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Research Regarding Water Disputes

Various research regarding water disputes have been explored by scholars. These issuesKita selalu diwar-war mengenai kekurangan air yang sedang dan akan dihadapi oleh manusia di muka bumi ini.Namun dalam masa yang sama kita juga selalu di didedahkan dengan pertikaian mengenai air, kecuaian manusia terhadap pencemaran dan mismanagement pengurusan air. There is 263 transboundary water basin and 270 transboundary aquifers around the world. Those transboundary basin and transboundary aquifers share by two or more countries, which involve more than 145 countries. The basin and aquifers also have their own issues, which can cause water disputes between countries. In recent year, number of water disputes cases has been risen either between agencies, interstates or intrastate and this water disputes in interesting topic to be study Although, most of the water disputes dikaitkan dengan river water disputes which causes by allocation of water, environment. This study will examine water disputes which occur between Malaysia (on behalf of Johor) and Singapore. This dispute is unique to be examining because it’s about price for the raw water (river fresh water) which is different from other water disputes. The raw water supply by Johor referring to 1961 and 1962 agreements or in other words is exchange water for money.

This dispute occurs since 1997, when Johor want to revise the existing water price. Intercession has engaged frequently since 1998 until 2003 between senior officers and at minister’s level, but constructive decision has yet to come until now.

Water Disputes

Although water is an infinite resource in this earth, however only 3% of the source can be use as water supply. What's left are seawater, which require massive investment if we want to manoeuvre as water resource. Generally water resource originates as glaciers, rivers, lakes and aquifers and these natural resources usually sharing between riparian countries such as The Great Lake (between Canada and America), Ganges River (between Nepal, India and Bangladesh) and Euphrates Basin (between Turkey, Syria and Iraq).

If we refer water as commodity perspective we can assume water is priceless. However, from basic need perspective, water is common for everybody and everyone have a right to use it without destruction. Without water, human being can’t live longer as usual because we need the nutrients from water.

Current trend shows, demand for water either by domestic user or industries user has increasingly every year. This scenario can be influence by growth in population, expansion in economic sectors, nevertheless may be there is also mismanagement in water supply. It’s a tough task for government to provide an adequate water supply for their residents because a huge amount of money needed for investment in water infrastructure to make sure there is enough water.

Government may not features any nuisance if the source of water in their territory. However, the scenario will be different if the source of water be sharing with other countries like rivers, lakes and, aquifers. Circumstances become complicated, if there are riparian countries to take bilateral action which give and adverse impact to other riparian countries. This situation, if continuous can cause dispute sentiment among riparian countries.

Why there is water dispute? This situation often occurs when solitary country or other riparian countries contained by the water resource region made protest by the action taken by the other riparian which they believe the action will cause them an adverse impact. Allocation of water, environment issues, water consumption, and also water as a security reason is most common reason for water dispute.

While dispute occur, it will take the length of time to be resolve. Water dispute can be categories into three types:

1) Transboundary Water Disputes – Mostly this kind of disputes involve a number of countries. In case of Jordan River Basin which involve Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

2) Interstate Water Disputes – Mostly these disputes involve different states in same country, such as Cauvery Water Disputes which occur in India but involved different states which are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. Another example of interstate water disputes are Water Disputes in Missouri Basin (Pennington, A, 2005; Beach, H.L, 2000))

3) Intrastate Water Disputes – These disputes occur in same states but between different types of organization which made claim the rights of water such as dispute between farmers association and government, between industrial sector and agriculture sector concerning about water allocation ( Butterworth et 2007).

There also positive movement taken before the dispute occurs by signing declaration among riparian countries. This positive movement can be analysis with referring to case of Danube River (Heather et al, 2000), which all riparian countries signing declaration to protect and manage Danube River from become further contaminated.

3.0 Description of research

My aim of this particular research is find out, are the new raw water price is main concern to Johor while they proposed to Singapore. Furthermore, I like to investigate from the agreement, the factor or variables can be includes in the new proposal. As water rich states, Johor always practise social responsible to help neighbouring state which have problem with water supply. Johor have water supply agreement not only with Singapore ( 1961 and 1962 water supply agreement), but also with its neighbouring states (Melaka, 1991 water supply agreement).

