Singapore slings higher water tariffs at consumers

March 1, 2017
Along with Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabi, Singapore is increasing the price it charges for water services. The days of underpriced water are over.

By Tom Freyberg, Chief editor

Along with Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabi, Singapore is increasing the price it charges for water services. The days of underpriced water are over.

Regular WWi readers will know from our coverage that Singapore has a solid reputation when it comes to water provision. With a single water agency, the country avoids problems that other fragmented markets face. Setting out strong ambitions for 2060, Singapore will have a healthy mix of desalination and water reuse, building out its own network and all the time reducing reliance on Malaysian supplies.

Yet this has come at a price: a price that Singapore, known as the Asian hydro hub, is now keen to cover. In February, it was announced that from July 2017, the price of water would increase by 30%, phased in over a two-year period.

Interestingly, while Singaporeans took to social media to vent their anger over the proposed increase, it will be the first raise from the utility in 17 years. To provide some context, back in 2000 water demand in Singapore was 300 million gallons per day. Today it’s 430 mgd. For supply to keep pace with demand, it comes at a price.

National water agency PUB said that “heavy investments in water infrastructure, coupled with rising operational costs, have made the increase in water prices necessary”.

Tariffs continue to be a thorny issue. Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is going through a similar change and increasing the price of water, albeit from a different start. For many Emirates and other Middle Eastern nationals, water has historically been free, or extremely cheap. In Saudi Arabia a minister was ousted after an price rise for water had not been implemented as planned.

The cost of water will always be subject to debate but it’s the cost that drives change. Recently I had a bill through from my utility, dating usage from July to January. It was astronomical to say the least! There must me a mix up, I thought. The charge for six months was more than I am used to paying in a year! Had I started using a garden sprinkler system? Had my family started taken several showers a day? Had I come under unknown ownership of a pet horse that decided to drink endless from the kitchen tap? No, no and no (although the last would be fun).

My property is metered so I thought I’d engage with the utility (obviously not mentioning my trade or the fact I had visited the utility HQ only weeks before to interview the Innovation Manager!) It turns out it there is a potential leak around the house leading to perceived higher usage, which we are in the process of sorting. Yet the bill immediately sent alarm bells and forced us to question our water usage habits.

There is the old adage that you get what you pay for. And for Singaporeans, having a world-class water network comes at a price.

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About the Author

Tom Freyberg

Tom Freyberg is an experienced environmental journalist, having worked across a variety of business-to-business titles. Since joining Pennwell in 2010, he has been influential in developing international partnerships for the water brand and has overseen digital developments, including 360 degree video case studies. He has interviewed high level figures, including NYSE CEO’s and Environmental Ministers. A known figure in the global water industry, Tom has chaired and spoken at conferences around the world, from Helsinki, to London and Singapore. An English graduate from Exeter University, Tom completed his PMA journalism training in London.