Seletar Reservoir



Seletar Reservoir was built in 19401 as the country’s third impounding reservoir,2 to meet a surge in water demand after World War I.3 The reservoir possessed an initial capacity of 150 million gallons until its expansion in 1969.4 It was renamed Upper Seletar Reservoir in 1992, while Sungei Seletar Reservoir was renamed Lower Seletar Reservoir.5 Upper Seletar Reservoir was marked as a historic site in 1999.6 Both reservoirs are currently managed by the national water agency, Public Utilities Board.7

Background
In 1902, the Municipal Engineer Robert Peirce recommended the purchase of catchment areas in Kallang and Seletar to increase the water supply in Singapore;8 land in Seletar was subsequently purchased for this purpose.9


The idea of building a reservoir at Seletar was first broached in 1907, when the Municipal Commissioners considered constructing a reservoir with a capacity of 700 million gallons, and a pumping station at Seletar.10 However, the construction of the reservoir did not occur because the opening of Kallang Reservoir in 1912 had ensured that water supply would suffice for at least a few more years.11

In 1920, the Municipal Commissioners once again proposed to construct a Seletar Impounding Reservoir at a budget of $2.5 million and a pumping station at Seletar at a budget of $200,000.12 The construction of the reservoir was necessary because by 1918, the average daily consumption of water in Singapore had increased to 8,928,000 gallons, with consumption rising to 9,280,000 gallons in the dry season. However, the two reservoirs in Thomson and Kallang could only provide a minimum permanent supply of about 9 million gallons a day in total. Furthermore, consumption was anticipated to increase further due to more houses and factories being built.13

Construction of the reservoir and pumping station at Seletar began in 1921, but the project was abandoned at the end of the year in favour of the construction of the Johor water scheme that was slated to commence in mid-1922.14 Instead, a temporary reservoir was built in Seletar, with water pumps that could transfer two million gallons of water into Peirce Reservoir.15 By 1923, this small reservoir was in operation at Seletar.16

In 1931, an extension of the Seletar works was suggested in the event that water supply became insufficient even after the opening of the Pontian Kechil Waterworks in Johor.17 In 1937, the Municipal Water Department proposed to improve the linkage between Seletar and Peirce reservoirs, such as via a tunnel, to increase the water supply.18 To cope with the high demand for water, an expansion scheme costing $5.5 million was announced in 1938. Part of the scheme involved increasing the capacity of Seletar Reservoir, and new pumps and pipelines.19

In 1939, works were carried out to raise the dam, and render the reservoir a permanent water supply.20 In 1940, Seletar Reservoir was completed along with a pumping station to pump untreated water from the reservoir to Pierce Reservoir.21 A 60-foot-tower (18 m) was also erected for visitors to enjoy the panoramic view of the surroundings.22 During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Seletar Reservoir suffered damages during a night bombing raid which occurred near Nee Soon Village. However, repairs were swiftly carried out, and water supply was resumed.23

Expansion of the reservoir
In 1962, the Singapore government commissioned Binnie & Partners, an engineering consultancy, to conduct a study on Singapore’s water resources, which concluded that an expansion of Seletar Reservoir could be further examined.24 Eventually, the government embarked on the Seletar Scheme in order to meet the needs of Singapore's growing population, as daily water consumption levels had quadrupled from the time the reservoir was first built.25

The Seletar Scheme, which was carried out from April 1967 to February 1969, comprised the construction of an expanded Seletar Reservoir, a reservoir intake system, a reservoir delivery system, and the extension to the Woodleigh Treatment Works, which involved the installation of 16 new filters for the purification plant, and the construction of a new three-storey building to increase its capacity.26 Consequently, at a cost of S$27 million, the capacity of Seletar Reservoir was increased more than 30 times to more than 5,000 million gallons, making it the largest reservoir then. Measured at top water level, it covered an area of 3.24 sq km and was 17 m deep.27

To construct the new reservoir, a dam was built across Upper Seletar Valley to impound water, with a saddle dam built at its end to prevent spillage.28 A reservoir intake system was also built to pump the run-off from the catchment areas upstream and eight adjacent streams, via a network of 40 pumps and about 13 miles of pipelines, into the reservoir.29 Water from the reservoir was transferred to Lower Pierce Reservoir and then to the Woodleigh Treatment Works for treatment via the reservoir intake system.30 As part of the Seletar Scheme, the capacity of Woodleigh Treatment Works was also increased more than three times,31 from 77,000 cu m to 277,000 cu m a day.32

The reservoir became functional in August 1968.33 On 10 August 1969, Seletar Reservoir was officially declared open by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of the United Kingdom, during Singapore's 150th anniversary celebration of her founding.34

Upper and Lower Seletar reservoirs
Seletar Reservoir was renamed Upper Seletar Reservoir in 1992.35 The 15-hectare Upper Seletar Reservoir Park features a rich biodiversity of plants and animals.36 Upper Seletar Reservoir is one of the four reservoirs in Singapore that bounds the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the others being MacRitchie Reservoir and the Upper Pierce and Lower Peirce reservoirs.37


On 24 September 1999, Upper Seletar Reservoir was marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board.38 The lookout tower at the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in October 2008.39

As part of on-going efforts to boost water supplies in the eastern part of Singapore, by collecting the run-off from two catchments in the north-east, the mouth of Sungei Seletar was dammed to form the Sungei Seletar Reservoir. It was completed in 1985 and, together with Bedok Reservoir, was the last surface water source to be developed in Singapore then.40

Sungei Seletar Reservoir started supplying water to the eastern region of Singapore in August 1986,41 and was renamed Lower Seletar Reservoir in 1992.42 Bound by Yishun Avenue 1 and Lentor Avenue, the reservoir features a 3.3 ha park, known as the Lower Seletar Reservoir Park, and comes with a fishing jetty.43

