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Published: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 7:17:54 AM

Water supplies ramped up as dry spell reaches a five-year high

SINGAPORE has gone 20 days without much rain, in what is the longest dry spell here in at least the last five years.

While parched skies may persist this week, Singaporeans can expect passing showers towards end of next week when “atmospheric conditions become less stable”, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Only 0.2mm of rain was recorded in the last three weeks or so.

This constitutes a “dry spell”, defined by NEA as a period of more than 14 days with less than 1mm of rain.

These are common during the end of the north-east monsoon season, in late January or February.

Singapore had seen 16-day dry spells in 2009 and 2011, said NEA.

The longest was a 40-day stretch in 2005, according to data from the NEA website.

The lack of rain, which has coincided with lower temperatures, has come about in part because the dry phase of the north-east monsoon season had set in earlier this year.

This had started from the second half of last month instead of end February or late January as in previous years, leading to fewer rain days and “significantly lower” rainfall in January, said NEA.

The current dry phase, which could last till end February or early March, usually means cool, dry and windy weather.

Last month, Singapore saw just 75.4mm of rainfall, a fraction of the usual amount.

NEA expects the rainfall for February this year to be below average too, compared with past years.

But daily minimum temperatures are likely to increase slightly in the coming days to around 23.5˚C, it said in a monsoon update on its website.

In response to the dry spell, national water agency PUB has in the past two weeks pumped 20 million to 25 million gallons of Newater a day into the reservoir to maintain water levels.

This is at least 36 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of water.

Meanwhile, the deaths of hundreds of fish, found washed up along a river in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Tuesday were likely due to the recent spell of hot and dry weather, said experts.

Dr Tan Heok Hui, a fish expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS), explained that dry weather could have lowered the river’s water levels and increased algal growth.

This could have led to low oxygen levels as algae competed with fish for it.

The dead fish “could have a low tolerance to oxygen deprivation” compared to other species, he said.

“Terrapins breathe air like we do and thus are not affected,” he added.

The low water levels have also got avid anglers such as retiree Mohamed Ismail, 54, worried.

Ismail, who fishes in canals in Clementi, had not picked up his fishing rod over the last few weeks.

“The current weather also means a dry spell for fishermen,” he said.

Gardens by the Bay has increased the frequency of irrigation in its outdoor gardens – and heartland gardeners are also stepping up their efforts.

Housewife Susan Tan, 48, who helps out at a community garden in Jurong, has had to water her chilli plants more often.

“I hope the rain starts to fall soon,” she said.

“The plants need some relief. We also need some relief.” — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Tags / Keywords: Environment, Singapore dry days, The Straits Times, Asia News Network

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