63 per cent say drought has not led to less water use

SINGAPORE - Most people here have not changed their water use in response to the current dry spell.

Of 701 people who responded to a Straits Times poll on Thursday and Friday, 438 (62.5 per cent) said the dry spell had not made a difference to their water use. Many said they were already being frugal about water use.

Another 19.7 per cent said they were using less water by taking shorter showers, not washing their cars, and by doing dishes in a filled basin or sink.

The remainder said they were using more - drinking more, taking more showers and watering plants.

Singapore has had a prolonged, record-setting spell of dry weather since mid-January, and a 5per cent increase in water usage.

To maintain water levels in reservoirs, PUB has stepped up desalination to full capacity of 100 million gallons a day (mgd) and Newater production to over 100 mgd.

Meanwhile, attractions and commercial buildings have taken extra steps to save water. The Science Centre Singapore has closed its Waterworks play area and water features, while developer and mall owner CapitaLand has shut off external water features at most of its buildings. Hong Leong Group, which owns Millennium and Copthorne hotels and commercial buildings, has done likewise and has deferred cleaning the facades of some buildings.

The Chin family was among those taking water conservation more seriously.

Small business owner Catherine Chin, 42, waters plants with water collected from washing vegetables and rice, and mops the floor with water used for laundry.

Her husband, Mr Chin Yeow Wah, 49, said: "It's a good practice that we should continue - with or without the dry spell."

But what would it take for people to make a conscious effort to conserve water? Mr Eric Kok, 42, said: "If the Government gave us rebates or NTUC vouchers, if we could lower our water bills from month to month, I would ensure that my family saves water."

Public policy lecturer Leong Ching, who studies water policy and teaches at the National University of Singapore, said she could see why usage doesn't change: "I think it is because they don't see the direct link between, say, taking a shorter shower, and the levels in a reservoir."

Though desalination and Newater create self-sufficiency, she added, both of these require energy. "So we may be self-sufficient but water is not free."

She noted that Singapore's per capita domestic water consumption, at 151 litres a day last year, was more than that of Denmark and Finland, which use 131 and 115 litres a day respectively.

More could be done to affirm the efforts of people who are frugal about water use, such as putting a smiley face on their bill, she added. "To me, this drought is a perfect opportunity to focus people's minds on this issue," Dr Leong said.

caiwj@sph.com.sg

laurang@sph.com.sg

cvanessa@sph.com.sg


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