Many Singaporeans unaware of monthly water usage: Poll

Dragon boaters taking part in a race at the launch of Singapore's month-long celebration of World Water Day at Marina Barrage yesterday. In a Sunday Times poll of 100 respondents, 75 said they did not know how much they spent on water each month.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Many Singaporeans are unaware of their monthly water usage even as they think that the recently announced water price hike is unnecessary - a reaction that shows they do not appreciate the cost of water, said water management experts.

In a street poll conducted last Thursday by The Sunday Times, 75 of 100 respondents said they did not know how much they spent on water each month.

When informed of this figure, water resource development expert Asit K. Biswas, distinguished visiting professor at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, told The Sunday Times he was "surprised that a quarter of them even knew".

He thinks that this has not come about because of a lack of transparency or information, but because of a bigger problem.

"Singaporeans have been taking water for granted just because nothing has happened in the last few years," he said.

Photo: The Straits Times

The poll - conducted at six train stations in the north, west, south and central areas of Singapore - had questions ranging from whether respondents knew how much the 30 per cent price increase would cost them monthly, to how they were conserving water.

The questions were posed as many Singaporeans are debating the 30 per cent increase in water tariffs - the first in 17 years - which was announced in Budget 2017 last month.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing both spoke in Parliament last Wednesday to address the concerns of ministers and the public.

Read also: Twitter users share how to save water after Budget 2017's announcement of water price hike

However, The Sunday Times poll revealed divided views on the increase, as half of the respondents felt the hike was unnecessary.

Mr Ong Chin Choon, 56, who is unemployed, said: "I don't think

Read also: Singapore to raise water price by 30 per cent over two years

there is a need to do it now because of the poor economic situation.

"There have also been recent increases in other fees, such as the HDB service and conservancy charges as well as public carpark fees. It is too much at one go."

However, experts believe the price hike was long overdue and would do Singaporeans good.

Read also: Budget 2017's water price hike: What you're not hearing about the 30 per cent increase

Professor Biswas said the results reveal complacency among Singaporeans and felt that the increase was too small.

"We need to realise that Singapore's water supply is not reliable," he said, adding that he would double the price of water by 2019 if it were up to him.

He said the 30 per cent hike was the best way to drive across the message that water is precious.

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Professor Ng Yew Kwang, Winsemius professor of economics at the Nanyang Technological University, said "the 30 per cent price increase is highly desirable", given that water has always been underpriced.

However, Prof Ng did think that the increase was too sudden.

Singapore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi

  • NEWater tanks at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A visitor takes a look at reverse osmosis trains (left) at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates.
  • Reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates.
  • Two workers inspect reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A reverse osmosis (RO) permeate pipe is seen at Singapore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. Water which exits the RO trains run through these pipes to the ultraviolet light reactors.
  • A visitor takes a look at reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • Two workers walk pass reverse osmosis trains at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • NEWater tanks at Changi pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A worker pastes a NEWater logo on a water pipe which carries treated water to the NEWater tanks during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • A water pipe which carries trated water to the NEWater tanks pictured during a media preview on 16 January, 2017.
  • Members of the media seen through Ultraviolet light reactors at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. These trains remove smaller undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and nitrates. The UV disinfection provides an added safety barrier for the water which travels to the NEWater tanks.
  • A member of the media is seen through Ultraviolet light reactors at Singpore's fifth NEWater plant at Changi during a media preview on 16 January, 2017. The UV disinfection provides an added safety barrier for the water which travels to the NEWater tanks.

"The Government should have increased the price several times over the past 17 years. Now, it is too late to do this," he added.

Besides the timing of the hike, 72 per cent of respondents added that they were at a loss as to how to further reduce their consumption.

Retiree Chee Saw Siew, 55, whose water bill was $12.75 for last month - well below the national average of $29.45 for households living in executive apartments, said: "There is a limit to how much water can be saved."

However, Prof Biswas said there was "plenty of room to conserve water" if Singaporeans "saved smart". He suggested reducing the usage of appliances that consume the most water or are the least water-efficient, such as washing machines.


This article was first published on Mar 05, 2017.
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