Cut back on water use right away, says SEC

SINGAPORE - The dry spell has not blown up into a crisis yet, but we should behave as if we are already in one, Singapore Environment Council (SEC) executive director Jose Raymond said yesterday.

He said that reacting only after crisis hits might be "too late", and we may not have enough water left to drink by then.

"Water is a strategic resource, and we need to realise that we cannot take it for granted and we must do our part," he told MyPaper.

The current dry spell, the longest in recent history, has stretched from mid-January, save for brief and isolated showers last month.

He named town councils, hotels and eating establishments as three big-ticket water users, but noted that steps are already being taken.

Mr Raymond lauded the Pasir Ris-Punggol town council for taking the lead in suspending its monthly block washing, and took heart that other town councils are also taking steps to minimise water usage.

Mr Zainal Sapari, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, who was responsible for the move, wrote on his Facebook page on Friday: "(A) dirty block is an irritation but using precious water for this purpose is not wise, given the dry spell we are experiencing."

Other town councils, including Holland-Bukit Panjang and Marine Parade, have also taken steps, by being flexible about the washing of carparks.

Mr Raymond also noted that the National Parks Board will be using non-potable water to help young saplings and significant trees cope with the dry spell.

"In this respect, golf clubs must ask themselves if there are alternatives instead of using potable water to keep their fairways green," he said.

Hotels should also step up the education of their guests by reminding them about the need to save water, he added.

But at the end of the day, it will all boil down to personal habits and behaviour, he said, adding that at least 9 litres of water can be saved just by cutting one minute of shower time.

He also suggested brushing teeth and washing vegetables using a tumbler of water, instead of a running tap, and washing cars with half a pail of water and a cloth, instead of going for a car wash at a petrol kiosk.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan noted that daily water consumption has gone up by about 4 per cent during this period.

But he reassured Singaporeans that the country's water technology means that a dry spell for the next few weeks or even months is tolerable.

Rain is expected in two to three weeks, but if that does not happen, SEC will step up education and outreach efforts.

Mr Raymond also said a temporary rise in water tariffs in the most "dramatic" situation could jolt people into saving water, should the dry spell stretch on.

One consequence of the dry spell has been the increased occurrence of vegetation fires.

There have been two in Punggol in as many days, with one as big as a football field. Areas like Commonwealth Drive, Jurong East and Clementi Avenue 6 have also seen fires break out.

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