If water stocks were set to dry up because of, say, irreversible climate change, people would be prepared to pay a fortune for the precious resource. In times of plenty, however, one might take it for granted, while giving the car a Sunday wash or floating in a kayak across a lake that is part of what PUB calls ABC Waters. The acronym, which stands for "active, beautiful and clean", holds true because of the extensive water infrastructure that has been put in place over the years, at great cost: $7 billion from 2000 to 2015.
This was not the natural state of things on the island 50 years ago. It took planning and effort to develop water sustainability. More needs to be done as water demand is expected to double by 2060. By that time, desalination, which is a costly process, will provide up to 30 per cent of water. With 8,000km of waterways, 17 reservoirs, Newater and desalination plants, plus imported water, the cost of supplying water was $1.3 billion in 2015 - more than double the cost in 2000. So, one should not expect the price of water to remain still, as it did for the past 17 years. Nor should costs be simply loaded on industrial users.
If underpriced, the conservation and future supply of water will be put at risk. That should be kept in mind when deciding what value one should assign to water. In consumer studies, perceived value is bound with quality, price and availability. However, today's clean water that all have on tap cannot be viewed simply as another item of consumption. Instead, water must be seen as a precious resource all should take responsibility for.
A deeper sense of value can be fostered by considering both the utility value of water and its high-order value, as described by social psychologist Milton Rokeach. The latter is about valuing water sustainability as a common goal for the benefit of not just today's consumers but also future generations.