How High’s the Water, Mama? A Reflection on Water Resource Education in Singapore, pp. 6 of 33

As discussed by Chang and Irvine (2014), an important test of the resiliency of Singapore’s water system came in January and February, 2014. In the 61 days between 14 January to 16 March 2014, Singapore experienced an unusually dry period where the overall rainfall was 0.2 mm at the Changi Meteorological Station (NOAA Satellite and Information Service, 2015).  The National Environmental Agency (NEA) called it the driest February since 1869 (Straits Times). Annual mean rainfall in Singapore is approximately 2,343 mm and February (the driest month) normally is 160 mm. The same drought also impacted Malaysia leading the government there to impose water rationing to 300,000 households in the Federal Capital of Kuala Lumpur and the adjacent state of Selangor, as well as another 50,000 households in Southern Johor (AFP, 2014).  Despite imported water from Malaysia being one of Singapore’s Four National Taps, the smaller city-state did not have to resort to water rationing. Indeed, the environment ministry assured the public during the dry spell that 55% of the country’s demand could be met by the water produced at the country’s own desalination and NEWater treatment plants “regardless of the amount of rainfall”, which affords Singapore "a safety margin” (Straits Times).  The NEA did issue a dry spell advisory which encouraged the public to adopt water conservation measures, while the PUB sent circulars by 8 March 2014 to 25,000 non-domestic customers advising on water conservation measures (NEA). Nevertheless, Singapore was able to cope with the drought, coming through relatively unscathed and this demonstrates water system resiliency.

Of course on the flip side, given the amount of rainfall that Singapore typically experiences throughout the year, localised flooding is a concern. Furthermore, the use of stormwater runoff as a municipal water source necessitates a balancing act for Singapore. The country wants to capture the maximum runoff practical, but also needs to balance the capture with concerns about localised flooding and quality of the runoff. In part, this issue has been addressed by the PUB’s aggressive implementation of Low Impact Development (LID) technologies, such as raingardens, impervious pavement, rain planters, green roofs, and constructed wetlands (Irvine et al., 2014; Chang and Irvine, 2014). In addition, through an expanded and improved drainage tile and canal network, the PUB has reduced localised  flooding from about 3,200 hectares in the 1970s to 36 hectares today (PUB, 2010f).

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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