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Boil tap water? There’s really no need

In Singapore, we turn on the tap when we need water, be it for drinking, washing or bathing; because we know that it is safe and clean. But despite knowing that tap water is safe for consumption, how many people actually drink directly from the tap?

Boil tap water? There’s really no need

Times have changed. Every household in Singapore now has access to safe drinking water. Photo: Thinkstock

In Singapore, we turn on the tap when we need water, be it for drinking, washing or bathing; because we know that it is safe and clean. But despite knowing that tap water is safe for consumption, how many people actually drink directly from the tap?

Research and surveys suggest that at least 20 per cent of Singaporean households still boil water before they drink it.

In reality, it seems to be a far more common practice. My family does it and, probably, so does yours. However, why do we need to if our water is of high drinking quality?

Most people do it out of habit that was passed down from one generation to the next.

If you put yourself in their shoes, it is not hard to understand their fears. After all, Singapore did not have such high standards of sanitation and hygiene in the old days. Very few people, if any, had access to safe, piped water. So, water had to be boiled to kill any bacteria or pathogens that might be present.

But times have changed. Every household in Singapore now has access to safe drinking water. The water is also checked by the national water agency PUB on a regular basis to ensure that it complies with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality. Thus, it is no longer necessary to boil the water before drinking.

DOES IT REALLY TASTE BETTER?

Many still do, including my sister. It tastes different, she replied when I asked her why she did not drink directly from the tap. Perhaps; the taste is a matter of personal preference.

To be more objective, I conducted a blind taste test. Guess what. She could not tell the difference.

Generally, there is this public perception that unboiled tap water tastes worse than its boiled counterpart. This idea most probably originated from our parents and grandparents, who lived in that era of dirty water. Many constantly reiterated in the past that tap water is full of harmful bacteria (and hence tastes bad).

Since that situation has changed, so should our perception of tap water. Try being more objective the next time you drink unboiled tap water; it is really no different from the boiled stuff.

If that is not enough reason to start drinking tap water directly, consider the amount of money you can save if you skip the extra step of boiling before drinking. My family uses a 2400W Mistral electric kettle at home to boil water at least once daily. Assuming a daily usage of 30 minutes, it is found that the kettle consumes about 36 kWh of electricity, which costs S$9.10 per month (calculated using Singapore Power’s Home Electricity Audit). This means that we are paying S$109.20 every year just to boil water. Imagine how much money we could have saved over the years if we just drank from the tap. Using the gas stove costs slightly less, but you are still spending unnecessary money.

We are also wasting energy when we boil water. If we want to do our part for the environment and go green, we can start with something small like not boiling water unnecessarily. If every household in Singapore can stop this wasteful habit, we can reduce our carbon footprint and attain national energy savings.

Furthermore, the entire process of boiling water is just a huge hassle. Why spend unnecessary effort on boiling the water just to let it cool down again before drinking? If you turn on the tap, you get instant cool water that can quench your thirst in Singapore’s hot weather. That said, make sure that the pipes and taps in your residential or work building are in good condition (that is not rusty or broken) before you start drinking.

Once that is settled, the next time you are thirsty, simply turn on the tap, collect a glass of water and drink away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lim Jing Xian is a Master student in Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore. This article is based on an assignment prepared for Water Policy and Governance course at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

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