Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Segal, Diane. 2004. Singapore 's Water Trade with Malaysia and Alternatives. Harvard University. [PDF file]

Singapore is a water-stressed country which currently relies on Malaysia to receive half of its daily water consumption. It buys freshwater from the State of Johor , Malaysia , treats it and sells back part of it to Johor as treated water. The day Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, water trade between these two countries became the object of fierce dispute. This study addresses Singapore 's vulnerability vis-à-vis its water supply from Malaysia and lays out possible strategies to assist Singapore in its water policy making. Striking the right balance between full independence to cover its water needs and trading with neighbors is a challenging task. The political, technical and economic feasibility of various water supply alternatives available to Singapore are discussed in the present paper. The primary recommendation is to diversify water resources while staying engaged in water trading with Malaysia since this is their cheapest option. Achieving full independence vis-à-vis Malaysia might not be worth the cost considering that breaching water agreements would be costly to Malaysia , meaning that the probability of a cut in Johor's water supply is low. Singapore has the double advantage of being a buyer and a seller of cheap treated water for Malaysia which gives him some leverage in water negotiations. In addition, Malaysia benefits from large investments from Singapore . The second recommendation is to continue current efforts in promoting water recycling, controlling water demand, and protecting the quality of Singapore 's freshwater.