Human needs can be narrowed down to three essentials: air, water and
food. Without air one would not survive ten minutes; without water one
would likely die of dehydration within ten days; and without food, the body
would probably expire after ten weeks.
The average person requires between six and eight glasses (about two
litres) of drinking water a day to maintain the hydration of tissues in the
body, and to facilitate the physiological processes of digestion. In addition,
water acts as a transport medium for nutrients within the body, helps to
remove toxins and waste materials, stabilizes the body temperature, and plays
a crucial part in the structure and function of the circulatory system. In short,
water is the elixir of life.
People living in modern cities get water at the turn of a tap, a
convenience that has spawned a careless attitude towards this crucial
substance. What is more, most Asian governments provide water to
consumers and industries alike at a low to nominal tariff.
Modern urban living has bred a generation of Asians who are careless in
their usage of water. Singapore, for example, has increased its rate of water
consumption over the last ten years and more than half has been for domestic
usage. Calls to cut back on usage have fallen on deaf ears since average daily
consumption keeps rising annually.
Singaporeans have been warned that they would run out of water if the
consumption is left unchecked. Recent conservation measures introduced
include the installation of low-capacity cisterns that reduce water used from
nine litres to as low as 3.5 litres per flush in public housing estates.
The low cost of water for household consumption makes people feel that
water is something they can get easily. Thus, the Singapore government has
acted in curbing excessive use of water by raising the cost of water. Water
rates in Singapore are among the highest in Asia - and for good reason, as
the city ranks as the sixth most water-scarce country in the world.
In contrast, the Japanese have a generally frugal attitude towards water.
Communal bathing is a traditional habit in rural Japan and is a definite form
of conservation. After individual ablutions, an entire family uses the same tub
of water - the father goes first, followed by the children and then the mother.
This system is incredibly efficient, with a family of five bathing in less than
twenty litres of water. Housewives may even keep the bath water for washing
In Tokyo, water conservation takes on a hi-fi slant. Some apartments have
a computerized toilet that flushes automatically when a person stands up and
one can choose to have a big or small flush. The bath is also computerized
with a warning buzzer that goes off when the tub gets too full. Many
bathroom sinks are connected via a pipe to the toilet cistern - thus the toilet is
flushed with water from the sink.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, has maximized its biggest water resource - the
ocean. Sea water is used as flushing water in many of the city's toilets.