06 March 2014

Personal Contemplation Caused by Scarcity

4780 writes:*

My significant other has been pushing me to relocate to the beautiful tropical island of Singapore. Coming from the background of two of the most natural resource abundant countries, Russia and Canada, this is a frightening idea because space and resources are extremely limited in Singapore. In fact there is barely any room to store the most essential resource to life, water. Most of the water in Singapore comes in through pipelines from Malaysia with whom they have a signed contract until the year of 2061.

The demand for water in this developed country and for security reasons puts a lot of pressure to innovate alternatives for supply management. Water catchment areas are confined to less than 5% of Singapore land and in order to avoid contamination by farm sewage there are restrictions for farm locations. Another way the country secures its own water supply is by using seawater desalination plants, which are costly. The most outstanding way which is gaining much momentum in recent years in Singapore is the treatment of wastewater. Through ultraviolet technologies Singapore creates NEWater made from wastewater that is considered safe for personal consumption. Most of this water however goes toward running industrial sectors. It seems that among younger generations NEWater is being accepted and its cost is also less than water being treated at desalination plants.

I think it’s good that Singapore is spreading its risk across several water management sectors however, I don’t think it will ever compare to water in Vancouver, Canada. Most of our water comes from mountain reservoirs with blocked off access to anyone but staff and occasional educational tours. Time will only tell if I’m willing to sacrifice our beautiful seasonal forests and rivers of Vancouver for the tropics. It’s a tough decision and competition when residing in the most beautiful city in the world.

Bottom Line: Water scarcity security is increased through multiple supply managements.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.


  1. Don't overlook the recent tender issued by PUB to explore groundwater stored in the Jurong Formation located in western and southern Singapore. Diverse water portfolios, even in water wealthy BC, include groundwater.

  2. I wonder how Singapore pays for NEWater? While cheaper than desalinated water, it still must cost more than water tapped from an underground aquifer or river/lake/stream. In the U.S. we don't seem inclined to pay much at all for water. True in Singapore? Or do residents there not pay much for water, requiring the government to fund it via some mechanism other than pricing water at its marginal cost of production?

  3. @mark -- check out this post. PUB charges full cost. NEWater costs more, but they sell it for more to industrial companies: http://www.aguanomics.com/2013/04/water-management-in-singapore.html

  4. Cynthia Barnett has an excellent chapter on Singapore water in her book Blue Revolution. One of the key issues is the tradeoff of ensuring a secure supply in a water scarce place and allowing free flowing water that is not only about serving people.


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