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El Nino fear fuels water-saving moves

DRY SPELL: The grass in the Marina Bay area turned brown earlier this year when a dry spell hit Singapore


    Jun 17, 2014

    El Nino fear fuels water-saving moves

    MANY are battening down their hatches to prepare for the upcoming El Nino weather phenomenon, which is expected to lead to hotter and drier months ahead.

    There will be no water fountains, or excessive watering of vegetables. Instead, from fish farms to hotels, various measures have been put in place to conserve water.

    Last month, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) predicted the possibility of a weak to moderate El Nino - the abnormal warming in the Pacific Ocean - developing over the next few months.

    This could cause rainfall in Singapore to drop 10-40 per cent below average over the coming south-west monsoon season, which runs until September.

    The average daily temperature is also expected to be about 1 deg C above average.

    Fish farmers are not taking any chances this time.

    Following the dry spell in February this year, which made about 5 per cent of his fish "sick", Malcom Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, said that he would spend about $100,000 to increase his fish farm's capacity.

    The money would be used to buy more pumps for aeration, solar panels and to upgrade the water-monitoring system.

    "If the water is still, the fish will die (due to a lack of oxygen)," said the 51-year-old.

    His fish farm produces 700 tonnes of fish a year.

    "Our supply has to be consistent. We can't say, 'Sorry, we don't have fish for the next four months'."

    Philip Lim, the chairman of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative, said: "We are monitoring water conditions every day, but my advice (to farms) is not to import any more fish for now."

    Landscaping firm Nature Landscapes will drench the roots of its plants to avoid "root burn" and water its plants more frequently.

    To save water, vegetable farm Green Circle in Lim Chu Kang will hand-water its plants using its catchment water, instead of using sprinklers.

    The co-owner of the eco-farm, Evelyn Eng-Lim, said that hand-watering would save at least 50 per cent of water consumption. She said: "It's more targeted. Using sprinklers is more efficient, but sometimes they spray off target."

    Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is also looking to conserve water.

    During the dry spell in March this year, water features in the RWS and CapitaLand properties were turned off.

    Winston Chow, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, said that if an El Nino occurs, it would have a "strong influence" in lowering average rainfall in South-east Asia.

    "We're still in an inter-monsoon period - which explains the current rainy weather - but with the transition in season to the south-west monsoon later this month, we should expect drier (if not warmer) conditions to manifest," he said.

    Ivy Singh-Lim, who owns vegetable farm Bollywood Veggies, said that her ponds would have sufficient water to last her for four months.

    "Too much rain is not good. When there's no rain, my fruit trees do even better," she said.