Key part of water security is managing demand

Time and again, we read of news about water levels running low ("Water levels in Linggiu Reservoir hit new low"; last Wednesday, "Water levels low at Singapore's main source"; March 23, and "Singapore needs to manage water demand"; Feb 6).

Each time, we are reminded not to waste water or to save water in our own ways.

At the same time, we are also assured that water rationing is not yet on the cards.

While I applaud the Government for doing a great job in boosting our water supply, it must be careful not to send mixed messages to the public about its important role in reducing water demand.

Over time, there is a real risk of people becoming complacent and losing sight of their responsibility in water security.

Since independence in 1965, Singapore has made commendable progress in enhancing its water security through water recycling and seawater desalination.

With improved relations with Malaysia and our success in water management, past threats from our neighbour to cut off the water supply have become a distant memory.

But the fact remains that we are still far from achieving water self-sufficiency and have to rely on an unsteady water supply from Johor, which also faces drought conditions from time to time.

The Government has set a target to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2060, before the second and final water treaty with Malaysia expires in 2061.

Towards this end, there is much effort placed in improving infrastructure and technology to increase waste-water treatment and desalination capabilities.

Such efforts will pay off as long as the authorities remain highly competent and committed to this cause. But nobody knows what will happen in the next 50 years.

So, our best hope is to educate our people of their responsibility in water security.

Before the current water situation worsens further, the authorities should consider using opportunities like this to educate the public through pricing, incentives, behavioural management and educational measures.

I yearn to see the big day of water self-sufficiency sooner, with the people and the Government working closely together to achieve it.

William Tan Whee Kiem

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Key part of water security is managing demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe