How High’s the Water, Mama? A Reflection on Water Resource Education in Singapore, pp. 2 of 33

Although the event occurred half a world away and decades ago, the themes of the song resonate with the Singapore of today (in addition to being a pertinent lesson for our Geography curriculum). Chang and Irvine (2014) noted Singaporeans have become particularly sensitised to flooding as the result of the costly events that occurred in 2001, 2006, 2007, and 2010. Singapore certainly has a more advanced flood monitoring system than Johnny Cash’s boyhood Arkansas, with the Public Utilities Board (PUB) maintaining a network of 166 water level sensors in drainage canals and rivers that update every 5 minutes and more than 40 of these sites also have CCTVs (Figure 1). The fact remains, regardless of the technology, communities are interested in monitoring flood levels as an element of risk management. In becoming a nation, Singaporeans faced a great deal of adversity. Just as Johnny Cash’s family weathered the adversity of flooding to reap the benefits from a bumper crop of cotton, so too has Singapore weathered adversity, to the extent that according to IMF statistics its per capita GDP (adjusted by purchasing power parity) was some $28,000 greater than the U.S. in 2014.

Water is essential. It plays an irreplaceable role in the ecological hierarchy, ranging in spatial scale from protein folding, to terrestrial ecosystem primary production, to biome distribution (Rosenzweig, 1968; Sala et al., 1988; Chaplin, 2001; 2006; Fisenko and Malomuzh, 2009). It is a driver of the rock cycle by catalysing chemical and mechanical weathering (White and Blum, 1995; Matsuoka, 2001). It has a psychological significance in human well-being (White et al., 2010) and can positively or negatively impact human health (Bartram and Cairncross, 2010). Many have discussed the strategic importance of water, although there is disagreement as to the likelihood of water wars (Wolf, 1998; Swain, 2001; Allan, 2002; Amery, 2002; Poff et al., 2003; Yoffe et al., 2003). Certainly, the transboundary nature of a resource that flows from upstream to downstream, not recognizing political borders, present complicated challenges to management (Harris et al., 1987; Mackenzie, 1997; Bernauer, 2002; Keskinen et al., 2007; Irvine et al., 2010). The characteristics of flow, temporal and spatial variability, and interactions between human and physical systems very much make water a topic of interest in geographic studies.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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