Forum: Public action must complement government efforts on water conservation

I applaud the Government's (specifically, national water agency PUB's) relentless, concerted and forward-looking efforts to find and create new sources of water for Singapore.

This was again highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the official opening of the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant (Opening of 4th desalination plant a boost to water security, Feb 5).

But this is only half the equation.

Users cannot take things for granted and not take pains to conserve and recycle water.

I have three simple, practical suggestions.

First, install eco-toilet systems like the eco-pedestal, which integrates a wash basin on top of the flushing cistern.

People can wash their hands after using the toilet, and let this dirty water flow into the cistern for flushing. This saves them from using precious potable water for flushing the toilet. Such toilet cisterns are common features in places like Japan.

For a start, make this mandatory in all coffee shops and foodcourts. Accelerate the roll-out to more public housing units.

Offer discounts to help water-conscious home owners and businesses purchase and install this simple water-saving device.

Its manufacturing is also relatively simple.

Second - look into the price of water, which is currently $2.74 per cubic m. Beyond 40 cubic m, it increases to $3.69 per cubic m.

I'm certain PUB does a thorough cost and price analysis of this pricing scale. Perhaps it's time for a revision.

Ensure that higher water usage truly "pinches" users. Otherwise, these would just be nominal increments.

I once encountered an alarming reminder. Our office toilet auto-flush failed to stop. Thus, potable water was wastefully gushing out. I called maintenance, but the repairman arrived only about three to four hours later, nonchalant to the situation. Puzzled, I asked why he took so long.

His glib, apathetic answer - that we need not worry because water is very cheap - appalled me.

Third, bring back water conservation campaigns. In the past, we used to see a lot more of them.

It's also imperative that we inculcate in our young the urgency and gravity of Singapore's water shortage, and thus the need to conserve water. Teach it seriously from kindergarten. Form good habits from a young age.

Inspire our young and teach them the importance of conserving water.

Philip K. S. Siow