Singapore-Malaysia water agreements


Singapore and Malaysia have signed four agreements to regulate the supply of water from Malaysia to Singapore. The first - signed in 1927 - is no longer in force. Water imported from Malaysia under the other three agreements - signed in 1961, 1962 and 1990 - meets about half of Singapore's water demand. However, this will be reduced after the 1961 pact expires in August 2011. The government has also stated that Singapore can be self-sufficient in water by the time the 1962 and 1990 agreements expire in 2061.

1927 Agreement
Dated 5 December 1927, this was signed between the municipal commissioners of the town of Singapore and Sultan Ibrahim of the state and territories of Johor. It allowed Singapore to rent 2,100 acres (8.5km2) of land in Gunong Pulai for the purpose of supplying raw water from the area to Singapore. An annual rent of 30 cents per acre (per 4,047m2) was payable on the land, but the water was free. Johor set aside an additional 25mi2 (64.7km2) of land and agreed not to alienate any part of this land for the next 21 years without the consent of the Singapore commissioners. If the latter wanted to reserve any part of this plot for drawing water, they had to give notice to the Johor government and pay an annual rent of $5 per acre. In return, Johor could obtain 800,000 gallons (3,637m3) of treated water from Singapore daily at a rate of 25 cents per 1,000 gallons (per 4.55m3). If Johor required more treated water after 1929, the amount supplied could be increased but only up to 1,200,000 gallons (5,455m3) per day.

1961 Agreement
This was called the Tebrau and Scudai Rivers Water Agreement and was made between the city council of the state of Singapore and the government of the state of Johor. The agreement was officially signed on 2 October 1961 but took effect on 1 September 1961. By then, Singapore was a self-governing state within the British empire while Malaya was already an independent nation. The 1927 agreement was declared void in this document.

The agreement gave Singapore the full and exclusive right to draw off all the water within the designated land at Gunong Pulai, Sungei Tebrau and Sungei Scudai for a period of 50 years up till 2011. Singapore was to pay an annual rent of $5 per acre for the land and a charge of 3 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water. Singapore also agreed to provide Johor with a daily supply of treated water up to 12% of the raw water it drew, subject to a minimum of four million gallons (18,184m3), and at a price of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons. If the 12% provided by Singapore was insufficient, Johor could request for more treated water to be supplied.

1962 Agreement
Called the Johor River Water Agreement, this was signed on 29 September 1962 between the Singapore city council and the Johor state government. Valid for 99 years up till 2061, it gave Singapore the full and exclusive right to draw water from Johor River up to a maximum of 250 million gallons per day (mgd) (1.14 million cubic metres a day). In return, Johor was entitled to a daily supply of treated water from Singapore up to 2% of the raw water it supplied.

Singapore had to pay rent for the land it used "at the standard rate applicable to building lots on town land". The water prices remained the same as in the previous agreement - 3 cents per 1,000 gallons of raw water supplied to Singapore and 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of treated water sold to Johor. After Singapore and Malaysia stopped using a common currency, the prices became denominated in Malaysian ringgit.

The 1961 and 1962 agreements provided for a price review after 25 years, with arbitration being the agreed course of action if bilateral price negotiations failed. However, the Johor government chose not to revise the prices at both opportunities, in 1986 and 1987.

The Independence of Singapore Agreement (also known as the Separation Agreement) signed between the governments of Singapore and Malaysia on 9 August 1965 guaranteed the 1961 and 1962 water agreements.

1990 Agreement
This was signed on 24 November 1990 between the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore and the Johor state government. It was supplementary to the 1962 pact and would also expire in 2061. A separate document was signed on the same day by the governments of Malaysia and Singapore to guarantee adherence to the agreement.

Under this agreement, Singapore was allowed to construct a dam across Sungei Linggui to facilitate the extraction of water from Johor River, with Johor setting aside about 21,600ha (216km2) of land for the project. Singapore agreed to pay RM320 million as compensation for the permanent loss of use of the land and its associated revenue, in addition to a premium of RM18,000 per hectare (per 10,000m2) and an annual rent of RM30 for every 1,000ft2 (per 92.9m2) of the land. The cost of building and maintaining the dam would be borne by Singapore.

In return, Singapore could buy (from Johor) treated water generated by the new dam. This would be over and above the 250mgd of raw water that it was allowed to draw from Johor River under the 1962 agreement. The price of this additional supply would be calculated based on a fixed formula: the weighted average of Johor's water tariffs plus 50% of the surplus from the sale of this water by PUB to its consumers after deducting Johor's price and PUB's cost of distribution, or 115% of the weighted average of Johor's water tariffs, whichever was higher.

