Saving water less of a concern for younger residents: Study

A water rationing exercise at one of the residential colleges in the National University of Singapore, in conjunction with World Water Day, on March 22, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A culture of saving water has become watered down here, going by a government study.

A focus group study by national water agency PUB and government feedback unit Reach revealed that younger Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) appear to be less concerned about the sustainability of the country's water supply than older residents aged 55 and above.

The findings were released ahead of a new campaign to get Singaporeans to save water.

The qualitative study held focus group sessions with about 50 Singaporeans and PRs who are also responsible for paying their own household utility bills last October.

Younger participants - those with young or teenage children - perceived water scarcity as "a distant concept" due to the ready availability of water here, PUB said.

PUB's new campaign will be launched at Marina Barrage on March 2, Singapore World Water Day, together with over 2,000 representatives from schools, firms and grassroots organisations.

More than 64 roadshows and events islandwide will be held in the same month. Water rationing exercises will also be conducted in schools to inculcate water-saving habits among the young.

The campaign is themed "Make Every Drop Count" and emphasises the complexity of making water in Singapore.

The focus group study by PUB and Reach also found that even among those who were willing to conserve water, they lacked the means to manage water consumption effectively.

Efforts to diversify the Republic's water sources, such as Newater and desalination, have also assured them that Singapore's water supply is secure, PUB added.

PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee said: "Singapore, tiny but with lots of people, is a very water-stressed place. The next drop of water, even when we can find it, will always cost more to process and to distribute.

"Water is scarce, and it has to go through a lot before it is fit for human use. None of it should go to waste. So, in order that everyone can have enough, all of us will have to make every single drop count."

Ms Jessica Cheam, managing editor of Eco-Business, a media organisation dedicated to sustainable development, agreed that a "sense of complacency" may have arisen from Singapore's ability to address its existential water crisis effectively in the past decades.

"I think this is why it is important to constantly have dialogues among citizens, and between citizens and the Government, on why water continues to be a scarce resource that we need to take seriously, along with others such as energy and food," she added.

Mr Desmond Choo, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Water Resources, said Singapore's future growth depends on meeting growing water demands, and climate change has made it even more urgent.

"Earlier generations have experienced water shortages... (but) we now have water flowing any time from our taps. While we hope that our younger Singaporeans would never go through water crises, we must all share in this national duty to guard our water resources zealously."

For Ms Regina Lee, a master's student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the new campaign is important to inculcate a water-saving culture. "But I'm not sure if wasting water is an age thing," said the 23-year-old, adding that she has seen older Singaporeans waste water as well.

The campaign is in line with plans to cut water use here.

Last October, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced a new target of 130 litres per person daily by 2030, shaving 10 litres off the original goal.

In 2017, each person here used 143 litres daily, just shy of the 140 litre target initially set for 2030 under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

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