Saturday, October 21, 2017

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Batam: Solving issues in water shortage

Due to ongoing business discussion, I have left out names of the parties involved and certain details that can impact business decisions.

I got a rare chance to tag along with this water company (referred to as the company) to Batam to evaluate the water issues facing a holiday resort and a couple of nearby villages. This is not your typical urban resort as it is located faraway from the island's centre.

  1. The resort was concerned about the (in)adequacies of its current water storage and treatment set-up. Though nothing adverse has happened (yet), it decided to pre-empt any problems by engaging the company to check out its set-up anyway.
  2. 2 small villages on different islands. 1 with about 20+ residents, the other with about 80+ residents. No water issues for most part of the year except when the drought comes in. This drought can last for 3-4 months, enough to run the springs and wells dry.
  3. One pre-survey suggestion thrown up was the use of rainwater harvesting. We also evaluated the feasibility of implementing RWH there.
I will not present the proposed solutions here as they are still undergoing business discussion. Instead, I will highlight some of the interesting observations during our survey.

A couple of personal observations: Perhaps due to the nature of the company's business, grey water recycling/use and sanitation were not considered as part of the solution, though in my opinion, these can be relevant factors to close the water usage loop.

Figure: Partially covered spring serving the resort's water needs. I just thought that it ought to be better covered to prevent animals from accessing it.

Figure: Water from the spring is pumped uphill to be stored in these tanks. Notice 1 line allows water to enter the tanks, the other line to transfer the water to the resort downhill by gravity.

Figure: Closer view of the water tanks. The larger ones have a capacity of about 1000L each.

Figure: Typical well serving the villages. There are several of these. Typically not covered. Clarity ranges from clear to slightly turbid

Figure: Washing and bathing using the more turbid water. Clear water is reserved for drinking.

Figure: the watering hole providing turbid water for non-potable purposes

Figure: Perhaps the villages are not as poor as what we initially thought. Common sight of solar panels and TV antennae

Figure: Nothing to do with water issues, just too nice to leave out. The sea at dawn

Figure: If there is one thing I learned, it is the importance of geography to water issues. Climate, topography, vegetation, geology affect the quantity and quality of water. View from the highest point of 1 of the islands.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Water quality standards for rain garden

*Some private information in the original email have been edited out*

I have been tasked to work on the newly set up rain garden. I am basically testing the efficiency of the raingarden, i.e. is it able to effectively improve water quality of the influent stormwater before it gets discharged into the reservoir.

I have been looking through at both PUB and NEA's websites to get a set of water quality standards for the parameters that I am testing, i.e. 


i) E.coli

ii) Suspended solids

iii) Nitrates

iv) Phosphates


However, I have only been able to get the set of standards for drinking water which would not be ideal for my project as the standards or permissible limits is too stringent. 


So for the purpose of my project, I would like to know if there are standards that I can rely on for the above tests? 

I see some international standards on recreational water, drinking water, etc? But I am not sure what would the Poyan reservoir be considered as?

Some of the overseas standards that I found online show only certain parameters and in addition to that I find it very difficult to find a standard where the values remain the same for the different countries.


I hope that you will be able to assist me in some way possible.

Thank you.


Best Regards,

Dear K,

It's good to hear that you are working on a rain garden to improve the quality of surface runoff into our reservoirs. Over the years, the development of Singapore has removed much of our natural vegetation so seeing highly muddy waters (aka kopi susu) in our canals after a heavy rain is quite common.

As for your question, PUB tests against its own water quality standards within its reservoirs. Unfortunately, these standards are not available to the public.

2 possible options:
  1. You can make use of NEA effluent discharge standards for a controlled watercourse (i.e. a waterway that flows into a reservoir). It monitors 36 WQ parameters as of this writing. Except for E. coli, they include the other 3 parameters that you are interested in.
  2. Alternatively, you can use Nparks WQ standards for the water bodies under its purview. The standards were derived from WQ data observed in 59 different water bodies.  Regrettably, these standards are not available online as far as I know. Published by CUGE (I was a member in its technical committee to advise on their contents), the 2 relevant titles are:

Guidelines on Water Quality Assessment and Management for Tropical Ponds. You can check out my previous post on this title.

Guidelines On Water Quality Monitoring For Tropical Ponds

They are available from CUGE -
Their standards are not exactly the same as what you are interested in. The closest are:
  1. Turbidity: < 30NTU
  2. Total nitrogen: < 1.0mg/L
  3. Total phosphorus: < 0.06mg/L
  4. Enterococcus bacteria: < 200CFU/100mL
Good luck!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Water Security & Safety and its Economics (FOSG): video

I know this is posted a bit late... But in case you have missed out on the talk I gave at Water Security & Safety and its Economics (under Future of Singapore (FOSG)) on 15 April 2017, I have included a link to the video of my talk. Once again, my thanks to Mr Tay Kheng Soon for inviting me to be part of the FOSG series of forum.