Timely call to save water

The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor in 2012. The reservoir’s water level affects Singapore’s ability to draw water from Malaysia’s Johor River.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's main source of water in Malaysia is drying up. The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor, which supplies over half of the Republic's water needs, is now at a worrying 22 per cent. And this was after rains last week helped to raise water levels slightly.

It prompted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to make a renewed call last Saturday for people to save water. Taking shorter showers and washing vehicles less often were examples cited by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

Their reminders are timely. In this climate of erratic weather, where dry spells are likely to become more frequent, everyone has a role to play.

But some have asked if the industrial sector should take the lead in the drive to cut water consumption. In a recent letter to The Straits Times Forum, a reader suggested this, citing national water agency PUB's forecast that the non-domestic sector will account for 70 per cent of the nation's water demand in 2060.

This may be so, but Singapore's current water usage of 430 million gallons a day is almost evenly split between the two. Homes account for 45 per cent of water demand, and the non-domestic sector makes up the rest. This shows that both industries and households must work to cut excessive water use.

There are already regulations in place forcing the industrial sector to do so. It is mandatory for users with water consumption of at least 60,000 cubic m in the previous year to install private water meters. They are also required to make an annual submission to PUB on their Water Efficiency Management Plan, which identifies measures in water savings, priorities and implementation timelines, among others.

The Government is also trying to make it easier for people to track water use, by calling for proposals to develop smart meters to give near real-time updates.

World-renowned water expert Asit Biswas, a distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has also suggested that water prices be increased to curb usage.

It is better for people to start changing habits now, or legislation and higher water prices may be inevitable, to spur change.

Audrey Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Timely call to save water'. Subscribe