Singapore water facts
In Singapore, clean water comes so easily to us that we don’t really think about how it comes to us. We turn on the tap, clean water comes out. Swallow a little water while showering? Hardly a worry.
Potable water is readily available in Singapore that many may not realise the incredible effort going into making sure that the water coming out of our tap is safe to drink.
The video below gives a rough idea of the lengthy journey a drop of water takes from the sky to tap.
Click here if you are unable to view the video above
To appreciate something better, we’ll have to know more about it. Here are 5 facts about our island’s water to give you more to think about whenever you turn on the tap.
1. We use enough water to fill 782 Olympic-sized pools a day
For those who prefer hard numbers, our daily water demand stands at around 430 million gallons, or 1.6 billion litres.
Not all of that 1.6 billion litres daily go to domestic uses like drinking, showering, washing clothes and bathing reluctant pets. According to the PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, about half goes to domestic use, while the other half goes to non-domestic use like industries, office buildings, hotels and so on. But considering that half still amounts to 200 million gallons, or over 300 Olympic-sized pools, our daily household uses of water is nonetheless staggering.
If you take a closer look at how much water each little activity in our daily routine takes up, you’ll see that the numbers add up really quickly. For example, a 5-minute shower can take up to 45 litres of water, while a full flush of the toilet bowl takes around 4.5 litres.
2. Everyday things like a cup of coffee can use up to 130 litres of water
If we told you that every cup of kopi you drink uses 130 litres of water, you’d think we’re mad. How can a small 300ml cup need 130 litres of water to make? It’s something called “embedded water”, or the water that goes into making all the ingredients of the coffee -- right from the start of the process.
Think about it, the coffee plant has to be watered for a few years before the flowers start to grow and produce beans (often called coffee cherries). Afterwards, the beans are put through a water-heavy process to separate the good ones from the bad ones. Add all of these up and eventually, you arrive at that seemingly ridiculous figure of 130 litres per cup.
Here are some other examples of other everyday items that require massive amounts of water to produce or make:
- 500ml bottle of coke - 7 litres
- Banana - 160 litres
- Plain cotton tee --2,500 litres
- A wheel of cheese - 5,060 litres (per kg)
- Hamburger - 15,000 litres (per kg)
So the next time you bite into a burger, recall the massive amount of water that goes into it and maybe take that as a reminder to save water while you can.
3. There’s a 4-step treatment process for rainwater before it reaches your tap
Choa Chu Kang Waterworks
Image credit: PUB
You might wonder, why can’t we just drink rainwater? After all, the environment is like one big filtration system. While rainwater may seem clean enough to drink, it isn’t. Well, you won’t die from drinking a little of it, but if all you drink is rainwater, then you should expect some tummy problems.
When a raindrop falls thousands of feet from the sky, it collects dust particles and other contaminants along the way.
PUB’s treatment of collected water consists of 4 main steps:
- Coagulation and flocculation -- binding unwanted particles together into clumps
- Sedimentation -- large clumps are removed once they settle down in the tanks
- Filtration -- removing really, really tiny particles
- Disinfection -- getting rid of any harmful bacteria and viruses
While the treatment processes do a really thorough job of cleaning the water, we can do our part by not throwing our rubbish into the drains and canals. The vast, interconnected network of pipelines in Singapore means that anything you throw into any of those small drains at the side of roads may eventually get carried away into our reservoirs. So in a way, you’re littering in the very place you get your water from.
4. Our water is tested over 400,000 times to make sure it's safe to drink
The agency conducts about 400,000 tests on our water quality a year. The tests are done on water at all stages - from samples of collected rainwater in the reservoir to water running through the pipes and water streaming from our taps. Aside from these tests, there are also sensors at all stages to make sure that everything is in order.
Image credit: PUB
Such tests are meant to ensure that the water at every stage is maintained as it should be. The high frequency of tests will allow PUB to quickly resolve any problems with our water should any arise if need be.
5. Tap water might be cleaner than home-filtered water
Singapore’s tap water falls well within the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Guidelines for drinking-water quality.
Image credit: Scientific American
What about all those water filters that claim to purify water or add health-giving ‘ions’ in them? As enhancing as such filters may be, they are prone to bacterial build-up and mould if not changed or cleaned regularly. They may then end up contaminating the water instead of further purifying it. Besides, our tap water is already extremely clean - at least by global health standards. So why not save on those costly appliances and fill your jugs straight from the tap?
A water problem we can all help to solve
Image credit: PUB
By 2061, PUB estimates that Singapore’s daily water demand could “almost double”. But solving our nation’s water problem shouldn’t be shouldered just by the agency. We should therefore, as citizens, do our part as well to help use less water.
This privilege to a seemingly abundant amount of clean water may one day disappear. So better that we start practising water-saving habits now, than flounder when the taps on clean water are tightened.
Here are some water-saving tips compiled into a very apt acronym, W.A.T.E.R.:
- Wash clothes on full load
- Always use half-flush when possible
- Turn off shower when soaping
- Ensure tap is off when brushing teeth
- Rinse vegetables in a container
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of ways you can go about saving water. Just remember, if there is a way to use less water, use less water.
This post was brought to you by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency.