‘Significant risk’ Linggiu Reservoir may dry out this year: Vivian Balakrishnan

There is a “significant risk” that the water supply from Johor’s Linggiu Reservoir may run out in 2017 if it turns out to be a dry year, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday (Jan 9).

In a written Parliamentary reply to Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC Seah Kian Peng, Dr Balakrishnan said the water level at the reservoir stood at 27 per cent as of Jan 1. Should it drop to zero, this could cause “severe problems” for both Singapore and Malaysia, he added.

According to the 1962 Water Agreement between the two countries, Singapore water agency PUB has the exclusive right to draw up to 250 million gallons (mgd) of water from the Johor River each day. In return, Johor is entitled to buy treated water of the same volume as up to 2 per cent of the water extracted by Singapore on any given day, or about 5 mgd if Singapore draws its full entitlement of water from the Johor River.

Dr Balakrishnan said that out of goodwill, Singapore had in practice supplied the Malaysian state with treated water in excess of Johor’s entitlement, even during dry weather when PUB was unable to abstract the full 250 mgd it was entitled to daily.

In fact, Singapore had been regularly supplying Johor with 16 mgd of treated water in addition to a further 5 to 6 mgd of treated water on a case-by-case basis at Johor’s request, the minister said.

Even though a new barrage at the river became operational last August to keep out salinity intrusions, the river is unable to sustain abstractions from both PUB and Johor’s Semangar and Loji Air water treatment plants, which are upstream of PUB’s waterworks and also draw from the river.

Hence, the minister said PUB has been discharging more water from the Linggiu Reservoir to support the current rate of abstraction. As a result, water levels at the reservoir have dropped from 84 per cent at the start of 2015, to 49 per cent at the start of 2016, and the lowest recorded level of 20 per cent in October last year.

Should the Linggiu Reservoir completely dry up, there will be many more occasions when PUB will be unable to abstract the 250 mgd that it is entitled to daily, Dr Balakrishnan said.

According to Dr Balakrishnan, the Government is watching the situation closely given the importance of Linggiu Reservoir to Singapore’s overall water supply. It has also raised the matter with the Malaysian government, most recently during the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat on Dec 13 last year.

The minister said that Singapore will cooperate with Malaysia to achieve a “mutually beneficial outcome”.

“The senior officials of our water ministries will discuss and identify possible solutions. Our agencies have an excellent working relationship, and will continue to work closely together to sustain our water supply,” he added.

Retrieved from Channel News Asia