Water is the most essential needs for living things, some countries like Mexico and Egypt are able to obtain clean water easily, however it is a life or death issue in many countries in the world. One of the counties that used to have a water problem is Singapore. Singapore is an island and urban city state which had problems with water in its early days. It is because Singapore does not have natural lakes and there is only little land to collect rainwater. However, in the last 4 decades Singapore has proven itself to be a country that successfully deals with water. This essay will discuss about the water related problems in Singapore, how the PUB (Public Utilities Board) as the Singapore’s national water agency overcome those problems, and some leadership factors that contribute to the success of PUB in solving the problems.
Problems and solutions
Water pollution has never been a new phenomenon and it has always been part of the ecological system. It can be caused by erosion, siltation of the streams, flood, dead animal, also the increase of human activities, etc. This phenomenon happened in many parts of the world, it happens especially in the developing country and industrial countries. Singapore had also dealt with this problem, water pollution in Singapore was caused by four major factors. First, commercial and industrial location, back in 1960s majority of manufacture was located on south and south west part of the country. These manufactures did not dump their industrial waste into the place that were provided therefore, after a few years Government made a new policies and regulation then asked the manufactures to comply with the requirement. (Hung, C. 1976)
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Second, hawker and market, a survey in 1969 proved that there were 18000 hawkers island wide. Most of them were using water for their business and contributing a substantial pollution to the rivers. It was estimated that about four million gallons of water waste were discharge to the streams each day. Hence, to overcome this problem those hawkers were resided to the hawker centers where the waste could be drained in the septic tank. (Hung, C. 1976)
Next, farm waste, it was also big issues due to water pollution in 1960s since there were large number of farmers rearing pigs and poultry. Primary Production Department estimated that there were 600,000 pigs in Singapore these pigs produced 3 million gallons of excrement per day. Many farmers at that period discharged their farm waste to the river thus, it caused the river to be polluted. In order to control this problem, the small scale of farm would have to be encouraged and farmers were pushed to reuse the water in the farm since water in such farm is for the cleansing of the pig excrements. (Hung, C. 1976)
Last but not least, the kitchen waste had also been a problem to the society in 1970s because the water waste was discharge to the open drain also the garbage was dumped into the rivers. Even though those are household’s waste, these wastes also contributing pollution to the river. To reduce this problem, the government tightened up the regulation such as, disallow the resident for washing their clothes on the concrete apron behind the house, discharges from wash hand basins which usually go into the open drains are prohibited. (Hung, C. 1976)
Furthermore, the water engineers in Singapore always monitor the level of the river pollution. They will detect and trace the cause if there is an increase in the level of pollution. In 1979, Singapore was able to monitor 42% of the whole country. (Liu, O. 1979).
Water supply has also been a big issue for Singapore, since it is a small country that only has limited water resource Singapore has to carefully plan and encourage the citizen to use the water wisely otherwise, this country could experience a water shortage. Back in 1990, Singapore was experienced an unusual period of dry weather which was caused the reservoir stocks to dropped to 68 percent from 95 percent (Public Utilities Board Annual Report 1990, 31 December 1990, pp 12). In order to prevent history to repeat itself, in recent days Singapore has four major water sources which are called National Taps. National Taps consist of water from Johor, water catchment from reservoir, desalinated water and recycled water called NEWater. Almost half of Singapore’s water demand was fulfilled by the imported water (water from Johor) the water agreement between these two countries was begun in 1927. These countries made another agreement in 1961, 1962 and 1990, the 1961 agreement will expire on 2011 while the other two will expire on 2061.
Singapore has some water catchment areas those are located in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, and so on. Water catchment is about collecting water especially rain water and processing the water so that it can be consumed by the society, when this water from water catchment are being used the used water is collected then treated again to produce
NEWater. NEWater is the Singapore’s brand for their recycled water and it also another Singapore’s water resources. In the present, NEWater is mostly used by industry due to its cheap price and cleanliness moreover, it able to cover 30 percents of the industry’s water needs.
Another water supply comes from desalination process whereby sea water is collected and treated so that the salt is extracted and the water becomes drinkable water. However, this type of water is not famous among the people compared to the other three sources it is because this type of water is more expensive due to its technology to transform sea water become into drinking water.
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The challenges that PUB has to deal with are not only how to cope the demand of the society but also how to reduce the demand. As there is an increase in the number of population in Singapore, the demand for water has also increased. In 1950s when the population of Singapore was about 1 million, the daily consumption of water was only 142,000 daily per capita the consumption of water increase by more than 100 percent in 1960 when the population had increased to 1.6 million by 1970s when the population reached 2.4 million, the demand for water had gone up to 262 liters per person per day. However, this is not the only factors that make the demand for water increase. Industrial development and better standard of living are the other factors which make the demand for water raise. In 1950 there were only about 580 industrial organizations with 10 or more workers. In 1970s, the number of industrial company went up to more than 2,900 companies. This made the water consumption increased from 50,000 cubic meters to 170,000. Water is still relatively cheap compared the other commodities and with the increase in living standard, people tend to be more liberal with the use of water. (Liu, O. 1979). Today, the population has increased to about 4.6million while water demand has grown 1.3 million cubic meters per capita.
To anticipate this problem, PUB tries to seize the use of water through pricing, campaign, promoting and encouraging ownership. Pricing of water is an efficient and effective mechanism in encouraging customers to use water wisely. The water is priced to recover the full cost of its production and to make people realize that the natural supply of this precious resource is decreasing. . The water tariffs and water conservation tax were restructured over a 4-year period, starting in 1997 and it is valid for domestic and non-domestic consumers (except for domestic consumers using more than 40 cubic meters per month. Before 1 July 1997, the first 20 cubic meters of domestic consumption for each household was charged at S$0.56 per cubic meters. The next 20-40 cubic meters were charged at S$0.80 per cubic meters. Non domestic consumption of more than 40 cubic meters per month was charged S$1.17 per cubic meters. From year 2000 onward, domestic consumption of up to 40 cubic meters per month and nondomestic uses were charged at a consistent rate of S$1.17 per cubic meters. For domestic consumption of
more than 40 cubic meters per month, the tariff became S$1.40 per cubic meters, which is higher than non-domestic consumption. The earlier cheaper block rate for the first 20 cubic meters of domestic consumption was eliminated. Furthermore, PUB also tries to lower the water usage by conducting a campaign for example, in 24 June 1995 PUB launched a campaign called Save Water Campaign at Bedok waterworks. This campaign was held to make the Singaporean realize that water conservation is vital to their future and also to encourage the community to use the water more prudently and effectively. During the campaign month, seminars on water conservation were given to students and workers, PUB had also invited the students, workers, and community groups to visit the water plants. Moreover, water rationing was also exercised during this campaign. The purpose of this training was to let the Singaporean experienced the difficulties and inconvenience of water shortage. Additionally, PUB also made many advertisements through mass media to make people aware about the campaign. Advertising materials such as, posters stickers, leaflets were distributed island wide. The campaign slogan and logo was also printed in the PUB bill envelopes on that month
155 litres of water daily per Singaporean
Hung, C. (1976). Water pollution and its control in Singapore. P.100-112
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