This agreement already is a focused in bilateral relation since 1998, when Johor (Malaysia) has submitting their proposals to Singapore Government that they want to increase the raw water price from its present price at RM0.03 per 1000 gallon to RM6.25 per 1000 gallon. Johor supply 350million gallon per day raw water to Singapore. Both, Singapore and Johor have their arguments about this dispute and Johor always clarify, the present price is not reasonable anymore, while Singapore always clarify they already subsidise Johor in huge amount in processing cost for treated water.

Johor supplies raw water to Singapore since 1927 (Johor-Singapore water agreement 1927). The 1927 agreement stated that the raw water supply from Gunung Pulai intake through Johor Causeway for Singapore residents consumption. This water agreement was superseded by 1961 and 1962 agreement (Johor-Singapore Water Agreements 1961 & 1962). Both agreements will be expire in year 2011 and 2061. The only other states in Malaysia have water supply agreement is Pahang; they have an agreement to carry out the obligation with supplying raw water to Selangor (Pahang-Selangor Water Supply Agreement 2007).

As a neighbouring country, Johor constantly aim to be gracious with Singapore in many issues not only in water supply, but also in terms of investment, international relation, culture and others. Since Johor already supply raw water to Singapore from 1927, the 1961 and 1962 agreements, clearly stated that Johor have the rights to review the price after 25 years, which means in 1986 and 1987 (1961 and 1962 agreements p:12 and 18). Johor decided not to review the price at that particular time due to economic recessions in the country. In 1998, Johor has submitting their proposals to Singapore to review current price, however rejected by Singapore. Singapore claims that Johor already lost their rights to review the current price because did not take action in 1986 and 1987.

This dispute has created tension not only between both governments but also tension between residents and already take years to discuss. Malaysia (Johor)-Singapore water disputes occur on different reason which is unique to investigate. Most of the disputes in this world occur because they are riparian countries and sharing the water resource like lake, river, aquifer or watershed. But in this particular case, it is about new price of raw water that Johor supply to Singapore. The unique of the cases become more interesting, since Johor and Singapore are not even sharing either the riparian or watershed because Singapore is an island country and located neighbouring with Johor. There is no doubtful about water quality or allocation of water because Johor are very honour with the agreements.

4.0 Problem Statement.

Malaysia and Singapore have its own history since colonization by British in 1824 (British-Holland Agreement) until Singapore independence from Malaysia in 9th August 1965. Malaysia (Johor) relationship with Singapore is vital and contentious. Since 1990’s, both countries at loggerheads over variety of issues; ranging from immigration control to water supply.

The main issue that I want to investigate is about water dispute between Johor and Singapore regarding new raw water price referring to 1961 and 1962 agreement. My question in this issue as follow:

Are the prices in main concern in Johor-Singapore water disputes?

Factor to be included in new raw water price instead referring to commercial value?

Relationship between 1961 and 1962 water supply agreement and 1999 privatisation of water supply in Johor?

With one of its two water supply agreements with Singapore salted to expire in 2011. Johor already firm with statement that they don’t want to continue with new agreements. Since January 2003, Johor not ever bill the raw water price to Singapore and vice versa with Singapore because both countries try to negotiate about the existing raw water price referring to the clause in agreement as follows:

(i) Clause 17, 1961 Johor-Singapore Water Supply Agreement:

“The provision of paragraph (i) and (ii) of the foregoing clause of these presents shall be subject to review after the expiry of 25 years from the date of these presents and shall be reviewed by the parties in the light of any change in the purchasing power of money which may then have occurred and the facts that are to be taken into account upon such review shall include inter alia any rise or fall in the purchasing power of money and any rise or fall in the cost of labour, power and materials for the purpose of supplying water. In the event of any dispute or differences arising under the provisions of this clause the same shall be referred to arbitration as in hereinafter provided”.

