Homes now have more water-efficient fittings; showers still use most water: PUB study

Showering remains the largest source of water usage in homes followed by flushing, kitchen use and laundry.
Showering remains the largest source of water usage in homes followed by flushing, kitchen use and laundry. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - If people can see an image of more ice melting around a polar bear the more water they use while showering, they may just not be able to bear it, it seems.

A pilot test by national water agency PUB showed that smart shower heads featuring the bear animation and which also digitally display real-time water usage helped people save 3 per cent on monthly water usage.

The authorities are hoping to expand the results of the six-month 2015 pilot scheme, which showed that these smart shower heads helped 500 homes save 5 litres of water per person daily.

PUB will install the shower heads in 10,000 selected Housing Board Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in the next couple of years.

This Smart Shower Programme is part of PUB's effort to reduce household water consumption.

National University of Singapore student Janice Teo, 22, looks forward to such a green feature. "It makes climate change more real, and will probably reduce my water consumption," she said. She intends to apply for a BTO flat with her boyfriend Sng Wei Theng, 28.

Showering remains the largest source of water use in homes at 27 per cent, the agency said at a press conference yesterday, ahead of Singapore World Water Day on Saturday (March 3).

It is followed by flushing, washing in the kitchen and laundry, based on a study of 400 households in 2016 and 2017. Together, these activities form about three-quarters of household water usage. A similar study in 2004 also showed showering was the top source of water use in homes at 29 per cent, slightly higher than the latest findings.

The recent study also found that more than half of water fittings in the key usage areas are efficient.

For example, 75 per cent of washing machines have a three-tick water efficiency rating. This indicates consumers are more aware of the need to installwater-efficient models, said PUB.

The agency introduced the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme in 2009, which requires suppliers to display water-efficiency ratings on appliances and fittings.

However, in the recent study, it was found that 35 per cent of kitchen sink taps were non-water-efficient, suggesting room for improvement in this area.

When asked, PUB said while the 2016/2017 study did not look into the savings from water-efficient fittings, statistics over the years have shown homes using less water.

Singapore's per capita household water consumption was reduced from 165 litres per day in 2003 to 148 litres in 2016.

PUB said this could suggest that the use of water-efficient fittings and appliances has helped households save water, given the high adoption rate observed from the study. The target is to lower consumption to 140 litres by 2030.

Professor Eduardo Araral, co-director of the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, called the Smart Shower Programme very important, and is interested to know if the trial results will be reflected in daily use.

"We hope the results can be sustained over time and are not just the result of novelty," he said.

From April next year, PUB will be mandating the sale, supply and installation of at least two-tick water fittings in all new homes, as well as those undergoing renovation. This applies to both private and public homes and all fittings that have water-efficiency labels.

Non-water-efficient fittings and appliances - that do not have at least a two-tick label - will be phased out by next year.

Despite these measures, user behaviour will always remain a challenge.

PUB's chief executive Ng Joo Hee said: "Ultimately, saving water is an individual responsibility."