clean water comes at the turn of a tap, it is easy to waste water without noticing.
Water wastage from pipes or water appliances often goes unnoticed as well. Loose tap fittings, malfunctioning toilet cisterns and leaking water pipes can all lead to a huge waste of water.
For instance, a typical leak from a kitchen can amount to 10,000 litres per year, which is over 6600 large bottles.
Steady Reduction in Water Consumption
Through PUB's long-term efforts in water conservation, Singapore's per capita household water consumption dropped from 165 litres per day in 2013 to 141 litres per day in 2019. We aim to reduce it to 130 litres per day by 2030.
Water Conservation Education and Outreach
PUB conducts community outreach efforts to raise awareness. The annual Water Conservation Awareness Programme sends volunteers to households with high water consumption to install water saving devices and share water saving tips. Participating households save up to 5% of their monthly water consumption. PUB’s 10% Challenge benefits the non-domestic sector by encouraging businesses to cut down 10% of their monthly water consumption, which also lowers their operational costs.
Preventing and Detecting Leaks
PUB replaces ageing water mains and pipes over the years to minimise leaks. Regular checks are also conducted on water meter readings to spot leaks.
Pricing Value to Reflect Its True Value
The use of sound economic principles in pricing water is important to keep demand and supply in balance. Under-pricing water leads to over-consumption. As such, the price of water in Singapore comprises what is needed to recover the cost of production and supply and a Water Conservation Tax to reflect the scarcity of water and the importance of conserving it.
Funding Water Efficient Measures
PUB’s Water Efficiency Fund (WEF) co-funds organisations, companies and community groups to implement water saving initiatives.
About Our Water Supply
A sunny island set in the sea, Singapore depends on rain as a natural source of water. We receive plenty of rain but we are constrained bu our land area which limits our storage space for water. Singapore has NO large rivers, natural springs or glaciers.
Through careful planning, we have been able to grow our water supply to meet our needs over the years. Nevertheless, we have to continue planning ahead, innovating and investing in research and development.
Water demand is expected to almost double over the next 40 years.
To meet this growing need, we have to tap on new sources of water and look into more efficient treatment processes.
The total number of reservoirs in Singapore is 17. Together with the Marina Reservoir, they increase the water catchment areas from half to two-thirds of Singapore.
The reservoirs are accompanied by 32 major rivers and more than 7000km of canals and drains for our water supply.
About Our Reservoirs
In land scarce Singapore, we have limited land to collect and store rainwater.
To make the best use of the rainfall we receive, the water catchment area in Singapore has been progressively expanded over the years. An extensive network of drains, canals, rivers and storm water ponds collects and channels rainwater to our reservoirs for storage.
Difficult to Create New Reservoirs
All major estuaries in Singapore have already been dammed up to create reservoirs. While we still have some untapped streams and rivulets near the coastline, they are too small to dam up as reservoirs.
Rainfall Patterns are Unpredictable
Climate change may affect rainfall patterns. This makes it difficult to make plans to meet the water needs of our population and economy.
Possible Pollution from Urban Development
Singapore’s small size means that much of our urban development is near or within water catchment areas. Many human activities produce pollutants that can be carried via the drainage system into our reservoirs when it rains.
Making Our Reservoirs Versatile
Apart from serving as water collection and storage spaces, our reservoirs also provide valuable recreational space.
Some reservoirs are now open to a variety of water sports such as canoeing, dragon-boating, kayaking and sailing.
Keeping Our Water Clean
We have put in place measures to keep our reservoirs clean. For example, an underground wall was built along the former Lorong Halus landfill, which forms part of the bank of Serangoon Reservoir. The wall prevents water from the landfill from seeping into the reservoir. Instead, this water is collected and treated on-site by passing them through specially selected reed beds and ponds, before it is discharged into the sewerage system.
Seeking Cooperation from Public and Private Sectors
We rely on everyone to help keep our water clean. Construction companies have to ensure that soil does not get washed into our drains from worksites and factories have to ensure that waste chemicals are not discharged into our drains. Individuals also have to help keep our drains, rivers and reservoirs clean by not littering.
About Our Waterways
Rainwater is an important source of water for Singapore and forms one of our Four National Taps.
Two-thirds of Singapore is currently water catchment area. Rainwater that falls within the water catchments is collected and channelled via a network of drains and stormwater canals to one of our 17 reservoirs for storage before being treated for potable use.
While we have separate systems to collect rainwater and used water, it is still a challenge to keep the rainwater we collect clean.
The increasingly urbanised nature of our water catchment areas means that rainwater runoff is at increasing risk of being polluted by things such as oil and silt.
Urbanisation also makes our waterways and reservoirs more accessible, exposing them to inconsiderate actions such as littering.
Contamination makes it more costly to process and supply clean water to our taps.
