Water must be used wisely, so that in moments of a dry spell or drought, we can also better cope
Water must be used wisely, so that in moments of a dry spell or drought, we can also better cope

Did you know that water covers 70.9% of the Earth’s surface (according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency)? And of all the water on earth, 97% is salt water and only 3% is fresh water. Furthermore, water found at the Earth’s surface in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and swamps makes up only 0.3% of the world’s fresh water, and 1.7% of the world’s water is frozen and therefore unusable.

Are you also aware of the term “water conflict”? It is an issue faced by countries, states, or groups over an access to water resources and when there are opposing interests of water users, public or private.

Hence, every drop of water conserved is important.

What Organisations Can Do

Water management and conservation has always been an integral part of CapitaLand’s holistic environment management strategy. This strategy covers sustainable approaches towards water management, energy consumption, climate change, biodiversity and waste. Monitoring water usage and incentivising are also part of an exercise where water consumption targets are set and linked to key performance indicators.

More important, innovation is encouraged as the main driver in the sustainability strategy. Many of CapitaLand’s Singapore properties have cutting-edge green features put in place to conserve water.

Rainwater harvesting, for example, takes place at Bedok Mall, Bugis Junction, JCube, Rivergate, Sembawang Shopping Centre and Westgate and used mainly for landscape irrigation.

At commercial properties Golden Shoe, Six Battery Road and Wilkie Edge, rainwater storage tanks collect water for a variety of purposes including the cleaning of carpark decks and ramps.

To achieve additional savings in energy and water, condensate recovery technology is applied in several air-handling units, chilled water fan coil units and chilled water systems.

CapitaLand also harnesses NEWater (high-grade reclaimed water produced by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency) in its buildings such as Capital Tower, Clarke Quay, Funan DigitaLife Mall, IMM Building, Plaza Singapura, Tampines Mall and The Star Vista.

The ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system, ensures CapitaLand is constantly on the lookout to improve its operations. Using water-efficient fittings, spotting and repairing leaks immediately and setting indoor air-conditioning temperatures to 24°C are but a few of the regular water conservation practices in CapitaLand’s property operations. CapitaMalls Asia in Singapore has even extended its water conservation efforts to even conserving water from its sprinkler pipes during fit out by tenants.

Responding to Climatic Changes

The recent dry spell in Singapore since mid January to March 2014 serves as a reminder for us not to take this precious resource for granted. Major investments have been made by PUB to diversify Singapore’s water supply sources, including NEWater and desalination which can meet up to 30% and 25% of Singapore’s water needs respectively. During the recent dry spell, PUB ran its desalination and NEWater plants at full capacity. The weather also led to heavy leaf shedding, an accumulation of leaves in some public areas and also likely caused two bush fires.

This shows the inter-connectioness of our ecosystems and the well being of the communities.

Easing the impact of the island city’s dry spell requires a national effort, big and small. CapitaLand, a winner of the PUB Watermark Award for going the extra mile to promote, protect and conserve Singapore’s water resources, responded immediately when the nation-wide call for a heightened water conservation effort was made by PUB.

“Regardless of the current dry spell in Singapore, we have already put in place water saving measures and monitor water consumption as part of our standard operating procedures in Singapore and overseas. During this period, a majority of our Singapore properties will shut off external water features. We will also postpone non-essential cleaning such as façade and car park cleaning,” said Mr Tan Seng Chai, Group Chief Corporate Officer, CapitaLand Limited and Chairman of CapitaLand’s Sustainability Steering Committee.

The Group has specially-designed water features and play parks in various parts of its office buildings, services apartments and shopping malls. Not only do they add to the design and architecture of the building, they also serve a practical function of reducing the urban heat effect.

These features are now temporarily turned off to conserve water. Bugis Junction, Bukit Panjang Plaza, Clarke Quay, ION Orchard, Tampines Mall and The Star Vista have switched off their water features. Splashparks at Lot One Shoppers’ Mall, IMM Building and Sembawang Shopping Centre were also turned off.

Some of the water fountains, such as those at Capital Tower and Somerset Liang Court now operated in the early or later part of the day, to minimise water loss from evaporation. Circulation of the water is needed to avoid water stagnation issues. For a similar effect, irrigation of landscapes is carried out in the early morning or evening.

What you can do?

Here are some tips on how you can easily do your part and conserve water in the long term!

1. Take Quick Showers

In the household, the shower takes up the largest amount of water. Each minute under the shower uses 19 litres of water, so imagine taking a 15-minute shower! Reduce your shower time to five minutes and install a water-saving showerhead if you can.

2. Use the Half Flush

The other big water culprit in the toilet is the flush. If you install and use the half flush, you can save more than half the water consumed during flushing. A full flush requires eight litres of water and the half flush, just three.

3. Check for Leaks

Always check for leaks in your home and repair them immediately. At one drip per second, a leaking faucet wastes up to 11,356 litres a year. Turn off the tap — tight!

Also, here’s how to check if your toilet is leaking: Put a small amount of food dye into your cistern, and see if the dye leaks into the bowl.

4. Do Your Laundry Wisely

Do full loads of laundry and try not to over-wash clothes. Gently worn clothes don’t need as long a wash cycle as soiled, sturdy clothes.

Try to invest in a front loading machine. It uses 50 litres on a normal cycle while a top loader uses 120 to 150 litres.

5. Don’t Waste Food

What has food got to do with water? Plenty! Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the world’s water consumption. In fact, the making of a slice of bread requires 37 litres of water. So think twice before over-ordering at a buffet or over-buying groceries!

6. Don’t Let the Water Run

The main tip on saving water in the kitchen is to reduce the use of running water. For instance, you could use a small pan of cold water for cleaning vegetables instead of putting them under a running tap. Then reuse this to water house plants.

Also avoid using running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or by using the defrost setting on your microwave.

Another big no-no: Leaving the tap running when you’re brushing your teeth. This wastes up to 6 litres of water a minute!

We often practise the good financial habit of saving money for a rainy day. In a time of unpredictable climate change, saving Mother Nature’s gifts to us — such as water — for a non-rainy day begins to make just as much sense.