ABC Waters in Singapore

In 2006 the ABC Waters programme was launched by PUB, Singapore’s national water agency. It meant a shift in thinking on the approach towards drainage, moving towards a more sustainable approach. In addition to water quantity and quality management objectives, the programme aims to transform utilitarian drains into beautiful and vibrant community spaces for recreational activities. One component of the programme, ABC Waters Certification, encourages private developers and public agencies to incorporate ABC Waters design features, such as bioswales and bioretention ponds, in their developments.  To get an understanding of ABC Waters design features implemented at private and public housing, and to observe whether or not there are any perceivable differences in living environment between ABC certified condominiums and condominiums without the certification, field visits were undertaken in July and November 2017 by a team of IWP and UWA researchers.

The public housing project “Waterway Ridges” is located in Punggol, the northeast of Singapore. It is an “ABC Waters Precinct”, which is designed with extensive ABC Waters design features like bioretention basins and vegetated swales integrated with the landscape areas within the precinct. The multi-purpose lawn in the centre of the development doubles up as a water retention basin during heavy rain.

Multi-purpose lawn which detains water during rain


The roadside drains are vegetated swales made from rocks and pebbles that allow infiltration of water into the soil – quite a difference from the commonly-used concrete u-drains.

Vegetated swale


One element of ABC Waters is providing informative signs to explain how ABC Waters design features work and contribute to Singapore’s water management.


The Rainforest is a private housing development in the western part of Singapore. ABC Waters design features detain and treat stormwater runoff from 3.7% of the development’s total site area. An extensive vegetated swale is located along one side of the development.

Vegetated swale at The Rainforest


The bio-pond with wetland planting helps to reduce nutrients from the water.


Vacanza@East is another ABC Waters certified private housing development. The development features an extensive green roof that incorporates a rain garden. The rain garden helps to cut down the amount of pollution entering the drains.


Skyville@Dawson is a new public housing development. Here bio-retention swales around the perimeter of the buildings detain and treat rain water run-off from more than 60% of the paved area.

A bioswale at a public housing development


In general, public housing developments seem to cover a larger part of the parcel area with water sensitive design features. In private developments there are more non-ABC Waters greenery and water features on the sites than ABC Waters greenery and features. It may be that the developers’ priority in introducing green features is aesthetics rather than stormwater management.

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