In 2004, the Public Utilities Board opened up Lower Seletar Reservoir for water-based activities like sailing and sports fishing.44 On 13 May 2007, the opening of the Water Venture sports facility by the People’s Association at the reservoir park offered water sports activities such as kayaking and dragon-boating.45

As part of the Active, Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Waters Programme, new facilities46 such as the Family Bay and Rower’s Bay water channel were built at Lower Seletar Reservoir Park in 2010. Family Bay includes a multi-purpose stage, water play area, wading stream and a Heritage Bridge where visitors can enjoy scenic views of the reservoir and learn more about its history.47 Rower’s Bay is a two-kilometre water course for rowing competitions.48

In July 2016, construction of the Coastal Adventure Corridor of the Round Island Route began with a launch ceremony by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The 60-kilometre-long corridor will begin at Rower’s Bay at Lower Seletar Reservoir Park and end at Gardens by the Bay. Conceptualised in 2011, the Round Island Route is a 150-kilometre-long trail that will connect existing natural, cultural, historical and recreational sites in Singapore.49



Authors

Peter Pak & Goh Lee Kim



References
1. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, foreword. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB); Public Utilities Board. (1985). Singapore’s water supply. Singapore: Public Relations Division, Public Utilities Board, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.1095957 SIN)
2. Over 100 million gallons of water supplied to S’pore daily. (1969, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. National Heritage Board. (2015, December 14). Upper Seletar Reservoir. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/historic-sites/upper-seletar-reservoir
4. Public Utilities Boards. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, foreword. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
5. Reservoirs to be re-named. (1992, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. National Heritage Board. (2015, June 26). Upper Seletar Reservoir. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/historic-sites/upper-seletar-reservoir
7. Public Utilities Board. (2015). Our water: The flow of progress: Annual report 2014/2015 (p. 4). Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/annualreports/annualreport2015.pdf
8. Official scheme. (1902, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 5; Municipal commission. (1916, July 29). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7; Untitled. (1902, August 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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13. The municipality in 1919. (1920, August 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Singapore water supply. (1924, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Farrer, R. J. (1935, October 8). The municipality in my time. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Singapore water supply. (1923, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 9; Town planning. (1923, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Pontian Kechil waterworks. (1931, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Singapore needs bigger water supply. (1937, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. 30,000,000 gallons a day. (1938, June 26). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Singapore’s $5,500,000 water scheme. (1939, April 2). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, foreword. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB); Public Utilities Board. (1985). Singapore’s water supply. Singapore: Public Relations Division, Public Utilities Board, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.1095957 SIN)
22. Seletar reservoir. (1969, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Public Utilities Board. (1985). Yesterday & today: The story of public electricity, water and gas supplies in Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International and Public Utilities Board, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 363.6095957 YES)
24. Tortajada, C., Joshi, Y. K., & Biswas, A. K. (2013). The Singapore water story: Sustainable development in an urban city-state. New York: Routledge, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 363.61095957 TOR)
25. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, foreword. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
26. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, foreword, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
27. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, pp. 2, 9. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
28. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, p. 5. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
29. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB); Public Utilities Board. (1985). Singapore’s water supply. Singapore: Public Relations Division, Public Utilities Board, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.1095957 SIN)
30. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, p. 8. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
31. Public Utilities Board. (1969). Souvenir brochure to commemorate the inauguration of Seletar Reservoir, Public Utilities Board. Singapore: The Board, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 628.13095957 PUB)
32. Public Utilities Board. (1985). Yesterday & today: The story of public electricity, water and gas supplies in Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International and Public Utilities Board, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 363.6095957 YES)
33. New reservoirs to supply eastern part of Singapore. (1986, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Big step forward in the republic’s search for water. (1969, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 30; Globe-trotting princess visits Singapore. (1969, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Reservoirs to be re-named. (1992, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. National Parks Board. (2016, June 28). Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/upper-seletar-reservoir-park
37. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. (2016). Upper Seletar Reservoir. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from The DNA of Singapore website: http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/places/details/36; National Parks Board. (2016, June 28). Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/upper-seletar-reservoir-park
38. National Heritage Board. (2015, December 14). Upper Seletar Reservoir. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/historic-sites/upper-seletar-reservoir
39. Tay S. C. (2008, October 4). Twelve iconic structures. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Ngiam, T. H. (1985, June 11). Sungei Seletar, Bedok reservoirs completed. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. New reservoirs to supply eastern part of Singapore. (1986, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Reservoirs to be re-named. (1992, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. National Parks Board. (2016, June 28). Lower Seletar Reservoir Park. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/lower-seletar-reservoir-park
44. Loh, S. (2004, March 14). Wet your appetite. The Straits Times, p. L15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Leung, W. L. (2007, May 14). Go for kayaking at Lower Seletar. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. S’pore must learn from recent flooding episodes: PM Lee. (2010, June 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
47. Public Utilities Board. (2016, September 15). Lower Seletar Reservoir – Family Bay. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/abcwaters/explore/lowerseletarfamilybay
48. Nee Soon Town Council. (2013). Progress report: Remaking our heartlands. Retrieved 2016, October 23 from Nee Soon Town Council website: http://www.nstc.org.sg/news-progress-report-remaking-our-heartlands.n8.html
49. Lim, A. (2016, July 10). Phase 1 of 150km green trail will start at year end. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



The information in this article is valid as at 23 October 2016 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
Reservoirs
Law and government>>Environmental protection>>Natural resources
Nature>>Nature Conservation>>Reservoirs
Reservoirs--Singapore
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places