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MFA Press Release: Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's written reply to Parliamentary Question, 9 Jan 2017

08 January 2017


Mr Seah Kian Peng: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the recent low water levels in Johore River dams, in particular that of Linggiu Reservoir, will affect the ability of both parties in the water agreements from meeting their respective obligations.



1        The 1962 Water Agreement grants to PUB a right to abstract 250 million gallons per day (mgd) from the Johor River.  It was guaranteed by both the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore under the 1965 Separation Agreement, which was deposited with the United Nations.  The 1962 Water Agreement is sacrosanct to Singapore.

2        Under the 1962 Water Agreement, PUB has “the full and exclusive right and liberty to draw off take impound and use the water from the Johore River up to a maximum of 250 million gallons per day”.  In return, Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water from Singapore “not exceeding at any time two per cent of the total quantity of water supplied to Singapore from twelve midnight of any one day to twelve midnight of the following day”.  In other words, Johor is entitled to buy up to about 5 mgd of treated water provided that Singapore is first able to abstract its entitlement of 250 mgd of water from the Johor River, and to subsequently import about 245 mgd of treated water in any given day.  However, out of goodwill and without prejudice to our rights under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore has in practice supplied Johor with treated water in excess of Johor’s entitlement, even on occasions when PUB is unable to abstract its 250 mgd entitlement, for example during dry weather.  Singapore has in fact been regularly supplying Johor with 16 mgd of treated water.  In addition, we have supplied a further 5 to 6 mgd of treated water on a case-by-case basis at Johor’s request during dry weather (for example in June and July 2016), as well as when Johor’s water treatment plants are partially shut down for their monthly operational maintenance. 

3        We are concerned with the current situation at the Johor River.  Linggiu Reservoir regulates the flow of the river, discharging water into the river to supplement the natural flow and to help contain salinity intrusions into the river from the sea.

4        In August 2016, the Johor River Barrage became operational.  This has helped to keep out salinity intrusions.  However, even with the Johor River Barrage, the Johor River is unable to sustain both PUB’s entitlement of 250 mgd, as well as the current abstractions by Johor’s Semangar and Loji Air Water Treatment Plants, which are upstream of PUB’s waterworks. 

5        In order to support the current rate of abstraction, PUB has been discharging more water from Linggiu Reservoir.  As a result, the water level in Linggiu Reservoir has dropped drastically over the past few years, from 84% at the start of 2015, to 49% at the start of 2016, to the lowest recorded level of 20% in October 2016.  It stands at 27% as of 1 January 2017.  There is a significant risk that Linggiu Reservoir may fail (i.e. drop to 0%) in 2017 if it turns out to be a dry year.  Should Linggiu Reservoir fail, there will be many more occasions when it will not be possible for PUB to abstract its entitlement of 250 mgd, and the current abstractions by Johor’s Semangar and Loji Air Water Treatment Plants will also be affected.  This will cause severe problems for both Malaysia and Singapore.

6        Given the importance of Linggiu Reservoir to Singapore’s overall water supply, the Singapore Government is watching the situation closely, and has raised the matter with the Malaysian Government, most recently during the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat on 13 December 2016.  The Prime Ministers agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River.  The Malaysian Government reaffirmed its commitment to uphold Singapore’s rights under the 1962 Water Agreement.  Malaysia has informed us that it plans to implement schemes to increase the yield of the Johor River, and ensure that Singapore can reliably abstract our entitlement under the 1962 Water Agreement even during periods of dry weather. 

7        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. 

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9 JANUARY 2017

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