TEL AVIV - Singaporeans can do more to value water and not waste it even as measures are being taken to secure the country's water supply for the long-term, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said.
His remarks come as several Malaysian states began water rationing this week amid a prolonged dry spell, and water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor, which helps to meet half of Singapore's water needs, fell to a new historic low of 36.9 per cent.
Climate change has made the issue of water scarcity and management a global challenge, Mr Masagos told Singapore media covering Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to the Middle East.
Mr Masagos, who is part of Mr Lee's delegation, also met his counterparts in Jordan and Israel to discuss the challenges they face in supplying water.
Jordan, he noted, did not plan early enough for the deluge of refugees, now numbering at least two million, from the conflict in neighbouring Syria - and this has strained its water supply.
Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, which Mr Lee visited, also face severe drought, and Mr Masagos was told that over the past 10 years, rainfall levels have dropped by at least 20 per cent.
"These are lessons for us. We always have to make sure we are ready for the worst outcome, particularly from the climate change challenge that Singapore can, and will face," he said on Tuesday.
"At the same time, we have to make sure that when there are sudden and severe stresses in our systems, we have the extra capacity to make sure that we are ready."
National water agency PUB will phase out the sale of less efficient taps and mixers, and introduce a new rating for washing machines, he noted. And consumers should aim to reduce the amount of water they use from 150 litres today to about 140 litres by 2030.
But not all is barren on the water front.
Mr Masagos noted that new water technologies may be emerging to help address these issues - and Singapore's water companies can work with them to develop or export the know-how.
Jordan and Israel are also embarking on an ambitious water management project.
Called the Red Sea-Dead Sea project, it involves building a canal to bring the waters of the Red Sea to flow into the Dead Sea.
PM Lee noted that hydropower can be used to desalinate some of the water and generate more supply, "and then some of the output can also flow into the Dead Sea and help to slow down the drying up of the Dead Sea, which is happening very rapidly."
"Some of our companies are interested in bidding for this project, and we hope that they will put in good bids and they will be well considered," he added.