Water conflicts between Malaysia and Singapore

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Singapore and Malaysia have a long-standing conflict over water supplies.


20th century[edit]

The first water agreement was signed between Sultan Ibrahim II the Sultan of Johor and the Municipal Commissioners of the Town of Singapore on 5 December 1927, under the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. It is no longer in force.

On 1 September 1961, the Federation of Malaya signed an agreement giving Singapore the right to draw up to 86 million imperial gallons (390,000 m3) of water per day collectively from the Tebrau River, the Skudai River, the Pontian Reservoir, and the Gunung Pulai Reservoir, with effect through 2011. On 29 September 1962, a further agreement was signed providing Singapore the right to draw up to 250 million imperial gallons (1,100,000 m3) per day from the Johor River, with effect until 2061. Both agreements stipulated the price of 3 Malaysian cents per 1,000 imperial gallons (4,500 L).

21st century[edit]

The Malaysian government has stated[when?] that the agreements were signed in a different time and that the price should increase. It cites the example of water sold by China to Hong Kong in the past, which was approximately US$5.8 per 1,000 imperial gallons (4,500 L).[1] However, this price comparison is not directly applicable because while Hong Kong has borne the cost of constructing the infrastructure and China has borne the cost of maintaining to provide water to Hong Kong, Singapore paid for all the costs of the reservoirs in Johor, the dams, pipelines, plant, equipment, etc., and Singapore paid all costs of operating and maintaining the infrastructure.

On 31 August 2011, the 2011 water agreement expired, and the waterworks and facilities were handed over to the Johor state government. The handover included the Skudai and Gunung Pulai water treatment plants, which were built by the Public Utilities Board and managed by them for 50 years, as well as two pump houses in Pontian and Tebrau.[2]

Water self-sufficiency[edit]

Malaysia is a reliable provider of water to Singapore but has used threats of cutting off the water supply to pressure Singapore politically. Seeking greater independence and freedom from such pressures, Singapore has pursued an expensive strategy of water self-sufficiency.

As of 2003, about 40% of Singapore's water came from Malaysia.[citation needed] The proportion has been decreasing as Singapore has pursued its Four Tap Strategy of sourcing water from rainwater, recycling, desalination, and importation.

By 2010, Singapore had constructed five Newater plants, a desalination plant and a new water barrage to increase rainwater supply. The Newater/desalination plants have the capability to supply 40% of Singapore's water needs as at 2010. The limit of rainwater catchment had a second and larger desalination plant constructed in 2013.[needs update]

Singapore's water needs are anticipated to double in the next 50 years. Planned Newater output will triple to meet 50% of needs by year 2060 whilst desalination investment will raise output to meet 30% of needs. By the expiry of the 1962 water agreement in 2061, the necessity for Malaysia water import should be eliminated.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]