(ii) Clause 14, 1962 Johor-Singapore Water Supply Agreement:

“The provision of paragraph (i) and (ii) of the foregoing clause of these presents shall be subject to review after the expiry of twenty five years from the date of these presents and shall be reviewed by the parties in the light of any change in the purchasing power of money which may then have occurred and the facts that are to be taken into account upon such review shall include inter alia any rise or fall in the purchasing power of money and any rise or fall in the cost of labour, power and materials for the purpose of supplying water. In the event of any dispute or differences arising under the provisions of this clause the same shall be referred to arbitration as in hereinafter provided”.

My objective in this research:

i- Although Johor already submitting their proposal for the new raw water price, I want to ascertain that the new raw water price will not cost Johor at the lost side,

ii- What is the implication of rising in raw water price to Johor and at what manners that Johor should tackle this issues softly if they want to increase the price.

iii. To use the outcome of the research and implement with Johor – Melaka Water Supply Agreement 1991.

5.0 Current Research on Malaysia-Singapore Water Disputes:

There is very little research yet to come in discussing about Malaysia-Singapore water disputes. Onn (2003) discussed detail background of the disputes and comparing with alternative method in water processing. This paper always assume there is reduction in technology in water processing such as desalination, NEWater, and Reverse Osmosis (RO) but never discussed cost reduction in processing raw water.

Most popular area of research that scholars has done related to this particular dispute is more on water trade ( Segal, D 2004) which the author admit that Singapore is water stress country and must review its water policy with possible strategy and alternative of water resources.

Continuation from this research, World Bank in 2006 has proposed how to dealing with water scarcity in Singapore through institutions, strategies, and enforcement. This is to ensure Singapore will have sustainable water supply with good Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and not dependable to Johor as source of water supply.

While Chang (2003) also proposed how Singapore should be self-reliance from Johor regarding this prolong water disputes and diversify its water import.

In February 2000 Singapore launched its policy for defence, entitled “Defending Singapore in 21st Century” which carrying and affirming its ‘total defence’ since 1984. This policy requires all Singaporeans play its part. This policy not only covers its military defence but also civil, economics and social defence.

Singapore consumed roughly 1.2 cubic meters of water each day since 2001 and drawn ½ its consumer water from its reservoirs and reliant another ½ from Johor which piped thru Causeway. Singapore Prime Minister urged self-reliance in water supply and suggested a series of measures that range from water conservation to diversified sourcing. Singapore admitted that water supply from Johor is so important and an island official once expressed willingness for war if Johor (Malaysia) cut the water supply.

Thus, Singapore already takes launching a number project related to water supply to reduce its reliance on Malaysia water. One of the methods is desalination water, although these methods are expensive to build and operate Singapore government had decide to construct three desalination plants which cost $1.61billion.

6.0 Structure of Research.

Section One

Chapter 1) Establishing Literature Review of Water Disputes

Chapter 2) Establishing Previous Water Disputes Resolution

Chapter 3) Methodology of Research

Section Two

Chapter 4) Introduction of Johor-Singapore Water Disputes

Chapter 5) Examining the proposed new raw water price formula from Johor and its


Chapter 6) Proposed new raw water price for both countries.

Section Three

Chapter 7) Conclusion

Chapter 8) Research Implications: How new raw water price formula can be adapted and can be use with other water supply agreement in Malaysia.

Chapter 9) Future Study

7.0 Methodology.

The methodology in my proposed research is case study and library based. In other words, this study need and extensive literature review, previous case study scenario, prime and secondary data, and computer-mediated communication. In literature review, there are a lot of sources from which I can get information on my proposed research such as books, journals, news paper, official government reports and also Internet. This study also will embark field study in order to obtain prime data from resident of both countries.

Location of Study

This study will be conducted in Johor and Singapore based on two water supply agreement 1961 and 1962. Specifically, this study will be aimed that the new raw water price to ensure that Johor not at the lost side and will not costly to Singapore. The motivation behind this study is due to limited number of study about Malaysia – Singapore water disputes mostly in Malaysia and to add to the existing study. In additional, it is also due to ensure that relationship between both countries will be harmony either by government and residents.

Although the statically report about water supply Johor – Singapore not published, this study will try to get the data and the revenue from 1961 until 2002 for both countries.

Data Collection

This study is design to utilise secondary data collection in order to evaluate and proposed new raw water price. Secondary data will be use to obtain data which related as factor to new raw water price such as Gross Domestic Products (GDP), Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), Average Income Per person, and Environmental Weightage. This secondary data can be obtained from World Bank report and this research will try to obtain the data since 1961 until present time.

Data Analysis.

There is no ultimate single analysis approach in define raw water price for export. However, this study proposes to analyze and combine previous methods in define water price to provide comprehensive analysis on the subject matter.

Since most previous scholars research that studied price for domestic and non- domestic user, this research will face tough scenario to ensure the proposed new raw water price formula not only be accepted by both government but also can be use to solve the same scenario which the researcher believe will be occurs in future between Johor – Melaka and Pahang – Selangor.

8.0 Reliability of sources

This study need to be act professionally in order to ascertain the truth for both countries. In other words, researcher must act to be true with the library-based research.

There is huge of information can be obtained from various sources while develop literature review, but the most important point either those information are valid or contrary. As researcher, we must keep in mind all sources are the result from human activity which previous researcher acting in their circumstances, constrains, and limitations. Hence, it is important as researcher that knowing how the source came into existence for responsibility and reliability.

9.0 Internet as a tool.

Internet in my proposed research is very important tool in obtained information and source. There are a lot of web-sites that can be asses in order to obtained information about water price and water export, which is very useful for my research. E-mail also included in my research since there many individual and government departments that I should contact in order to get information, which is beneficial to me.

10.0 The timetable of research

Actually I already start the first section of my research from August 2008, which is the part of literature review in water disputes to find why the water dispute occurs and its cause. Accordingly, I have been reading widely through the water disputes literature, as well as water export, water price and water dispute resolution. In January 2009, I want to do my data collection until February 2009 in Malaysia. Personally I already contact some of my counterpart in Malaysia and Singapore in obtain secondary data. At the moment, I already have Johor-Singapore Water Supply Agreement 1927, 1961, 1962 from Singapore Government. I also have information about proposed new raw water price from Johor to Singapore. Around March 2009, I wish to start analysing the data and proposed new water price in order to develop an acceptable formula for raw water price which not only can be use between Johor – Singapore, but also can be use in future between Johor – Melaka and Pahang – Selangor water supply.

Picture 1: Pipe lines which supply raw water from Johor to Singapore at Johor Causeway


1. Beach, H, L; Hamner, J; Hewitt, J,J; Kaufman, Edy. (2000) Transboundary Freshwater Disputes Resolution: Theory Practice and Annotated References Japan: United Nation University Press.

2. Butterworth, J; Ducrot, R; Faysse, N; and Janakarajan, S. (2007) Peri-Urban Water Conflict Netherlands. IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

3. Biwas, A, K; Varis, O; Tortajada, C. ( etd 2005) Intergrated Water Resources Management in South and South-East Asia New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

4. Chang, F. K. (2003) In Defense of Singapore: Foreign Policy Institute. United States of America.

(download on 14th May 2008).

5. Government of Malaysia. (2003) Water: The Singapore – Malaysia Disputes The Facts National Economic Action Council. Putrajaya.

6. Government of Singapore (1927) Johor - Singapore Water Supply Agreement.

7. Government of Singapore (1961) Johor - Singapore Water Supply Agreement.

8. Government of Singapore (1962) Johor – Singapore Water Supply Agreement.

9. Government of Singapore. (2003) Water Talks? If Only It Could Ministry of Information and the Arts. Singapore.

10. Lowi, M, R. Political and Insitutional Responses to Transboundary Water Disputes in the Middleeast. (download 24th December 2007).

11. Moiz, Azra. (1998) Singapore-Running Out of Water. (download on 21st August 2008)

12. Morris, S. (2007) Singapore Quest for Water Self-Reliance. (download on 8th July 2008)

13. Onn, L. P. (2003) The Water Issue Between Singapore and Malaysia: No Solution In Sight? Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.

(download on 14th December 2007)

14. Onn, L. P. (2005) Water Management Issues in Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. (download on 3rd July 2008).

15. Segal, D. (2004) Singapore’s Water Trade with Malaysia and Alternatives Harvard University.

16. UNESCO (2006) Sharing Water (download on 24th April 2008).

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