The 2017 Singapore Budget announced a water price increase of 30% starting from July 2017, which is the first price increase since 2000. Some have argued that this increase comes at an inopportune time, as the global economy is experiencing weak growth. Others have pointed out that Singapore already pays higher water prices than neighbouring countries, and that this increase is unjustified. But we must face the fact that, as an island nation with no resources, we are not water-independent and are still quite vulnerable.
The Nation’s 4 Taps
We still rely heavily on imported water as one of our 4 sources of water (the others being rainfall catchment, reverse osmosis filtration of reclaimed water, and seawater desalinisation). Just last year, several districts in Johor had to begin rationing water while still supplying us with water, which made for a tense situation. Many have identified water being our biggest threat, often calling it a crisis. In other words, we will all need to improve our water conservation efforts now and into the future, whether it be due to political, natural or economic forces.
9 Ways to Reduce Water Usage
During my time in the States, I lived in a region that was in a prolonged period of drought, which resulted in higher water prices and some degree of water rationing. Here are some things I did to mitigate the price increase and help conserve water:
- Water plants/greenery only at night. I’ve been to several flats where I see residents watering their plants in the middle of the day while the sun is full. Where I stayed in the States, you’d be fined for doing this.
- Take shorter showers. There was even a campaign in the States to get couples to shower together.
- Save and reuse greywater. Greywater is gently used water from your sinks, showers, and tubs often collected in a bucket. Although it is not potable (drinkable), it can be used a second time for other purposes. For example, the water you use to wash your vegetables can also be used to flush your toilets, mop your floors or wash your car. Just make sure you use it soon so it doesn’t become a mosquito breeding ground.
- Don’t wash your car that often. When I was in university in the States, I would wash my car by going out in the rain with a sponge and car soap, giving the car a good scrub, and then letting nature do the rest. It saves time, money, and water. Most Americans wash their car less than once a month but in Singapore, it seems most people wash their cars at least weekly.
- Only flush when you need to. About a decade ago, the London mayor Ken Livingstone launched a campaign urging residents to flush only when necessary, following the old adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” The toilet can account for up to one-third of all the water usage in the home.
- Get a low-flush toilet. If you have an old (pre-1990s) single-flush toilet, in addition to selective flushing, you can get a kit that turns a full-flush toilet to one that is low-flush or dual-flush, where you have the option of using less water.
- Wash full loads of laundry on shorter washing cycles. Depending on how often you do laundry, PUB estimates that household water usage to be on par with toilet flushing as modern washing machines can use anywhere between 20L to over 100L of water per load.
- Use water-efficiency washing machine, and other energy-efficient appliances, when possible. This voluntary rating system shows consumers when an appliance is water-efficient, rating it from one to three 3 ticks.
- Fix/report leaks. Although there has been significant improvement over the past years, unaccounted-for-water still makes up about 5% of the nation’s water supply. Much of this is lost due to leakage. If you see any leaks in public places, you can report them to PUB either through their 24h call centre or using the MyWaters app.
Do keep in mind that because water meters are read once every two months, you might not see a drop in your water usage right away, but if you adopt these changes, your usage (and water bill) should decrease over time.
Still a Scarce Resource
We live in a time when 1 in 10, or >700 million people don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water. In fact, nearly 2 million children die each year due to lack of clean water. For us Singaporeans, we hardly ever think about it. Turn on the tap, and out comes clean water. But there is a global shortage of water, and with climate change and temperatures rising, the problem is only going to get worse.
For more information about our water supply and tips on water conservation, you can visit the Marina Barrage Sustainable Singapore Gallery or book a tour at the NEWater plant.