How water conservation can affect the reliability of recycling

161004-F-XX000-011For years, I have been reading about the need to conserve water – to use lesser water to brush, bathe, wash and irrigate plants. I have also read a great deal on the need to recycle water – how used water from toilets can be reused for gardening, how used water from washing machines can be reused to clean floors and so on. In Singapore, where I live, NEWater has become such an important source of water that during the prolonged dry spell of 2014, rationing of water to citizens was avoided mainly thanks to the facilities for recycled water. Singapore has also gone out of the way to change the paradigm by referring to wastewater as “used water”.

But, somewhere at the back of my mind, I wondered what would happen to the supply of recycled water if people began to concertedly conserve so much that they produced lesser wastewater and consequently there was not enough water to recycle.   Continue reading

Fill up my glass please

10914959_10152898586948778_6325900801743596033_oI still remember the first time I asked for water at a restaurant in Germany. “Gas?” he asked and I said “No, water.” Again he asked if I wanted gas and again I said water. It was really getting very perplexing with me wondering how Germans managed to drink water in gaseous form. It all became clear when a bottle of sparkling water arrived at my table, of course and there was some righteous indignation when I later saw how much it cost (after converting to Singapore Dollars).

Over the years, I have followed the stories of tapwater being served or not in restaurants. Turned out that Germany was a special case in Europe where tapwater was also charged. In the United States, I was happy to note that getting tapwater (and free!) was not a problem at all. The bigger problem was to get it without ice and at room temperature. Continue reading

When tourists consume more than the locals


I had hung up my towel on the rack for reusing. The usual placard in the Delhi hotel bathroom said only towels on the floor would be replaced. But when I returned to my room at night, I found a new towel in place.

That was in 2013, the year when 35 five-star hotels were given notice by the Delhi government for using 15 million litres of water per day of municipal supplies. Half of these hotels did not have a dedicated sewage treatment plant. It was one of the hottest summers and Delhi residents were suffering disruptions in water supply.

Tourism-related water use is very small as a percentage of total water used in countries. And yet, the local picture is entirely different. This is because it competes for the same water used by the local population. Continue reading

Cleaning the Ganga is not about just cleaning the Ganga


The Bill of Confusion


A look at the utility invoices sent out to consumers in many cities makes it clear why water is an under-valued resource. The unclear language and confusing acronyms do nothing to educate or inform. Some invoices do not even specify whether they use actual readings or estimates. These pieces of paper seem to be designed to negatively impact the consumers’ trust in the water quality and their willingness to pay. Continue reading