Marina Reservoir

Marina Reservoir was officially opened on 31 October 2008. It was created with the completion of Marina Barrage, a low-level dam built across Marina Channel to separate the water in Marina Basin from the seawater. Managed by PUB, Singapore's national water agency, it is Singapore’s 15th reservoir and the first in the city centre. Its 10,000-hectare (100 sq km) catchment is the largest of all the reservoir catchments.1

In a 1987 documentary titled River Reborn, which examined the government’s efforts to clean up Singapore River and Kallang River, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke about his vision of having a barrage at the mouth of Marina Channel to create a massive freshwater lake. This had come at the end of the government’s decade-long drive to clean up the rivers, which were by then so clean that fish had returned. Lee believed that in 20 years’ time, there could be breakthroughs in antipollution and filtration technologies that would make his vision feasible.2

In 2004, after years of studying Lee’s idea, the government called a tender for the building of the barrage and reservoir. Local contractor Koh Brothers won the contract and construction commenced in early 2005.3

PUB initially planned for Marina Reservoir to be a marginal source of drinkable water. However, during the construction of the project, PUB decided to create a full-fledged reservoir for supplying water, as technological advancements had made it possible for raw water from the highly urbanised Marina catchment to be cost-effectively treated for potable use.4

With its large catchment area, Marina Reservoir plays an important role in helping Singapore achieve self-sufficiency in its water supply by 2061, when the country’s water agreements with Malaysia expire.5 The reservoir was originally filled with seawater, but this was gradually replaced by rainwater by November 2010.6 The rainwater collected in the reservoir is piped to water treatment plants where it is processed into potable water.7

Surface water from major waterways, such as Singapore River, Kallang River and Rochor Canal, flows into Marina Reservoir. Excess water is simply flushed out into the sea via Marina Barrage.8

In addition to expanding Singapore’s domestic water supply, Marina Reservoir serves as a lifestyle attraction and enhances the vibrancy of the city. With the water in the reservoir kept at a constant level, a wide range of water sports such as kayaking, sailing and water-skiing can take place here all year round. The reservoir also provides a scenic backdrop for recreational activities on land, including picnics and cultural performances.9 Other attractions in the area include the Marina Barrage Visitor Centre and the pedestrian bridge that allows visitors to walk from one end of the barrage to the other.10

Pollution management
The Marina catchment is not only the largest, but also the most urbanised. It covers an extensive area that includes residential, industrial and commercial hubs, such as Ang Mo KioQueenstown, Eunos and the Central Business District. This means that more effort is needed to minimise upstream pollution and ensure that the water draining into the reservoir is clean.11

To this end, PUB has tapped the expertise of Dutch consulting firm, Delft Hydraulics, a well-known name in the water industry. In June 2006, Delft won a S$4.8-million government contract to develop water quality and operational management tools for the reservoir and its catchment, among other things.12

1987: Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew moots the idea of creating a freshwater reservoir at the Marina area.13
1998: Ministry of the Environment (now known as Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources) announces that it is studying the idea.14
Jun 2004: The Public Utilities Board (PUB) calls an open tender for the construction of the reservoir and barrage.15
Oct 2004: Tender closes, with nine groups submitting 48 proposals.16
Nov 2004: Tender is awarded to Koh Brothers Building & Civil Engineering Contractor Pte Ltd for S$226 million.17
22 Mar 2005: Ground-breaking ceremony is held to mark the official start of construction. Then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew officiates at the event.18
31 Oct 2008: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially opens the reservoir and barrage.19


Valerie Chew

1. “Marina Barrage (2008),” Koh Brothers, accessed 15 February 2017; Teh Jen Lee, “From Creative Vision to Reality,” New Paper, 1 November 2008, 8 (From NewspaperSG); “Marina Barrage,” PUB, accessed 15 February 2017.
2. “Marina Barrage – The Beginning,” WaterNet (March 2005), 5–6. (Call no. RSING 363.61095957 W)
3. Koh Brothers, “Marina Barrage”; Radha Basu, “Contract for Marina Bay Dam Awarded,” Straits Times, 30 November 2004, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Centre for Liveable Cities and Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Water: From Scarce Resource to National Asset (Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, 2012), 17. (Call no. RSING 333.91095957 WAT)
5. Radha Basu, “Tallest Fountain Here at Marina Reservoir,” Straits Times, 28 October 2005, 16 (From NewspaperSG); Siau Ming En, “The Big Read: Receding Water Levels at Linggiu Reservoir Expose S’pore’s Vulnerability,” Today, 23 April 2016; “Water Agreements,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accessed 2 January 2019. 
6. PUB, “Marina Barrage.”
7. “Marina Reservoir,” PUB, accessed 22 February 2017.
8. “Marina Barrage Unveiled,” WaterNet (September 2004), 8–9. (Call no. RSING 363.61095957 W)
9. Basu, “Tallest Fountain Here.”
10. L. Foo, “A Site to Behold,” WaterNet (March 2005), 10 (Call no. RSING 363.61095957 W); “Marina Barrage Unveiled,” 8–9.
11. “Marina Barrage Unveiled,” 8–9; “Marina Catchment,” WaterNet (March 2005), 8–9. (Call no. RSING 363.61095957 W); Basu, “Tallest Fountain Here.”
12. Meng Yew Choong, “Dutch Expertise to Manage Marina Catchment Area,”  Straits Times, 27 June 2006, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “Marina Barrage – The Beginning,” 5–6; Teh, “Creative Vision to Reality.”
14. Dominic Nathan, “Proposed Barrage to Stop Flooding,” Straits Times, 4 May 1998, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Recreation Hotspot for Water Sports,” New Paper, 18 June 2004, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Basu, “Contract for Marina Bay Dam.”
17. Koh Brothers, “Marina Barrage”; Teh, “Creative Vision to Reality.”
18. “City Dam Takes Shape,” New Paper, 23 March 2005, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
19. PUB, “Marina Barrage.”

The information in this article is valid as at January 2019 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. 

Public utilities
Domestic policy (Water Resource Management)
Flood dams and reservoirs--Singapore
Reservoir management (water)