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Change in behaviour needed in vital task of conserving water

The water issue has been brought up again by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (Singapore responds to Mahathir on water issue; June 26).

Singapore's dependence on Malaysia for its water supply has saddled us with a hefty political disadvantage. Malaysia has made veiled threats before that it might cut off the water supply. And as the issue takes centre stage again, relations between the two countries could again become strained.

We should never allow Malaysia to use its control over water to gain leverage in negotiations over sensitive issues.

To do so, we must maintain our confidence that we have the means to achieve water self-sufficiency.

But Singapore is constrained despite investing heavily in technology to reduce reliance on water from our neighbour.

At the end of the day, there is only so much our Government can do. Desalination is not cheap and Newater carries a stigma despite the Government's efforts to commercialise it. Singapore also does not have enough land to rely on rainfall as a water source.

Therefore, the report is a timely reminder to Singaporeans about the importance of water conservation. We should not take for granted the easy access we have to water here.

Reducing consumption is the first step in ensuring sufficiency and security. This is an important message our Government has conveyed to citizens time and again. We must listen. There is no other choice for Singapore to survive.

Unlike the older generation, who experienced water rationing in the 60s, younger Singaporeans show little zeal for water conservation.

The days without flush toilets are long forgotten. Singaporeans seem to take for granted that clean water is only a tap away. The path towards more conservation lies in changing our behaviour.

Cheng Choon Fei

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline Change in behaviour needed in vital task of conserving water. Subscribe