Singapore: Water, Ice Skating & Little India

December 9, 2012 in Asia, Singapore, Travelogue

Did you know that Singapore has a land surface area of only 699.1 square kilometers and approximately 20% of that is reclaimed land?

Did you know that the population of this tiny island country, with only 150 miles of coastline, is almost 5 000 000 people?

In 2011 Singapore used 380 million gallons of water per day.

Historically, Singapore has had a hard time with water and water management as their land is so limited and the population continues to grow.

Today we learned a lot about how they’re solving those problems and how the country is on track to be completely water self-sufficient by 2061.

So where do you get water if you’re stuck on a tiny island with five million of your closest friends? 

Singapore has four “national taps” as they call them:

1. Water Catchement

This is exactly what it sounds like, they capture the water from rain that falls. With an annual rainfall of 2.5 meters, this is a significant amount, but only accounts for about 20% of their water needs.

2. Water Importation

From Malaysia, via massive pipeline. Singapore imports almost 40% of it’s water from Malaysia but aims to reduce this to 0 in 50 years

3. NEWater

Deep below the city runs a network of pipelines that moves used water from all over the city to special treatment plants that clean it in a three step process and return it to use in manufacturing and private sector use. 75% of the water that is pumped into the plant can be reclaimed and the filtered water accounts for about 30% of Singapore’s water usage.

4. Desalination

The one kind of water that Singapore has plenty of is salt water, since it’s an ocean island. The desalination plants crank out about 10%, and rising, of the country’s water needs.

Obviously, the other side of the water issue is conservation and reducing individual usage. Singaporeans use about 40 gallons per person, per day on average. By contrast, Californians are reported to use about 130 gallons per person per day.

Needless to say, after visiting the NEWater Plant this morning, we talked “water” all day long.

“This whole visit was conspires to make me feel guilty about that tub last night, doesn’t it?” I whispered to Tony.

The kids were delighted to know that they could brush their teeth with tap water and refill their water bottles in any public restroom because every drop of Singapore’s water exceeds the WHO standards for drinkability.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind:

  • Lunch in Chinatown from a street vendor (do get the green onion pancakes if you get the chance, they’re divine.)
  • A yarn and bead shop. I did a little Christmas elfing.
  • Ice skating, followed by dinner in Little India.

Yes, I did say ice skating, but no ice was harmed in the provision of our afternoon’s entertainment.

Lo & behold, there’s a plastic “ice” rink at the Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore. What else would American-Canadian kids do in December, within spitting distance of the equator but go skating when the opportunity presented itself?

Skating on plastic is not much like skating on actual ice, other than it’s white (although I suppose they could technically dye the rink any colour they liked!) It’s a far trickier thing, actually, and a plastic rink is less forgiving than falling on ice, which has a certain give to it.

This was rather like skating about on my mother’s vinyl cutting board with butter knives strapped to our feet.

The skates weren’t sharp, they were a poor approximation of rental hockey skates and I, for one, was missing my toe-picks badly. I attempted one pirouette, I landed on my biscuit. There was no skating backwards to be had and certainly no tricks.

Nonetheless, it was novel to whirl around humming the Skater’s Waltz in December as I’ve done in Canadian winters since I was small enough to need two runners strapped to the bottom of each little boot.

  • Ezra fell so much he got frustrated (“You can’t use the sides of the blade to push off, Mom, you just fall!)
  • Gabriel was hysterical, sliding all over with his six-plus feet of arms and legs flailing in every direction; I was reminded of that scene in Bambi when the baby deer is trying to learn to stand on ice.
  • Hannah whirled around with relative grace, in a garden print sundress, perspiring.
  • Elisha sported his new (reclaimed) Ray Bans and picked up Singaporean chicks in his age bracket. Tony took pictures, of course.

The only other item of note today, was our discovery that the younger boys have a genuine affinity for Bollywood music. Half way through dinner in Little India, it was conclusive. The Indian proprietors of the restaurant giggled from behind the bar as both boys took it in turns to bop around to the heavy beat and high wail. It’s not one of those things a person can describe, but if you’ve met our boys, then likely you can imagine it just about right.

Don’t let them hear you laughing!