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Water Supply

Then and Now

The Early Years

The earliest sources of water on the island were inland streams and wells. These were small sources, sufficient for the few inhabitants on the island. After its founding in 1819, as Singapore grew as a port city, a small reservoir was constructed at Fort Canning in 1822 to supply water to ships which called at the port. By 1850, the island’s population had grown to more than 50,000 without provisions made to supply these residents with water. Planning for Singapore’s water supply became an issue. It was only in 1857 that philanthropist Tan Kim Seng made a donation of S$13,000 for the building of Singapore’s first waterworks and piped water supply. This provided the impetus for the construction of an impounding reservoir in Thomson Road in 1868. It was expanded in 1891 and named MacRitchie Reservoir in 1922, after Municipal Engineer James MacRitchie who oversaw the expansion.

As colonial Singapore’s population grew, steps were taken to enlarge and improve the water supply. In 1910, the Singapore Municipality built the Kallang River Reservoir, which was later renamed Peirce Reservoir in 1922, after Municipal Engineer Robert Peirce who was in charge of its construction. Seletar Reservoir, the third impounding reservoir, was named after a Malay word that refers to coastal dwellers called Orang Seletar, and was built within the central catchment in 1920 and later expanded in 1940.

These were, in a nutshell, the main water sources in Singapore at the time of PUB’s formation in 1963.


Over the last 40 years, through strategic planning and investment in research and technology, PUB has built a robust and diversified supply of water known as the ‘Four National Taps’. The water supply comprises (1) local catchment water, (2) imported water, (3) highly-purified reclaimed water known as NEWater, and (4) desalinated water.

Local Catchment Water

Singapore has two separate systems to collect rainwater and used water. Rainwater is collected through a comprehensive network of drains, canals, rivers, storm-water collection ponds and reservoirs before it is treated for drinking water supply. This makes Singapore one of the few countries in the world to harvest urban storm-water on a large-scale for its water supply.


Imported water

Singapore has been importing water from Johor, Malaysia, under the 1961 and 1962 Water Agreements. This will expire in 2011 and 2061.


A Singapore success story and the pillar of Singapore’s water sustainability, NEWater is high-grade reclaimed water produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, making it ultra-clean and safe to drink.

Singapore now has five NEWater plants which can meet 30% of the nation's water needs. 

By 2060, we plan to triple the current NEWater capacity so that NEWater can meet 50% of our future water demand.

Desalinated Water

Another technology-based water source is desalinated water. Singapore has one of Asia’s largest seawater reverse-osmosis plants, which produces 30 million gallons of water a day (136,000 cubic metres) to meet about 10% of Singapore’s water needs.

By 2060, we intend to ramp up desalination capacity by almost 10 times so that desalinated water will meet at least 30% of our water demand in the long term.

Last updated on 20 Dec 2010