Green City Singapore may now be recognized for its blue water.
That is the hope of civic officials behind a project to seal off the city-state's waterfront from the sea and create a three-in-one water source for drinking, flood control and recreation.
Recently finished after about three years of construction, the 240-million Singapore dollar (176 million US) Marina Barrage will create a new source of precious water in a city-state with almost no natural resources of its own.
When reporters toured the project shortly before its completion, workers with trowels were finishing the edges of a bridge more than 300 metres (330 yards) long -- the key structure in the barrage.
Below the bridge are nine steel gates that act as a tidal barrier, the developers said. The gates are activated by giant black cylinders that look like cannons.
On one side of the bridge, sun glints off the rippling greenish sea filled with ships. On the other side, the still water is brownish against a backdrop of Singapore's business district.
"The water here is still seawater," Yap Kheng Guan, project director for Singapore's water agency, PUB, says as he stands on the bridge and points behind him toward the reservoir and Marina Bay.
PUB officials say rainwater will eventually flush out that sea water. Probably by early 2010, they say, the flushing will have created a freshwater lake for drinking and recreational use on the edge of the city's commercial heart and a burgeoning tourist and entertainment district.
Yap said the type of fish in the water will change along with the water. "There will be a different biodiversity," he said.
Marina Bay itself is undergoing dramatic change with the construction of a multi-billion-dollar casino complex, the new Singapore Flyer observation wheel, renovation of an old ferry terminal, and the Gardens by the Bay horticultural development adjoining Marina Barrage.
Sealing off the reservoir and stopping its three-metre tidal variation will make it an even more appealing venue for boating, windsurfing and other activities, the PUB says.
A boat hoist has been installed at one end of the barrage, which officials said was already operating as a tide gate.
"Gradually we are kicking in the functions, step by step," said Khoo Teng Chye, PUB's chief executive, who forecasts an opening early next year.
The barrage itself is completed but final work continues on a visitors' centre.
"We are on schedule," Yap said.
During heavy rain, the barrage's steel gates can be opened to release storm water into the sea at low tide, the PUB says.
At high tide, seven pumps inside a spacious and bright building at one end of the barrage will send the excess storm water into the sea, helping to ease the threat of flooding in older, low-lying parts of the city.
During a test of the flood gates, water pours into the sea, making it look like a wide stretch of frothy rapids.
A curving ramp will lead visitors to the roof of the pump house, where a worker hosed down freshly-laid grass. PUB hopes the pump house and its attached dining spots will become a destination in themselves.
Aside from flood control and recreation, the barrage will create the city-state's largest catchment area which will meet about 10 percent of the city's current water demand, the water agency said.
"This is probably the only one of its kind where you have a reservoir taking water from a highly urbanised area," Yap said.
Several rivers drain into the catchment but they carry little ground water.
"Basically you're bringing in rain water," Yap said. Sewage is captured in a separate system.
Water from Marina Reservoir and others in the city is one of four sources of Singapore's water. Some is imported from Malaysia, some comes from a desalination plant, and the rest is known as NEWater. The NEWater starts as treated sewage, which is reclaimed and further purified. Most of it goes to industrial and commercial users, PUB says.
For Singapore, the Marina Barrage project marks the culmination of a cleanup effort that began about two decades ago when working barges still plied and polluted the main Singapore River.
Now, tiny fish dart about in city river water, which is visited at times by long-necked white birds.
But the water is certainly not blue. After heavy rain the rivers become a soupy olive-brown and filled with vegetation, discarded plastic drink bottles and other garbage.
Water for drinking from the reservoir will be specially treated to make it safe, the PUB says.
"We will no longer have the benefit of the sea flushing out the pollutants on a daily basis," Khoo said, adding that the biggest challenge is ensuring the cleanliness of water flowing into the catchment.
Clean-up crews in small boats patrol the water system but the PUB is counting on the public to play their part in keeping their aquatic playground and drinking fountain clean.
"We want them to understand that water should be something that you cherish," Yap said.
Eventually, he said, they hope the water will be blue.