Big users must submit plans on water efficiency

As Singapore grapples with a prolonged dry spell, the Government is toughening measures to get large water users to save water.

Those who consume 5,000 cubic m of water a month or more - two Olympic swimming pools' worth - will have to submit water efficiency management plans to national water agency PUB by June next year. And they have to give updates yearly.

They also have to install private meters to measure water consumption in each part of their premises.

The measures were announced in Parliament on Tuesday by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

They will affect about 600 users, such as semiconductor manufacturers, power generation companies and hotels.

Dr Balakrishnan said the measures will be extended progressively to include more users.

The move to rein in water usage among the big boys is because the non-domestic sector is expected to account for about 70 per cent of water consumption in Singapore in 2060, a rise from about 55 per cent now.

Already, some 35 per cent of them have voluntarily submitted water efficiency management plans. For example, power generation firm Senoko Energy, which uses about 700,000 cubic m of water a year, or 58,300 cubic m a month, has such plans.

"As water is a significant cost in our operations, we already monitor our water usage closely as a matter of course," a spokesman told The Straits Times.

She said that by installing more water-efficient power generation units, Senoko has cut water consumption by about 45 per cent since 2008.

It also has its own desalination facility to cut dependence on PUB-supplied water, she added.

At Hilton Singapore hotel on Orchard Road, about 7,500 cubic m of water is used a month, mostly in its 421 guest rooms. To help save water, it urges guests to leave towels on the floor if they want them washed.

The requirements of the new water plan mirror those of large energy users.

Under the Energy Conservation Act, which went into force last year, large energy users must monitor and report to the National Environment Agency their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, appoint energy managers and submit energy efficiency improvement plans.

For households, Dr Balakrishnan said the minimum water efficiency standards for washing machines would be tightened from April 1, when only those with one "tick" or more (a measure of efficiency) can be sold.

From next year, the minimum standard will be two "ticks" or more.

In his reply to Ms Lee Bee Wah's (Nee Soon GRC) question on why Newater was pumped into reservoirs and treated again if it could be pumped directly to homes, Dr Balakrishnan said only one water authority in the world does it: Windhoek in Namibia.

"As a doctor, I know Newater is safe to drink. But to dispense with the environmental buffer, to make it routine, is a big step," he said.

"My paramount consideration will always be safety and health."

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