Steps in place to save more water

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Aug 15;

Heavy water users here say they already had plans in place to lower their consumption, before a government plea last week for Singaporeans to be more prudent.

Last Monday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan urged Singaporeans to use less as the water levels of Linggiu Reservoir dropped to a historic low.

Town councils told The Straits Times that they had already put in place water conservation plans following the dry spell last year, and would continue to monitor the situation.

The Linggiu Reservoir was built upstream of Malaysia's Johor River, so that it can collect and release rainwater to push seawater back into the sea, ensuring Singapore's water supply.

But since the start of this year, national water agency PUB has had to stop drawing water from the river temporarily on 77 occasions, due to seawater intruding from the sea.

Some town councils had implemented water conservation plans following the dry spell last year from Jan 13 to Feb 8 - one of the longest on record. They included reducing the frequency of block washing and reminding cleaners to reduce water wastage while cleaning common areas.

Activities that make up the bulk of their water usage include washing of common areas in apartment blocks, landscaped areas and multistorey carparks.

Jurong Town Council general manager Ho Thian Poh told The Straits Times that the council monitors how cleaners wash the common areas to prevent wastage, and they wash water tanks only when their water levels are low.

He added that the council will monitor the situation and if it becomes critical, "then we may review the frequency of washing".

Tampines Town Council chairman Baey Yam Keng said that his town council is also monitoring the situation and may start its "dry spell plan" if it does not improve.

"During the last dry spell, the town council restricted daily (high) pressure washing to certain locations," said Mr Baey.

Other non-domestic users such as petrol station car-wash operators and industrial firms are also watching their water usage.

ExxonMobil said that it carries out daily checks for leaks and water wastage. "Our car-wash operators use mainly pressure jets for their operations, which use less water," a spokesman said.

"We also regularly remind all the service station workers and car-wash operators to ensure the prudent use of water resources."

Dr Cecilia Tortajada, a senior research fellow from the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, noted that the last time Singapore increased water tariffs was in 2000.

"It may be time to adjust them once again so that users are aware of the importance of practising water conservation," she said.

"Water prices are increased all over the world, not only in Singapore, with the same objective."