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Hydrometric modelling study in the works to raise yield of Johor River: PM Lee, Najib

SINGAPORE — Singapore and Malaysia will carry out a hydrometric modelling study of the Johor River, with the aim of increasing its yield and conserving supply in the Linggiu Reservoir.

Hydrometric modelling study in the works to raise yield of Johor River: PM Lee, Najib

PM Lee and Mr Najib having a discussion over lunch. Photo: Facebook @Lee Hsien Loong

SINGAPORE — Singapore and Malaysia will carry out a hydrometric modelling study of the Johor River, with the aim of increasing its yield and conserving supply in the Linggiu Reservoir.

The Linggiu Reservoir discharges water into the Johor River to supplement its flow, and allows Singapore to reliably draw water from the Malaysian city.

To ease traffic congestion at the Causeway, the two countries are also exploring a review of the tolls at the Second Link to make it more attractive to users, at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's suggestion.

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These were among the matters discussed between Mr Lee and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak, who is in Singapore to attend the eighth Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat.

Mr Lee noted that water demand in Johor will increase as the Iskandar Malaysia development and Johor grow.

"Although Linggiu Reservoir has gradually filled up over the last year, with good rainfall, and with a barrage at Kota Tinggi, we do not know when the next prolonged dry spell will hit," he said at a media conference with Mr Najib on Tuesday (Jan 16). "So we must implement further schemes to increase the yield of the river and the resilience of Linggiu Reservoir."

The Linggiu Reservoir is currently 63 per cent full, a spokesperson from Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) told TODAY.

"Good" rainfall and the newly-commissioned Johor River Barrage, which began operations in August 2016, helped the Linggiu Reservoir stock to recover from a historic low of 20 per cent in October 2016 to its current level, he said.

"This has taken over a year and it will take continued good rainfall over time for the Linggiu Reservoir stock to reach healthy levels," said the spokesperson.

Hydrometric studies capture in-depth data such as water quality and flow patterns. These are then used for better planning and design of water resource projects, including reservoirs, distribution systems and irrigation networks.

Water supply, said Mr Najib, is just as critical for Johor, where water demand will rise exponentially because of rapid development and the Iskandar Malaysia project.

"There's a need for us to look into it and we'll commission a more detailed hydrometric study and come up with some technical proposals, which we are confident will increase the water supply both for Singapore and for Johor," he said.

The outcomes and recommendations of the study, which is funded by Malaysia, will be presented to a technical committee of Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water and Singapore's MEWR, the two Prime Ministers said in a statement later in the day.

On the congestion at the Causeway, Mr Najib noted that there are more than 300,000 crossings every day between Singapore and Johor. Congestion is particularly serious during peak hours, school holidays and festive occasions, with the wait dragging out for three or four hours at times.

There is a need for the two countries to find ways to achieve "more seamless connectivity", said the Malaysian premier.

Other topics the two Prime Ministers discussed include the challenges relating to the management of and flow of ships into both the Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Langsat ports in Johor, said Mr Najib, although he did not elaborate.

Mr Najib also put on record Malaysia's full support for Singapore as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year. Singapore's focus on the digital economy is one area in which the two countries can team up on, to promote e-commerce and e-payments, and develop Singapore and Kuala Lumpur as "smart cities", he added.

Pleased with the state of co-operation and ties between the two countries, the two leaders said the next retreat will be held in Malaysia at the end of the year.

"I am excited about the possibilities in the near future," Mr Najib said. "We look forward to receiving (Mr Lee in Malaysia) at the end of this year, provided we get the right results (at the Malaysian General Elections)."

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