Our waterways are cleaned regularly. We use float booms and litter traps to prevent litter from entering our reservoirs. Beyond this, everyone has a part to play in keeping our waterways clean and free from pollutants.
Working Closely with Industries
PUB puts in place regulations for industry players to ensure that waste is properly disposed and substances such as silt and chemicals are not washed into waterways.
ABC Waters Programme
Our waterways and reservoirs have been transformed under PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters Programme into recreational spaces which people can value and enjoy. Certain design features such as plants can also help to clean the rainwater in our waterways.
Desalination is the removal of dissolved salt and minerals from seawater to make it potable.
Technological advances have made it viable for Singapore to use desalination as one of our Four National Taps since 2005. In Singapore, desalination is done through a process called reverse osmosis, which separates water from dissolved salts and minerals. As desalination is not dependent on rainfall, it makes our water supply more stable regardless of weather conditions.
Desalinated Water is Costly
Compared to treating rainwater to produce potable water, desalination is more energy-intensive and relies on advanced membrane technology. This makes desalination a relatively expensive option.
To ensure that our desalination processes are as energy-efficient as possible, reverse osmosis membrane technology is used as it is reliable and efficient. We are continuously seeking to reduce the energy consumption of desalination through investments in research and development.
Limiting The Impact On The Marine Environment
We closely monitor the quality of sea water surrounding our desalination plants to make sure there is minimal impact on the marine environment.
Our Beach Water Quality
Beach water is vulnerable to contamination from pollutants. During water activities at the beach, we will come into contact with seawater and may ingest it accidentally. Should the water quality be poor or contaminated this may lead to gastrointestinal and respiratory illness.
Many sources of pollution to monitor: Minor leakage from older sewers, Sea Animals and Discharges from moored vessels
Changing Tides Present Different Challenges
While our beaches are cleaned regularly, changing tidal conditions make the task more challenging. During the north-east and south-west monsoons, more floating refuse and debris is washed ashore from the open sea. This requires greater effort in removal.
Beach Goers Must Play Their Part
While beach goers enjoy their time at the beach, they should take care not to leave rubbish behind when they leave, which could contribute to the pollution of beach water.
Water samples are collected and tested by NEA weekly at monitored recreational beaches. These tests help ensure that our beach water quality meets our recreational water quality guidelines.
Singapore's recreational water quality guidelines are adopted from World Health Organisation guidelines for Safe Recreational Waters. The local guidelines were established in 2008 after a careful study of the WHO guidelines, analysis of data gathered over a few years, and consultation and collaboration with other relevant agencies.
NEA also has regular cleaning regimes for our beaches.
High Standards Upheld
For the past few years, five out of six recreational beaches monitored by NEA were assessed to be suitable for primary contact activities such as swimming and wakeboarding.
The water quality at Pasir Ris beach did not meet the recreational water guidelines in the past but has since improved in 2011 to achieve the 'Good' standard.
Since 27 Jan 2012, Pasir Ris beach has joined five other popular recreational beaches where the water quality is suitable for beach goers and water activities.
We have an extensive drainage system comprising 8,000km of drains, rivers and canals that channel rainwater to our reservoirs or the sea. Most times, our drains are able to cope with the rain that we receive. However, intense bouts of rainfall can sometimes exceed the capacity that the drains are designed for, resulting in flash floods. These floods are localised and generally subside in under an hour.
Reviewing Our Drainage System
In recent years, weather and rainfall patterns have become increasingly unpredictable. While our drainage system has served us well for decades, we need to examine our options carefully to see how else we can expand or improve on it to cope with these new challenges.
Preparing Ourselves Against Damage
The Ministry recognises that flash floods can be very disruptive. We have put in place measures to protect human safety as well as work with building and property owners to ensure that their premises have sufficient flood protection to limit the dangers.
Safety A Top Concern
The Ministry has made human safety top priority. We have installed railings at more open drains, especially in flood-prone and low-lying areas, among other measures to protect public safety.
Experts Reviewed Drainage Planning Norms and Flood Protection Measures
On June 30, 2011, the Ministry appointed an Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures to conduct an in-depth review of our drainage system, management approach and flood protection measures.
The Ministry and PUB have accepted the panel's recommendations, released in January 2012. The recommendations include implementing a wider range of drainage solutions and improving the flood warning system.
The full report and PUB's response can be found here.
Flood Prone Areas Reduced
Despite increased urbanisation - which increases the likelihood of flooding, we have greatly reduced flood prone areas. Through ongoing drainage improvement works, PUB has further reduced flood prone areas to 30.5 hectares in 2016.
The Related Laws
PUBLIC UTILITIES ACT (Cap 261)
SEWERAGE AND DRAINAGE ACT (Cap 294)
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT ACT (Cap 94A)
ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH ACT (Cap 95)