Sun, May 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Conserving water needs a long-term approach

By Chen Wen-ching 陳文卿

In almost every drought, various water-conservation tips and schemes are suggested and mandated. However, most are temporary measures designed to alleviate an urgent water shortage. If we hang in there until the typhoon season in June, the matter will be, as always, put on the back burner. No one will bother to bring it up again until the next drought. This is best described by the old Chinese saying that "one easily forgets the pain when the wound heals. "

From a long-term perspective, however, comprehensive planning is needed to ensure efficient use of water resources. Policy must be implemented by legislative enactment, rather than public education alone.

Industrial water-conservation measures involve more complicated technical considerations. The government only needs to set reasonable goals, and industries will naturally consult professionals to plan and improve their water-conservation schemes based on the unique characteristics of their production processes. The industries are capable of evaluating how to recycle treated waste water and which recycling technology to adopt. The government does not need to interfere too much. What the industries are concerned about is which method costs less -- recycling water or directly using water from the tap.

But efficient residential water use is a different story. The government should definitely take the lead in this regard, instead of having the public scratch their heads in trying to figure out how to put bricks in toilet tanks to save water.

Several years ago, I investigated the level of water consumption at various institutions, schools, hotels and homes in an effort to assist the Construction and Planning Administration (營建署) in the formulation of regulations governing water-treatment equipment in buildings. Compared with the data collected from other countries, the average daily water consumption per capita in Taiwan is much higher. For instance, the average Japanese uses around 200 liters per day. But the average Taiwanese uses more than 250 liters, going up to 300 liters in urban areas. It would seem that people enjoying higher living standards consume more water. But, this observation does not seem accurate in view of Japan's low water consumption.

Why do Japanese people use less water, and at the same time, maintain high living standards? This is neither because the Japanese are more environmentally conscious, nor because each household saves bath water in buckets to flush toilets. Japan has institutionalized water-conservation measures. For example, since water used for washing hands can be used again to flush toilets, the Japanese designed a sewer system that directs water from the sink into toilet tanks.

The people of Taiwan actually know about these methods. But if water-conservation facilities are not incorporated into the design of buildings, few people would install unsightly pipes to recycle waste water. In addition, placing buckets in bathrooms and kitchens to recycle used water may give people the chance to work out, but it is not a practice expected in civilized nations.

The government should mandate water-saving facilities in government and public buildings, and then private buildings should gradually follow. To encourage people's cooperation at the initial stage, rewards should be given when necessary, and then compulsory measures should be incorporated into architecture-related regulations. Moreover, similar demands might be made with respect to energy-conservation products and environmental protection facilities.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top