Johor water unsafe, Singapore not affected

Pollution from nearby chicken farms had caused disruption in water supply to 1.8 million people in Johor on Saturday. Two premises had been identified as the cause of the high ammonia content in the Johore River.

Factories uses manure from chickens to make fertiliser. Much of this fertiliser is improperly stored. Fertiliser products and chicken manure are stacked in full exposure to the elements. When it rains, water soaks these items and water seeps into the ground and into the rivers.

This is not the first time this has happened.

Official reports of ammonia contamination can be found as far back as 2014. In each incident, the poultry farms responsible were shutdown, only to make a comeback the following year.

In 2016, the high ammonia content forced the closure of the Sungei Johor, Semmangar and Tai Hong water treatment plants. This compelled Johor’s water regulatory body, the Bayan Kawalselia Air Johor to make an urgent request to Singapore’s PUB for assistance in supplying an additional six million gallons of water a day to Malaysia.

The latest incident will not affect Singapore. Johor is one of the four national taps that we use for water; from our local catchments, NeWater, desalination plants and finally, from imports. The nation had long understood the importance of independence from any one water source. It would free us from being held ransom and, as these incidents have shown, from the inadequacies of foreign governance.

The Public Utilities Board had assured Singaporeans that water supply here will not be affected as PUB had stepped up production at the desalination plants and local waterworks to meet demand.

Pollution is not the only problem troubling Johor rivers.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor was in danger of drying out. When water levels hit 0%, the PUB will then not be able to draw Singapore’s daily entitlement of raw water from the Johor River. Singapore may draw 250 million gallons of raw water from the Johor River daily. In return, Johor is entitled to receive a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent — or about five million gallons a day — of the water supplied to Singapore.

We have done well in weening ourselves off imported water, however this tap still remains a strong source of supply for Singapore’s needs. For a country that doesn’t have land sufficient to hold water for all its inhabitants, we have done reasonably well in producing water for ourselves, even helping neighbours when they come to us for need.

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