This agreement was a follow-up to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on 28 June 1988 between the two countries' prime ministers at the time, Lee Kuan Yew for Singapore and Mahathir Mohamad for Malaysia. The signing of the MOU was hailed as a breakthrough in Singapore-Malaysia water relations, the culmination of six years of difficult negotiations.

Beyond 2061
The Singapore government has stated that it will not renew the 1961 agreement which expires in 2011. Attempts to reach a new deal with Malaysia to secure water supply for Singapore beyond 2061 have not borne fruit despite years of tedious negotiations. To reduce Singapore's dependence on imported water, the government has taken steps to increase the size of the local water catchment area and to build up the supply from non-conventional sources, namely NEWater (reclaimed water) and desalinated water. With the various water projects progressing well, government officials have assured Singaporeans that the country can be self-reliant in water by 2061 if it needs to be.



Author
Valerie Chew



References
Cheong, Y. S. (1988,  June 29).
Landmark deal, says PM Lee. The Straits Times, p.1. Retrieved on May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Council signs for Johore River water. (1962, September 30). The Straits Times, p.10. Retrieved on May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Devan, J. (2003, February 4).
Water words - Resource traded for over 70 years. The Straits Times, p.6.  Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Han, F. K. (1990, November 25).
S'pore, Johor sign new water pact. The Straits Times, p.1. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Low, L., & Lee, P. O. (c2009). Singapore's perspective on economic relations with Malaysia. In T. Shiraishi (Ed.),
Across the causeway: A multi-dimensional study of Malaysia-Singapore relations (pp.250-264). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
(Call no.: RSING 327.59505957 ACR)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (25 January 2003), vol 75 at cols 2585-2604 [Annex A: The Agreement as to Certain Water Rights in Johore between the Sultan of Johore and the Municipal Commissioners of the Town of Singapore dated 5 December 1927].
(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (25 January 2003), vol 75 at cols 2605-2644 [Annex B: The Tebrau and Scudai Rivers Water Agreement between the Johore State Government and the City Council of Singapore dated 1 September 1961].
(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (25 January 2003), vol 75 at cols 2645-2664 [Annex C: The Johore River Water Agreement between the Johore State Government and the City Council of Singapore signed on 29 September 1962].
(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (25 January 2003), vol 75 at cols 2665-2730 [Annex D: The Agreement between the Government of the State of Johore and the Public Utilities Board of the Republic of Singapore signed on 24 November 1990].
(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Singapore signs water pact. (1961, October 3). The Straits Times, p.16. Retrieved on May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Tan, Y. S., Lee, T. J., & Tan, K. (c2009). Ensuring water sustainability: The supply side. In Clean, green and blue: Singapore's journey towards environmental and water sustainability (pp.125-176). Singapore: ISEAS Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 363.70095957 TAN)

Water agreements. (2006). In T. Koh, et al. (Eds.),
Singapore: The encyclopedia (p.585). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])

Wee, L.-A. (2003, February 9).
Govt assurance on long-term water supply. The Straits Times, p.1. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1995, February 25).
Singapore's water - history, politics and future options. The Straits Times, p.33. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.


Further readings
Au Yong, J. (2008, September 16). Water tax sends important message. The Straits Times. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from Factiva database.

Cai, H. X. (2011, March 5). Water deal's expiry won't affect prices. The Straits Times. Retrieved on May 12, 2011, from Factiva database.

Chia, S.-A. (2002, September 5).
Twists and turns. The Straits Times, p.2. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Kog, Y. C., et al. (2002). Beyond vulnerability? Water in Singapore-Malaysia relations. Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
(Call no.: RSING 363.61095957 KOG)

Oon, C. (2009, June 24). Key step to water adequacy. The Straits Times. Retrieved on May 12, 2011, from Factiva database.

Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (25 January 2003), vol 75 at cols 2731-2736 [Annex E: The Guarantee Agreement between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore signed on 24 November 1990].
(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)

Tan, T. H. (2002, April 6). Water - S'pore to rely less on KL. The Straits Times, p.1. Retrieved on February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Water talks? If only it could. (2003). Singapore: Ministry of Information, Communications & The Arts.
(Call no.: RSING 327.59570595 WAT)



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Water--Singapore
Law and government>>National development
Politics and Government>>Public Utilities

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2009.