Encouraging water conservation

The start of a two-day exhibition at NUS University Town on 22 March provided the NUS community with a holistic overviewof water conservation in the University, in areas such as operations, planning and research.  This was just one of the many activities that the University featured as part of the Singapore World Water Day @ NUS, held in conjunction with the Public Utilities Board (PUB)’s Singapore World WaterDay.

World Water Day, commemorated all over the world on 22 March annually, was first designated in 1993 by the United Nations to celebrate and remind people of the importance of water.

Singapore World Water Day @ NUS, named the “Save Our Water” campaign, offered an array of activities to draw attention to the importance of responsible water stewardship and to empower the University community with knowledge and ideas on methods to conserve water in everyday life. The event was graced by Guest-of-Honour Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

During his visit, Mr Masagos was treated to a tour of Ridge View Residential College (RVRC), where he enjoyed a close look at the various water conservation features the residence boasts — including their bioswale, retention pond as well as various student-led water saving initiatives, such as a rainwater harvesting tank in their community garden. He also had a chance to observe the students participating in water distribution for the RVRC full day water rationing exercise.  

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Mr Masagos (centre) looking at the RVRC retention pond

As part of the “Save Our Water” campaign, two buildings in the University were involved in full day water rationing exercises. RVRC experienced a complete water shut down from 7am to 5pm — 10 hours in total, and administration block NUS Ventus had its water supply cut off from 8.30am to 6pm — nine and a half hours. Altogether, some 900 staff and students took part in these exercises which saw water shutdown in toilets, shower cubicles and pantries.

“We need to always be conscious that conserving water has to be part of our lives. I’m glad that NUS, for the first time, has asked students to embark on a water rationing exercise to remind themselves not to take water for granted. They’re taking it in good spirits and I understand this will be something that NUS will do as part of its culture of inculcating water conservation,” Mr Masagos commented.

One booth at the exhibition that Mr Masagos was particularly interested in was research involving a smart shower meter system. Jointly conducted by researchers from the Institute of Water Policy under the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, and NUS Economics, the study saw meters placed into 70 showers in RVRC, where LED lights would indicate the amount of water being used. This allowed the researchers to investigate if real-time feedback would have an impact on water usage. At the end of the four-month trial, water savings of about five litres per person on average was observed.  

I’m happy to see that NUS is at the forefront of looking at behavioural science to condition and to shape behaviour for people to save water.

“I’m happy to see that NUS is at the forefront of looking at behavioural science to condition and to shape behaviour for people to save water,” Mr Masagos said, adding that there are plans for similar meters to be installed in new Build-To-Order flats over the next few years.

Other exhibitors included NUS Horticulture & Grounds that showcased various techniques of water conservation in landscape operations; the NUS Environmental Research Institute that showed research into the detection of water contaminations; as well as NUS alumni-founded social enterprise WateROAM who demonstrated their water filters that distribute clean water to disaster zones and rural areas. There was also a section on the water targets, action plans, and water conservation initiatives and projects in the University.

Competitions were also held as part of the “Save Our Water” Campaign to encourage water conservation. These included an Instagram competition throughout the month of February where participants submitted photographs that illustrated how they would play their part in water-saving, as well as a Best Saver competition that saw faculties and residences competing for the greatest reduction in water consumption over a period of seven months.

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Mr Masagos (third from right) and Prof Yong Kwet Yew, NUS Acting Deputy President (Administration) and Senior Vice President (Campus Infrastructure) (2nd from left) launching the event with (from left) Associate Vice President (Campus Operations and Maintenance) Mr Chew Chin Huat, PUB Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) Mr Tan Yok Gin and Ang Momoka, President of student group, NUS SAVE