Water price hike and the generation gap

Water has been a hot topic since the 2017 Budget was announced in February. The hottest is undoubtedly the eventual 30 per cent increase in water prices due to an increase in production costs, which are among the many reasons debated (Price hike to secure future supply, Feb 21; Water price increase dominates Budget forum, Feb 24).

Supporters of the move agree water is a strategic asset. But there could have been better ways to communicate the price hike. First, using the price mechanism may not be the best solution to getting people to save water. Tackling excessive use of water by charging more may not work for all generations.

Generation Z (like my children) are different from Generation X and the baby boomers. Going to McDonald's and Starbucks used to be a luxury, but the Generation Z are used to these as the norm.

If my children's behaviour is any indication, the price mechanism is not going to be effective. They will continue to take their 20-minute showers, even if the water price is increased by another 100 per cent.

To get through to Generation Z on the need to conserve water, the Government needs to leverage technology. For instance, it could use real-time data analytics or apps to show how water usage has gone up.

The Government should also be seen to be doing more in using the money collected from the 30 per cent price hike to promote water conservation.

Lock Chee Wee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Water price hike and the generation gap'. Print Edition | Subscribe