St Andrew's Sec School River Studies Programme

Since 2005 students from St Andrew’s have been going down to the Kallang River to carry out a series of tests. St Andrew’s is a partner of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and has pledged to help and look after the river which runs through the Village. Not only do the students help keep the river environment clean by helping clear the litter, they also help to monitor the water quality at different times of the year. In addition they collate information about the river environment and help share the ‘treasures’ they discover at many public presentations and conferences.

            Students are trained to use PDAs, data-loggers and sensors to check on the water quality. They test the pH or acidity level of the water.  They measure the water temperature and study the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. To ‘see’ how clear the water is, the students make use of turbidity sensors. In addition, students go to the middle of the river via the bridge to measure how deep the water is at the time of measurement. Another instrument used is the UV light meter to measure the Ultra Violet level at that time of day. Students collate, study the data and make inferences and present their findings to their classes during their Science and English lessons.

Another further development of this programme includes making use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to pin-point the exact location of the students along the Kallang River. Selected teams get to travel to different parts of the Kallang River to measure the water quality and they use the GPS to locate their positions. Another programme developed in collaboration with the Nanyang Polytechnic is the River Trail making use of the GPS and PDAs. Students move around the river region and they get prompts on their PDAs in the form of pictures and short write-outs on what they expect to find at that particular location when their GPS devices are detected by the satellites.


            Students not just enjoy ‘playing’ with their high-tech equipment but they also enjoy the hands-on experiences at the river. Students study and record the type of fish caught by the river. As conservation is also key to having a thriving fish population in the river, students are given opportunities to release the fish back to the water. Some fishes are brought back to the school laboratories to be observed and studied in the laboratories’ fish tanks.

             Throughout the year, migratory birds make their stops by the river. Students get to observe these birds first-hand. Among the birds seen were the herons and terns. In fact, students recently this year observed, first hand and ‘live’, the terns fishing in the waters of Kallang River. Other birds observed are the local kingfishers, swallows, pigeons, crows, mynahs and sparrows.

            As Kallang River leads out to the Marina Bay which is now dammed by the Marina Barrage, the water quality of Kallang River is slowly changing.  The water is no longer as salty as it used to be. Even the population of fish in the river will eventually change from the brackish type to the fresh water kind. The water collected from the Kallang River, the Singapore River and other rivers which lead out to the Marina Bay will supply about 16% of Singapore’s national water needs.

From http://www.siww.com.sg/sites/default/files/24032015.html

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore at the time of independence, was fully aware of what was required for the country to survive and become a sovereign state. With acute vision and excellent foresight, he championed Singapore's journey towards water sustainability by making water a top priority in government policies.

In 1971, Mr Lee set up the Water Planning Unit in the Prime Minister's Office with the aim of studying the scope and feasibility of new conventional sources such as unprotected catchments, as well as unconventional sources like water reclamation and desalination.

The first Water Master Plan was produced in 1972, outlining plans to develop local water resources in Singapore, including water from local catchments, recycled water, and desalinated water, to ensure a diversified and sustainable water supply for generations to come. 

Back in the 1970s, the Singapore River was like an open sewer. The water was polluted with little or no marine life. Squatters, hawkers and manufacturing industries dotted the banks of the river. Wastes were discharged into the water courses and stench pervaded the surrounding areas.

At the opening of Peirce Reservoir in 1977, Mr Lee Kuan Yew challenged the Environment Ministry to clean up the Singapore River. Mr Lee said, "It should be a way of life to keep the water clean. To keep every stream, culvert and rivulet, free from pollution."

"In 10 years, let us have fishing in the Singapore River and Kallang River. It can be done," he added.

To fulfil this resolution, 11 government departments took on the mammoth task of resettling and resiting the pollutants - this included squatter families, street hawkers, vegetable and fruit wholesalers, industrial operators and backyard trades. Pig and duck farms were phased out, and every residential and commercial premise in the area was sewered up. 

The successful completion of this massive, ten-year clean-up effort in 1987 led Mr Lee to articulate another important vision, one that would come to fruition 30 years later and transform the cityscape of Singapore.

"In twenty years, it is possible that there could be breakthroughs in technology, both anti-pollution and filtration. Then, we can dam up or put a barrage at the mouth of the marina, the neck that joins the sea and we will have a huge freshwater lake." 

Indeed, advancements in membrane technology in the 1990s made it possible for the introduction of NEWater, ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water. This same membrane technology also made it possible for Marina Barrage to be transformed into an expansive freshwater reservoir, meeting 10% of Singapore's water needs today. This engineering marvel was the actualisation of Mr Lee's vision. 

As a tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's leadership and foresight in charting the development of Singapore's water sustainability, the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize was set up to honour outstanding contributions by individuals or organisations towards solving the world's water challenges by applying innovative technologies, policies or programmes which benefit humanity. 

Mr Lee Kuan Yew has left behind a great legacy. He was a visionary leader and the architect of the Singapore Water Story.