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Singapore Public Utilities Board Adds 400 Water Level Sensors to Aid Flood Management

The country’s national water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), has completed several drainage improvements and road-raising works this year to manage higher rainfall intensity and reduce flood risks in Singapore. According to a press release, ahead of the Northeast Monsoon season, the government has also enhanced rainfall forecasting, monitoring, and flood response capabilities to mitigate the risks of flash floods.

To boost flood response capabilities, PUB installed an additional 400 water level sensors across various locations, including the Kallang River, Sungei Api Api, and Bukit Batok Canal, adding to an extensive network of close to 1,000 water level sensors.

When it rains heavily, water levels in drains and canals rise rapidly. By monitoring real-time site conditions, PUB can provide early warning to the public and activate its mobile crew (Quick Response Team) to these areas to carry out flood management. The team can remove blockages, deploy portable flood barriers and manage traffic.

For timely and effective precaution, PUB provides advance warning to the public on potential floods through several platforms, including the Telegram channel and the MyENV mobile application.  PUB has said it is broadening its reach to motorists by partnering with an automotive app to provide its users with location-specific alerts based on PUB’s flood-risk warnings and flash flood incidents. The app will also suggest alternate driving routes for users to avoid these areas.

PUB is a statutory board under the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE). It manages Singapore’s water supply, water catchment, and used water in an integrated way. PUB has also been tasked with protecting Singapore’s coastline from sea-level rise as the national coastal protection agency.

In 2020, PUB announced it would use technology to enhance the forecasting of heavy rain and to better manage floods by using radar equipment throughout the country. PUB developed a system that uses X-band radar equipment together with a “nowcast” model. The combined use of technology enables the prediction of movement, growth, and the decaying of rainclouds.

X-band radars are also used for localised weather monitoring, air traffic control, and maritime vessel navigation. The radar technology will be enhanced with the integration of a machine learning algorithm, which is aimed at improving the overall accuracy of the system.

In September this year, scientists led by the Nanyang Technological University discovered that several densely-populated coastal cities around the world are at risk from rising sea levels because large parts of their land are sinking. Through a cloud-based technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), the research team analysed satellite photos of 48 cities from 2014 to 2020. They indicate that a rise in industrial operations, such as the extraction of groundwater, oil, and gas, and the rapid construction of buildings and other urban infrastructure may be contributing to this susceptibility.

Sinking ground causes higher sea levels and a greater risk of flooding in coastal areas. The findings enable impacted communities and governments to determine which locations are particularly vulnerable to high levels of land subsidence and to take measures to mitigate their respective coastal risks, as OpenGov Asia reported.

This work underscores the importance of high-resolution satellite data for a better understanding of this issue; because subsidence rates can fluctuate rapidly over small areas, land-based measurements frequently fail to capture the real scope of the issue.

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