6 Jan 2019
SINGAPORE: Singapore's water agency PUB said on Sunday (Jan 6) that it supplied additional treated water to Malaysia this week after pollution disrupted production at Johor's water plants.
"Production at Johor's water plants was disrupted recently by pollution to the river catchment. PUB's Johor River Waterworks was not affected by the incident," said PUB in a statement.
"At Johor’s request, PUB helped to tide Johor residents over the water supply disruption by turning on PUB’s Pasir Gudang offtake and supplying an additional 6 million of gallons per day (mgd) of treated water between 2 and 4 January 2019.
"This was on top of the 16 mgd that we usually supply Johor," it added.
Singapore is required to supply Johor with 5 mgd of treated water, said PUB, citing the 1962 Water Agreement.
"In practice, we have been supplying 16 mgd of treated water to Johor at their request. On top of this, between 2 and 4 January 2019, we have supplied a further 6 mgd of treated water (above the 16 mgd of treated water) to Johor when it needed more water because its water plants experienced pollution.
"Last year, we similarly supplied additional water in excess of the usual 16 mgd for 20 days at the request of Johor," said the agency.
[And in 2016 and quite a few other times.]
PUB added that it has supplied all the additional treated water above 5 mgd "on a goodwill basis at the same price as under the 1962 Water Agreement".
The price, the agency stated, is 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, "which is a fraction of the cost of treating the water".
"This has been done without prejudice to our rights under the 1962 Water Agreement," said PUB, noting the "long-standing cooperation between the water agencies of the two countries".
"PUB has thus far been responsive in assisting Johor residents to reduce the impact of their water disruptions, in the spirit of good neighbourliness," it added.
[From a blogpost "Water, water everywhere":
Another Singaporean pointed out that in a commercial contract that would extend over decades, it would be the norm to peg the price to some comparable commodity to account for inflation or price fluctuations due to changes in demand or value.
But the water agreement does not have such price pegging, regular reviews, or deflator.
That suggests that either a) the drafters of the agreement were legal and commercial idiots; or b) it was never intended to be a commercial agreement.
'I believe, it was the intent for the water to be given... it is river water, rainwater from nature or God. But because the agreement was made by lawyers (or people with legal training) it was written as a contract and to make it binding they included a very low consideration - 3 sen per 1000 gallons. And it was intended that the beneficiary (SG) should reciprocate by providing MY with treated water at a reasonable rate (50 sen).... this [was] a humane and friendly transaction, and was not intended to be crass commercial transaction... '
This suggests that the agreement was not for commercial purpose, that the price of water was not intended to reflect the commercial value, that the agreement and water was invaluable and that Malaysia and Singapore knew that. At that time. That Malaysia (or rather Johor) was being reasonable and had good intentions for Singapore to survive and understood that water is a necessity and not to be profited from.Water will always be an issue between Malaysia, Johor and Singapore. At least until 2061 when the remaining water agreement ends.
Fast forward to present day, and we have abandoned common decency and common sense. Mostly.
Singapore continues to provide treated water way in excess of what was agreed, without reservation, terms or conditions. It is the implicit understanding that water is life, water is a necessity, and should not be profited from, nor be used as political or commercial leverage."
Maybe we will extend or renew the agreement then?
I sincerely doubt it.
Mahathir would only be about 136. And would probably still play hardball on this.
1) Malaysia's water management and in particular the management of water resources in Johor is poor, ineffective and substandard. The Tebrau-Skudai water processing facilities we handed over in 2011 when the 1961 water agreement ended without renewal or extension, had a processing capacity of 100 million gallons a day (mgd). IF Johor has the will, they could have just taken over the facility and would have up to 100 mgd which would be enough to provide for most if not all their population. They did not. Two possible reason. One, it's cheaper to buy from SG. Why incur costs to treat your own water? Two, the water is too polluted to treat anymore because of industrial development in the Tebrau-Skudai area.
2) The Johor River has a related problem. The Linggiu Reservoir is frequently depleted. And when water levels fall too low, the water is too poor to be treated.
However based on the dwindling water levels in Linggiu Reservoir, the frequent need to flush the Johor River, I personally doubt that there is any point in extending the agreement beyond 2061.3) The generosity of Malaysia in the 60s was predicated on their religious values, their empathy for Singaporeans, and this was possible because SG's development was equal or not much better than MY's. And because of their benevolence and magnanimity, and their faith-inspired approach to water, very favourable water agreements were made. That magnanimity, generosity, benevolence and empathy is very unlikely when the developmental differential between SG and MY is so wide. Also, Mahathir.
In 2000, LKY offered to carry out works to improve the water yield for Johor River and even offered to pay the investment costs. When talks broke down it took that offer with it. Since then we have invested in water treatment in SG to renew water. This makes more sense than building infrastructure for Johor (IMHO).
4) IF the Iskandar Region develops as planned (or fantasized), and all the residential units are occupied, Johor will need all the water it can get from the Johor river and cannot spare any for SG. That is assuming the water is not too polluted to be treated, or it has not dried up from over-exploitation.
For all the above reasons, I do not see the water agreement being renewed.
Additionally, SG would rather move on and secure our own water resources, rather than leave water as a constant point of contention between the two countries. We have better things to do than to argue about water.]