Budget debate

14,000 students to experience water rationing

Secondary 2 students Chia Jia En (left) and Koh Wei Shan relying on water in a pail to wash their hands during the water rationing exercise at Woodgrove Secondary School yesterday. Woodgrove is the first of 45 schools, including pre-schools, to condu
Secondary 2 students Chia Jia En (left) and Koh Wei Shan relying on water in a pail to wash their hands during the water rationing exercise at Woodgrove Secondary School yesterday. Woodgrove is the first of 45 schools, including pre-schools, to conduct the exercise this year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The first water-rationing exercise this year kicked off at Woodgrove Secondary School in Woodlands yesterday.

It was organised by the school in partnership with national water agency PUB as part of a month- long line-up of events in conjunction with Singapore World Water Day (SWWD).

Water was shut off to most of the school's taps for four hours, and students had to collect water in pails to wash hands and flush toilets.

This is only the beginning.

Over the course of this month, 45 schools will conduct such exercises, compared to just five last year. These include, for the first time, 34 pre-schools taking part alongside primary and secondary schools and one junior college, involving more than 14,000 students.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who attended the event yesterday, said in a Facebook post: "It is important that we make water conservation our way of life... Such exercises are important, especially so for the younger generation today who have never experienced water rationing."

Singapore last rationed water during the drought from 1963 to 1964.

Woodgrove principal Chee Chit Yeng said: "The main objective is to let the students be aware that the amenities and convenience they have - you press a button and the flush works, turn on the tap and you have water - should not be taken for granted."

He added that for next year's exercise, the school will consider stricter rationing by imposing a limit on the total amount of water students can collect. In yesterday's exercise, students could refill the pails as often as they needed.

But Secondary 4 student Vicki Kang, 15, said that even with the free flow of water from the collection point on the ground floor, her schoolmates would "self-regulate" because of the effort needed to carry the filled medium-sized pails, especially to the toilets on the fourth floor.

"Through this exercise, we can experience how it feels. It is habit- forming... even after the exercise is over, I believe we will continue to use less water," she said.

Medical social worker Eng Whan Seng, 40, supports water rationing exercises. He said it could be extended to residents and businesses in a more concerted campaign.

As for members of the public who had expressed scepticism in the past about the effectiveness of such exercises for public education, Mr Eng said: "No matter what you do, some people don't care because they can pay for the water, but the rest may realise it is important to save water."

This year's SWWD will be launched on Saturday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at Marina Barrage .

A month-long line-up of events by PUB and more than 400 partner organisations includes roadshows and door-to-door outreach by Scouts, as well as save-water competitions and rewards for households that reduce their water bills.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline '14,000 students to experience water rationing'. Print Edition | Subscribe