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Debating the Real Cost of Drinking Water

Outdoor faucets provide access to municipally-piped waterIn cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, where tap water is safe to drink, many households still prefer to boil or filter tap water before drinking it. In a recent survey by the Institute of Water Policy, which sampled over 200 households, up to four in five households said they boil tap water before drinking it.

When asked for the reasons they do not drink water straight from the tap, three in four said they are not sure about the quality of the water.

Asit Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, LinkedIn 


Researchers at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore have provided a thorough overview of complex global drinking water ecosystems. They give an interesting perspective on the term, “improved sources of water,” used by the United Nations to describe 2.6 billion people who gained access to an improved source between 1990 and 2015. But an improved source is not necessarily a safe source. The report says that 3.5 billion people still do not have safe water to drink, nearly 5 times higher than typical estimates.

They make a strong case for pricing water to market conditions but strongly urge charging a price regardless of poverty level. “There is strong evidence to suggest that under-priced or free water leads to very inefficient uses of water, including increased wastage.” While the poorest families should receive subsidies to ensure access to safe water, revenues generated from those with the means to pay can offset infrastructure maintenance and construction of new facilities.

The article can be accessed at a number of additional sources, including Malay Mail Online and the Asia and the Pacific Policy Society.