On Tuesday (Apr 9), Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong and PM Mahathir Mohamad announced an agreement to “seek amicable solutions” regarding the water supply issue between Singapore and Malaysia. The two leaders made the announcement during a joint press conference held in Putrajaya, Malaysia after the ninth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat.
The water supply between the two countries has long been a hot issue. Following the 1962 Johore Water Agreement, Malaysia is required to provide 250 million imperial gallons per day (mgd) of raw water to Singapore priced at three sen per 1000 gallons. In exchange, Johor can buy 5 mgd of treated water at 50 sen per thousand gallons.
The agreement expires in 2061, by which time Singapore is expected to be fully self-sufficient for water supply.
It is argued that Malaysia benefits from the 1962 pricing arrangement, as the amount Johor pays is a mere fraction of the true cost to Singapore’s water treatment.
The water issue received more attention last year after PM Mahathir raised the concern regarding the price of raw water supplied to Singapore.
In March 2019, the Singapore Public Utilities Board shut down treatment operations in the Johor River due to ammonia pollution from a palm oil factory in Sedenak.
During the press conference, both leaders highlighted the importance of identifying proper and timely methods to increase the yield of the Johore River and protect its environmental conditions and water quality.
PM Lee said that while Malaysia technically cannot review the price because of the 1962 water agreement, both leaders agreed to a discussion between the two nations’ attorney-generals (AG) regarding the legality of the review process. The AGs are expected to hold a discussion in November.
PM Lee also brought attention to the sustainability of Johor River’s long-term water yield, following the construction of water plant at Kota Tinggi.