Singapore Water Price Rise

The Singaporean Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, announced in the first week of March a thirty percent increase in the price of water throughout the country. The government will implement this price increase over the span of two years. This decision marks Singapore’s first rise in the price of water in 17 years. Asit K. Biswas, a distinguished visiting professor at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, supported the increase, stating, "We need to realize that Singapore's water supply is not reliable."

Singapore currently utilizes four sources of water: local catchment water, imported water, NEWater facilities, and desalination plants. While local catchment water from the Marina Reservoir meets only ten percent of the nation’s water needs, imported water, primarily from Malaysia, can supply 60 percent of Singapore’s average daily consumption of 400 million gallons.

NEWater facilities recycle reclaimed sewage and wastewater into high grade, useable water. While the NEWater plants function effectively in Singapore, reclaiming water for treatment is a difficult and costly process. The government intends the declared 30 percent price increase to reflect the long run marginal cost of supplying water.

Experts spoke to the necessity of the increase with Professor Ng Yew Kwang, Winsemius professor of economics at the Nanyang Technological University, affirming that “the 30 percent price increase is highly desirable," given that water has always been under-priced.

The escalating uncertainty of the island’s water supply prompted considerable investments in its water infrastructure. Consequently, the Singaporean government commissioned the construction of three desalination plants to be built in the next three years.

In addition to securing more sources of clean water, the Singaporean government plans to invest heavily in the sewage network system in an effort to strengthen the overall water supply. A $2.9 billion Deep Tunnel Sewerage System will operate by 2025, while an additional $3 billion will be invested elsewhere. These initiatives derive from the government’s growing concern over decreasing water levels in Malaysia’s Johor Linggu Reservoir, Singapore’s primary source of water.

A poll conducted by a local train station attests to Professor Biswas’ claim that "Singaporeans have been taking water for granted just because nothing has happened in the last few years". Of the 100 people interviewed by The Sunday Times, 75 of them did not know how much they spend on water each month, and 50 percent thought the hike was unnecessary.

Despite agreeing that this increase was long overdue, Professor Ng Yew Kwang believes that the increase was too sudden, adding, "The Government should have increased the price several times over the past 17 years. Now, it is too late to do this.” While the government is ensuring that overall spending on water will continue to be one percent of household income, 75 percent of business will experience a monthly increase of $25 in costs, or less than one dollar per day.

Though these effects are not immediately clear, water conservation and security should be among the nation’s top priorities. Given that 72 percent of respondents to the poll were unsure of how to reduce their consumption of water, Singaporean water management requires significant improvement. Fortunately, Singapore stands at the forefront of water innovation and is transforming into a hub for revolutionary water technology advances.