Exploring the 17 reservoirs of Singapore, oldest being MacRitchie
It has only been under a month since the year started and we understand if all the stress is slowly creeping up from the yearly reports, goals and whatnot. Whilst travelling may not be applicable as of yet, perhaps soaking into flora and fauna of the reservoirs near you seem like a perfect hideout to de-stress.
With the compiled list of the 17 reservoirs in Singapore below, you could probably pick one to plonk your picnic mat on for the weekend. Bearing in mind that the pandemic is still lurking around, do adhere to the safe-distancing measures whilst you are on-site and if you are intending to gather some friends, always remember the golden rule of 8-per-group.
What is a reservoir?
Often, many are confused between a river and a reservoir, after all, they are both simply a large area filled with water. While a river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater that flows directly into the oceans, a reservoir, on the other hand, is an extensive lake, either natural or artificial, used as a water supply source. In this case, Singapore’s reservoirs are mostly synthetic, especially since we do not have direct access to water.
In the 80s, Singapore indeed faced a shortage of water, requiring residents to live off a bucket or two from water tanks across the “kampongs”. The pioneers regard those days to be rather challenging yet memorable as you get to witness the community coming together and sharing resources.
While everyone is aware that we source our water from the straits of Johor, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had a long-term plan of eventually being independent of importing water; thus he chose to reclaim quite a fair amount of land and convert them into reservoirs we see today.
Repurposing reservoirs into parks
PHOTO: Ralph Emil Espada / Getty Images
As you read on, you might chance upon a few reservoirs that you may not have heard of even as a local. That’s because reservoirs have more often than not, been repurposed into nature parks which you probably have frequent to but did not realise that it was a reservoir.
Reservoirs located in parks are easily noticeable by the PUB signages at the entrance. The importance of putting these up is, of course, to deter visitors from throwing their trash into the waters to prevent cross-contamination of the desalination process. Today, parks are found within proximity of residential estates for residents to connect with nature and indeed, for recreational activities – this includes running, water-sports, and picnic.
The 17 Reservoirs of Singapore
PHOTO: Ian Kee/ Getty Images
Bedok Reservoir Park is the biggest park on the Island and is within easy reach of residents from four housing estates in the Eastern Part of Singapore, namely Bedok, Tampines, Kaki Bukit and Simei. Unlike other reservoirs, Bedok Reservoir forms part of a residential site, bounded by Bedok North Road, Bedok Reservoir Road and Bedok North Centre. The 47-hectare park takes the shape of a bowl, with the reservoir in the centre and the embankment gradually rising to merge with the nearby housing estates’ grounds.
Best Photo Spot: Near the Jetty (as per the photo above), might get a little swamped in the evenings but find yourself a spot for a sunset watching.
Activities to do here: If you’re feeling an adrenaline rush, drop by Forest Adventure and challenge yourself to some obstacle courses and thrilling zip-lines!
Upper Seletar Reservoir
PHOTO: Kelly Cheng/ Getty Images
The 15-hectare Upper Seletar Reservoir is located off Mandai Road and is a stone away from the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. It certainly sounds quite a distance from wherever you live but trust us; the view makes it all worth travelling to. Apart from MacRithie and the Pierce Reservoirs, Upper Seletar is also one of which that merges with the nature reserves of the Central Catchment area, making it a convenient meeting point for trekkers and nature-goers.
Best Photo Spot: Rocket Tower for a bird’s eye view of the whole reservoir (picture above). Do note that the tower may be closed/restricted to certain hours due to COVID-19 Restrictions.
Activities to do here: Score yourself an Instagram worthy shot of a lone tree similar to that of Punggol’s Instagram tree that was removed back in 2015. Let’s be frank, Upper Seletar is undoubtedly a perfect spot for photographers at any time of the day.
