Singapore

Big drop in daily water use after price hike and conservation efforts

Each person used 5 litres less a day last year as a result of price hike and water conservation efforts

People in Singapore are using less water daily, partly owing to last year's price increase.

The drop is five litres per person, with each member of a household using 143 litres a day last year compared with 148 litres in 2016.

It is a significant decrease because it already exceeds the Government's target of 147 litres by 2020.

The daily saving is about 20 glasses of water, and when added up for 30 days, it is equivalent to the amount of water used to take three five-minute showers a month.

The next target is 140 litres by 2030.

The lower consumption is encouraging, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament yesterday, when replying to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) during the debate on his ministry's budget.

But Mr Masagos was quick to add that the drop is not solely due to the price rise, which is being implemented in two phases: last July and July this year.

The hike, the first in 17 years, is to maintain Singapore's water infrastructure, pay for more costly water sources like desalination and help people recognise the value of water, the Government had said when announcing it last year.

Yesterday, Mr Masagos also attributed the savings to "our water conservation efforts, like the mandatory water efficiency labelling scheme".

The scheme, managed by national water agency PUB, requires suppliers to label water fixtures such as taps and toilet bowls with water efficiency ratings.

Fixtures that are most water efficient get the maximum four ticks, and the least, one tick.

The PUB also has a slew of water conservation programmes, Mr Masagos added.

He cited a pilot scheme in 2016 that saw automated meters installed in 500 homes in Punggol to give families timely information on water consumption.

It is linked to a mobile app that lets home owners track their water usage and get alerts when it is high.

Mr Masagos said his ministry is looking at how to implement it across the country.

Punggol resident Jacqueline Chan, 33, whose family took part in the pilot, saved about 8,000 litres of water after the app indicated a leak in their toilet.

It was detected within a few days in October 2016, said Ms Chan, a receptionist who lives in a five-room flat with her estate manager husband Zell Chang, also 33, their one-year-old daughter and his elderly parents.

If they had relied on manual readings, the leak would have been detected only two months later.

The app also showed that the two main water guzzlers were the shower and washing machine.

"Now, we each shower for 10 minutes instead of 15," she said.

Overall, each family member uses, on average, 98 litres a day, compared with 103 litres last year and 138 litres in 2016.

Their monthly water bill is now $10 less, Ms Chan said.

Mr Masagos, in his parliamentary speech, also cautioned Singaporeans against taking running water for granted, citing the dire situation in Cape Town in South Africa, where water looks set to run out owing to a three-year drought.

"What Cape Town experienced is not a remote possibility for Singapore. We must not wait for a crisis to take action," he said. - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FELICIA CHOO

Environment