Study finds younger Singaporeans are less worried about saving water – this is why they need to be more concerned

The Straits Times

How much does water scarcity worry you? The answer to that may very well depend on the year you were born in.

According to a small-scale study, households with non-adult children are not as concerned about running out of water when compared to older generation Singaporeans.

In a qualitative study by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and government feedback unit Reach, younger Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) were observed to find the issue of water sustanibility less important as compared to elder citizens.

PUB told Business Insider that the study was based on focus groups comprising 48 participants responsible for paying their own household utility bills. It compared younger residents – defined as families with children below 12 years old or in their teens – with seniors aged 55 and above.

The study found that as water is readily available, younger residents perceived water scarcity as a problem that needs to be dealt with only in the far future.

Also, according to the study, as the government has been able to diversify water sources over the decades – such as with NEWater and desalination – younger residents feel assured that water supply is secured.

“Even for those who expressed willingness to conserve water, it was noted that quite a few lacked the means to manage water consumption effectively,” the study added.

Why water is so precious in Singapore

While Singapore is recognised as a global leader in water technology today, the resource-scarce nation has had to implement water rationing exercises in the past.

In 1963, Singapore ran a 10-month water rationing exercise where there was no water supply from 8am to 8pm daily. Washing of cars and gardens was expressly prohibited, a newspaper article said.

Then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Tebrau waterworks in Johor in 1963.
The Straits Times

Later in 1971, news reports warned of the need to save water after the PUB reportedly said the nation had fallen short of its target to consume just 90 million gallons. According to one article from The Straits Times, people who were “found wasting water” were prosecuted in court. One example was a dishwasher who sat over a tub overflowing with water from a running hose at an eatery, the article said.

The Linggiu Reservoir in Johor.
The Straits Times

Today, Singapore gets its supply from the “four national taps” – local catchment, imported water from Johor River, NEWater made by purifying water from the sewage system, and three desalination plants. Two more desalination plants will be ready by 2020.

According to PUB, water demand in Singapore is currently about 430 million gallons a day – enough to fill 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Of this amount, 45 per cent is consumed in homes. By 2060, Singapore’s total water demand could almost double, PUB says on its website.

New water-saving campaign

Observations from the PUB study – conducted in October last year to “better understand public sentiments towards Singapore’s water supply and sustainability” – were released ahead of a new campaign aimed at promoting a water-saving culture in Singapore.

The campaign, themed “Make Every Drop Count”, highlights Singapore’s complex water-making process, and will officially be launched on Mar 2.

On top of 64 planned roadshows, water rationing exercises will be conducted in schools to encourage youths to adopt water-saving habits.

As part of the campaign, there will also be a #GoBlue4SG movement where communities and businesses – such as Deliveroo, Harvey Norman, and Ya Kun Kaya Toast – introduce retail promotions and products that are blue in the month of March.

A #GoBlue4SG carnival on Mar 22 at Marina Barrage will offer blue food, games and fireworks, while more than 20 buildings in the area will light up in blue.

Additional reporting by Jessica Lin.