Lower Seletar Reservoir
“What goes up must come down” – well perhaps that makes a tad bit of sense here. No questions asked as to why there is a need to split the Seletar Reservoir into two parks of its own, but it’s said that Lower Seletar caters more towards recreational activities. Of which includes a fishing jetty that is swamped by avid-fishing lovers, especially on the weekends. The park is also a popular venue for watersports such as Kayaking and Dragon Boating, where visitors could rent kayaks and spend the day paddling down the waters whilst immersing in nature’s beauty.
Lower Pierce Reservoir
PHOTO: Shariffah Nadia/ Butler Mag
Located near MacRitchie Reservoir, the Lower Pierce Reservoir is Singapore’s second-oldest reservoir and was initially an extension of MacRitchie to meet the increasing demand for water supply in Singapore. It was once known as the Kallang River Reservoir but got its name changed after Upper Pierce Reservoir’s opening.
Best photo spot: Boardwalk along the plateau of an embankment. (Photo above)
Note: The boardwalk operates from 7 am – 7 pm, also as the path is relatively narrow, do hang on to your items and watch your steps for any uneven wood planks.
Activities to do here: The reservoir is a popular fishing spot but do adhere to the designated zones so as not to pollute the water catchment areas. With the reservoir’s lawn being exceptionally well-maintained, go on a picnic with some friends here but do keep a lookout for wild-boars and monkeys that might be out to snitch on your snacks.
Upper Pierce Reservoir
A similar concept to that of Seletar Reservoir, the Pierce Reservoir was divided into two separate parks, but Upper Pierce kickstarted in 1979 before the launch of Lower Pierce years later. With it being the older of the Pierce “brothers”, the two kilometres drive into the park is built on a relatively uneven terrain hemmed in by trees on either side – It’s as though you’re on a roller coaster ride through a forest! On a serious note, it’s quite a walk-in from the main road so either bring some company and hike in or take a cab in if you’re on public transport.
The best activity to do here: Picnic under the casuarina trees, making the perfect shade for a family/closed friends day out.
In the background is the Johor Straits. PHOTO: Nparks Singapore
Well, it’s only expected of you to associate Kranji to a bus trip heading to Johor Bahru, but hey, hang in there, we’ll pray for the borders to open real soon! Nonetheless, the 9-hectare Kranji Reservoir Park does offer a good view of the distant skyline and landscape of the straits of Johor so perhaps, soaking in its scenic view from afar would make up to it.
The best activity to do here: Another reservoir perfect for fishing enthusiasts whilst admiring the Johor Straits’ view. Again, do look out for any prohibited spaces when fishing.
PHOTO: Magforce’s photography/ Getty Images
I’m not sure if it’s just us, but Punggol as an estate is simply beautiful and what more the Punggol Reservoir. Many know the reservoir as the Punggol Waterway Park with endless photo-opt spots even for wedding and graduation photoshoots. With the estate still maturing, sink in the clear surroundings’ tranquillity before a new development arises. The park is segmented into four different zones, so we foresee endless trail-walking on the bridges.
Note: The park as a whole do not have many sheltered areas, so we recommend putting on a hat or bring along an umbrella just in case.
Best photo spot: Look out for the red adventure bridge that links you to Coney Island not far-off from the park.
Activities to do here: De-stress on the weekends at the therapeutic garden, the sixth of its kind in Singapore and the first in the North-East region. With a wellness zone in place, horticulturist has carefully hand-picked plants to improve a visitor’s well-being. As a whole, indeed, a perfect spot to unwind.
List of other therapeutic gardens around the island here
Truth be told that the Serangoon Reservoir conjoins with Punggol Reservoir, and leads to one another through a 4.2km park connector. It’s mainly purposed for cycling and running so either way, do watch out for your surroundings to keep the park as safe as possible. Also, there are bike rentals available if you aren’t keen on walking the whole way through.
While researching on Singapore’s reservoirs, Tengeh Reservoir was undoubtedly one of those we (even as a local myself) have not heard of. Reports mentioned that the reservoir in Tuas would house one of the world’s largest floating solar panel systems. In hopes of reducing carbon emissions, the solar panels will then help run the nearby estates’ water treatment processes.
