Homes with maids use more water: Survey

Results show showering, flushing, kitchen work and laundry still largest water guzzlers

Households with maids consume 20 per cent more water compared with households without them, a PUB survey has found. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Households with maids consume 20 per cent more water compared with households without them, a PUB survey has found. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: BENJAMIN SEETOR

Households with maids use 20 per cent more water than those without, a survey by national water agency PUB has found.

On average, the daily per capita consumption of such homes is 160 litres, while that of homes without a maid is 135 litres.

The reason for the higher water consumption could be that washing and cooking activities are done more often in homes with maids, PUB said yesterday.

Still, the findings, based on 400 households surveyed between September 2018 and March last year, show consumption is declining when compared with an earlier period. Between September 2016 and April 2017, the corresponding daily per capita consumption hit 164 litres and 142 litres.

The results of the latest poll, in which around 15 per cent of the households have maids, were released alongside the launch of the agency's annual water conservation campaign yesterday.

The new survey also found that showering, flushing, kitchen activities and laundry remain the biggest water guzzlers, forming 77 per cent of total water use in a home.

But on average, the daily per capita consumption of households has dropped from 148 litres in 2016 to 141 litres last year, said the PUB. Its goal is to bring it down to 130 litres by 2030.

Greater effort can be made to raise awareness of efficient water use in households, especially among domestic helpers, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) president Seah Seng Choon said.

With about 255,000 maids working in more than 200,000 Singapore homes, the survey results highlight the crucial role they play in saving water, he added.

Maids may not be trained to save water as their main role is to get the cleaning and cooking done, he noted. "Fast has a module in our Onboarding and Integration Programme to teach new domestic helpers water-saving habits. We have worked with PUB to educate more than 3,000 domestic helpers since the programme's launch in 2017," he said.

Maids can be sent for the programme by their employers or enrolled in it by their employment agencies. "We have also trained and appointed 30 water ambassadors among our domestic helper members to spread the good habits of water saving," he added.

MP Lee Bee Wah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, said: "We should incorporate water saving into the training of domestic helpers before they get employed, and also reach out to existing domestic helpers in their own languages."

One employer gave her maid an incentive to save water. Plant safety manager Gloria Ng, 46, said: "I let her see the bill size and told her she gets to keep any money saved from the monthly water bill."

Other good practices include washing dishes or cleaning the pet with a basin of water instead of running water. But 94 per cent of homes wash their dishes under a running tap. Similarly, 66 per cent use running water to wash the toilet and 41.5 per cent, when cleaning their pets.

"There is potential for households to use water more efficiently when doing their daily chores, simply by not letting water run needlessly from the tap or the hose," said PUB's director of water supply (network) department Ridzuan Ismail.

This year's water conservation campaign has a new TV commercial that juxtaposes the water challenges in Singapore's early years, like water rationing, against today's conveniences, such as modern sanitation and uninterrupted drinking water supply.

The #GoBlue4SG movement, an initiative to support water conservation through simple acts, such as wearing blue and selling blue-coloured products to tie in with water conservation, will also return this month, with 38 retailers and businesses offering varying discounts and deals.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline Homes with maids use more water: Survey. Subscribe