Monday, March 6, 2017

Provide Raw Water for non-drinking purposes.

Mar 6 2017


My letter to Today in full:

Water has not reach crisis level, but the debate on pending price increase has.

As a long-term measure, I think to save precious treated water, another tap should be laid to pipe in direct cheap raw water from Singapore reservoirs and Johor for general purpose like flushing toilet and cleaning premises.

Then the treated water for drinking and cooking can be as expensive as bottled drinking water and no one need to complain as water for drinking and cooking constitute only a very small portion of water used.

As it is expensive treated Singapore water which can be drank direct from tap, is wasted and go down the drain for general purpose.

We know there are rich households that buy bottled water for drinking and cooking and use tap only for other purpose.

Some fear the flouride and other bacteria killing chemicals in the treated water.

A cheaper way instead of having to lay another pipe, is to use existing tap for raw water and bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Who knows the raw water could turn out to be health craze water!


To paraphrase Trump, "who knew water would be so complicated?"

Well, apparently, not Norman Wee. 

His edited letter was published in Today, but he felt perhaps that some of the finer points had been edited out, so he posted his original letter in full. To properly reflect his position, and since he is so good as to post his original letter, the above is his letter in full. 

So basically, he wants to close down PUB water treatment branch, and put raw water on tap.
" use existing tap for raw water and bottled water for drinking and cooking."
I just looked at a utility bill (3-room HDB flat). The water bill came up to about $30 (for about 16 cubic m of water, iirc - or about 16,000 litres in a month).

The projected average increase is 30% per household in 2 years time (July 2018). So the $30 will become $40. Or $10 more (maybe). 

The actual water tariff increase is actually very low. From $1.17 per m3, to $1.21 (or $1.40 to $1.52).

The hefty increase is in the tax (from 30% to 50%), and the folding in of the waterborne fee and sanitary appliance fee together. See table below.

The increase from $2.10 to $2.74 is actually less than 30% increase. At 16 m3, the fees increase from $33.60 to $43.84. Say $10.

So we are going to invest millions to have another parallel water delivery system (pipes) to deliver cheaper raw water to save... $10? $20? $30? per household. per month?

And this parallel pipes will also need to be maintained. The simple truth is the costs to build, maintain, and service a parallel set of pipes will be the main cost. 

OK. We can save the infracture costs as Mr Wee suggested - use the existing pipes for raw water, and people have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking.

And if you ever had non-potable water flowing through pipes, you will also realised one thing: you will need more maintenance. Why? Because the impurities, the organic material in the water will cause the pipes to clog up faster and deteriorate. In Teban Gardens in the 80s the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) had experimented with using non-potable water (effluent water) for flushing toilets in the flats in the estate. Scum and gunk oozed out of the joints over time and eventually, the experiment with non-potable water was discontinued. And our toilets were supplied through the main water supply,

And how about in the future? Our water security plan is long term - beyond 2062 when the last water agreement with Malaysia expires (and we assume that the agreement will not be renewed because the Johor river is drying up, and Johor needs the water for itself. By then 80% of our water will be desalinated, or recycled (NEWater). What raw water will Mr Wee want to bathe in then? The slightly treated Not-So-NEWater (reg'd TM?), a.k.a. eau de toilette filtered through a coffee filter?

OK, maybe Mr Wee isn't looking so far ahead. 2062 is more than 40 years away, and by then, it will not be his problem (maybe dead from some water-borne disease from bathing in the Johor River Water). Maybe, he is just a short term planner and wants to solve the problem for today... and maybe the next 20 years or so. 50 years down the road is just too far ahead. Who do we think he is? PAP?

So back to the economic argument then, and say we either ignore the problems of having non-potable Johor River water running through our pipes and Singaporeans literally bathing in Johor River Water, or assume that somehow, we are able to DO SOMETHING to make Mr Wee's half-arsed suggestion feasible.

And so we save $20 a month. After deducting the costs of maintenance (sinking fund) and replacement of gunked up pipes.

With this $20, we buy 20 litres of bottled water. Too expensive? Ok, 40 litres of water which is to last you for one month of cooking. Which is about 1.3 litres per day. Here's a challenge - try cooking with just 1.3 litres of water. Also, wash your dishes in river water.

And your clothes. (we already covered bathing in the Johor River). 

OK. Maybe you don't cook every day. If you cook just 20 days a month, you get 2 litres of water for cooking each day. 

Too often? Ok, 10 day a month you cook, 4 liters of water to cook a meal. Go!

And that is assuming you don't DRINK any of the bottled water you bought with the savings you have from using only raw water. 

Why isn't this working?!?!?

Simple. A cubic metre of water under the new water prices from July 2018 cost $1.21. One cubic metre of water = 1000 litres. To buy 1000 litres of bottled water will costs you about $500.

You would have to be really stupid to think this is a great way to save $20.

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