Singapore receives 100 inches of rain fall each year. As you might expect, that makes flooding a major issue. The surprising thing is that this heavy rainfall also cuts down on the mount of clean drinking water. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
How could having too much water lead to water shortages? The problem comes from the nearby Indian Ocean. As water levels rise, salt water spills over into fresh drinking water reservoirs to contaminate the supply. Singapore gets a bunch of extra water during the rainy season, the only problem is that it’s all poisonous by the time the rain clears.
So, how to do you suck up flood waters while increasing the amount of clean drinking water for locals? Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew decided to kill two fish with one stone by designing the Marina Barrage, a low level dam that keeps salt water out and fresh water in. The dam stretches across the Marina Channel and operates on a very simple tide system. Basically, whenever the ocean tide is low, the dam opens its gates to spill thousands of gallons of excess water out into the ocean at a rate of one Olympic swimming pool per minute. When the tide is high, they seal up the gates to keep the seawater out.
This dam single-handedly increased Singapore’s catchment (a region that drains into a single body of water) from one-half to two-thirds of the country’s land area. The Marina Barrage essentially increases the amount of flooding around the dam in order to reduce the amount of flooding that rest of the country experiences. The big differences is that the dam has the hardware to handle all that extra H2O.
The great thing about soaking up all of that water is that it automatically provides local Singapore citizens with a source of clean, cheap drinking water. The barrage’s reservoir currently gathers enough water to satisfy 10% of the city’s water demands.
What makes the dam so remarkable (and worthy of mention on this blog) is that it also does wonders to improve the happiness of the people in Singapore. The green-roofed facility doubles as a park, so it’s a hot spot for picnics, kite flying, and other outdoorsy activities sure to keep the local population active and healthy. The fact that the local water levels remain steady all year also makes conditions absolutely perfect for aquatic recreation, such as boating or kayaking. Locals can play with their boats without needing to worry about tides and flood waters, and tourists have another reason to pick Singapore as the destination for their next vacation.
The Marina Barrage prevents floods, collects clean drinking water, provides a public play space, and improves the overall happiness of Singapore citizens. Really, what’s not to love?