SINGAPORE - As we celebrate World Water Day through the month of March, let us take a step back to reflect how far we have come as a nation in ensuring a robust and continual supply of water to meet our needs.
Looking back on our early years of nationhood, we have taken giant strides to transform our vulnerabilities into strengths. Singapore thus has lots of reasons to celebrate this day, but being an event encircling the globe, my celebrations will not cover parties or social merry-makings, but will encompass a range of moods from opposite ends, like the night-and-day that our world experiences.
I feel Joy.
A tiny nation state with limited resources and land area to capture and store rainwater, our journey over the last 50 years has been nothing short of remarkable and inspiring. Primitive water rationing has given way to technologically produced NEWater. Our 4 national taps (imported water, desalinated water, NEWater and reservoirs) meet our water challenges and are affordable and optimally priced.
I feel Sadness.
Our diversified water supply has earned us recognition in the international arena, making many of us take our clean water for granted. Despite being a model city with good water management practices, we should not rest on our laurels. The next decade will continue to provide challenges to our water resources as we witness more demographic and climatic changes.
I feel Fear.
As indicated in the Population White Paper, our population in 2030 is slated to reach about 7 million from the current 5.5 million. Singapore's current water demand of 400-million gallons a day is predicted to double by 2060. As our non-domestic sector continues its growth, it will take up 70% of total demand. The prolonged onset of the El Nino phenomenon will result in long spells of drier weather, with significant pressure on our water and food resources, especially with our 90% reliance on food imports and the high water footprint in our food products. A major supply source to Singapore - the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor, Malaysia saw water levels halved, despite an earlier start to the north-east monsoon.
I feel Empathy.
This comes on the back of recent United Nations' reports that 100 million people in Asia, Latin America and in the southern parts of Africa, face food and water shortages due to severe droughts and floods triggered by one of the strongest El Nino weather events.
I feel Pride.
Singapore has plans to build a forth desalination plant. Along with community and educational programmes, our country will reap results when we internalise the values imparted and transmit them to our daily lives. The heartlands we live in are surrounded by clean streams and rivers, bringing us closer to water - Nature's greatest gift to Mankind.
Conserving this gift is key, and it starts with every individual. While Singapore's per capita domestic consumption currently is about 150 litres per day, down from 165 litres in 2003, we are aiming to lower this figure to 147 litres by 2020 and eventually to 140 litres by 2030.
Like the characters from a popular animated movie, my mind seems to be in constant conflict with the constant bombardment of sights and sounds from the outside world.
And to celebrate World Water Day, perhaps it is time to listen to our hearts, and to feel what's inside of us.
After all, more than half of our bodies consist of water.
Together, let us make every drop count.
The writer is Head (Eco- Certifications) and Lead Environmental Engineer at the Singapore Environment Council.