PHOTO: Shariffah Nadia/ Butler Mag
Located in Singapore’s western region, the Pandan Reservoir is the largest service reservoir on the island providing non-portable water to the surrounding industrial estate. As it serves to mostly the industries, the 6km looped gravelled pathway is typically a popular site for runners for its rather quaint and scenic route.
Note: Unlike other reservoirs, this does not serve as a park. Thus, it’s solely used for as a water catchment area and pathways are perfect for a quaint running route.
Activities to do here: Slow jogs or morning stroll
PHOTO: Tanatat pongphibool/ Getty Images
The Marina Reservoir is more commonly known as the Marina Barrage. The 15th reservoir in Singapore is the first of its kind to be built in the heart of the city, making it the largest and most urbanised water catchment area of over 10,000 hectares. The Marina Barrage also serves as a flood control to alleviate flooding in low-tying estates of Chinatown and Geylang, which previously experienced rapid flooding.
Best photo spot: Time to flaunt your wide-eye lenses on the new iPhone and capture a 360 view of the city, especially during the fireworks display on National Day and New Year’s Eve.
Best activity to do here: Apart from being a top picnic spot on the island, Marina Barrage is an ideal location for boating, kayaking and dragon boating as its water levels are kept constant all year round so, no choppy waves for anyone who fears of capsizing!
PHOTO: Shariffah Nadia/ Butler Mag
Jurong Lake is Singapore’s newest national garden in the heartlands where each space is carefully designed for families and the community to enjoy. Located along Yuan Ching Road, the 90-hectare reservoir comprises of Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden and Garden Promenade which also marks the first point of the 36km coast-to-coast trail from Singapore’s Western Region to the North-east Region in Punggol.
Best photo spots: Take a stroll on the Rasau Walk (picture above) pathway that leads you to the edges of the reservoir.
Read more: What to eat, do and see at Jurong Lake Gardens.
The SAF Reservoir – Tekung
Who knew the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) training ground – Pulau Tekung is one of Singapore’s water catchment area. With the island covered in almost 80% water, perhaps it’s also why the military decided to have their training there, to strengthen the men even during tough times with no escape plan in mind.
The Western Water Catchment
Sarimbun, Poyan and Murai Reservoirs are all apart of the Western water catchment, as its name implies, located in the Western Region of Singapore. These reservoirs are unfortunately out of bounds to members of the public as they are a live-firing area used by the SAF since the 1960s.
The HSBC Treetop walk. PHOTO: Nparks Singapore
What better way to end off the list with the well-known MacRitchie Reservoir. Opened in 1967, MacRitchie is indeed Singapore’s oldest reservoir parks on the island which have always been a popular weekend recreational ground till the present day.
The forests of the nature reserve such as MacRitchie, Upper Seletar and the Pierce Reservoirs serve as a buffer for the water catchment area, which in the long run helps to ensure our water source stays clean and filtered. Evidently, these reservoirs offer an extensive network of walking trails which allows nature lovers to hike through and appreciate the natural wonders of the tropical rainforest at their doorstep.
Best photo spot: HSBC treetop walk, first of its kind in Singapore which enables visitors to have a rare bird’s eye view of the forest from the canopy level.
Note: The treetop walk is currently undergoing renovations till May 2021. Otherwise, it is open daily except for Mondays from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 830 am to 5 pm on weekends. If you have a fear of heights or a heart condition, you should seek medical advice before venturing in especially since it is a one-way structure so there’s really no turning back.
Things to look out for: It’s easily seen as a monkey’s playground but at all times do not feed them! Keep your eyes peeled to the rare species of plants and homegrown fruits such as Durians as well as the Cempedak fruit. (Do not pluck them though.)
Above all, do bear in mind that the plants and animals belong to the forest and we urge you to leave it as they are. As the saying goes “Take only photographs, leave only footprints”. Of course, at all times do ensure you are in proper footwear and do not litter especially into the waters.