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We couldn't bathe every day

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The dry spell continues and water levels are low.

That was what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, along with pictures showing the low water levels of MacRitchie Reservoir and Lower Seletar Reservoir.

Although water rationing is not on the cards - as said by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan last Friday - Mr Leong Sai Mooi, 65, remembers how stressful and uncomfortable those periods in the 1960s were.

Earlier reports stated that water rationing was last introduced in April 1963.

It lasted for 10 months until February 1964, during one of the worst droughts on record here, and came after appeals to the public to save water were not sufficiently heeded.

Mr Leong, who was then 15 and a student, said it was a frantic rush to fill every container they could find in the house with water as soon as the supply came back on.

Using buckets, aluminium basins and even kerosene tins, Mr Leong and his family would then store the water.

With the limited supply, Mr Leong said his family also had to prioritise what to use the water for.

"During the water rationing periods, we couldn't bathe every day. Instead, we would take a white 'Good Morning' towel, soak it in water and use it to wipe ourselves.

"But as soon as I was done, I would start perspiring again as it was also a very hot period. I never felt clean."

He said that he took a bath only occasionally.

"Some of my friends would even go to the rural areas to collect water from the wells just to bathe," he said.


Mr Leong would also help reduce his household's laundry load by wearing the same outfit for "a few days".

"It was very uncomfortable but back then, we had to do whatever we could to conserve every drop of water," he said.

But Mr Leong said his family always saved enough water for drinking and cooking.

"We made sure that we had enough for consumption by saving and recycling water when we could.

"We would then flush the toilets with leftover and dirty water from cooking or laundry," he said.

The retiree admits he cannot recall every detail.

But he remembers the stress that would overwhelm him every morning as soon as he woke up.

"Back then, every morning I worried that the tap would not work. It made me realise how important water was and never to take it for granted," he said.


Mr Leong was particularly worried when Malaysia threatened to cut off the water supply to Singapore over the years.

Amid the current dry spell, Mr Leong, who is married with two sons, has been "extra careful" about his usage of water.

For example, he only waters the plants and leaves out the lawn in his bungalow at Siglap.

He has not washed his car since the dry spell started, and uses minimal water to wipe his windscreens clean.

"Every drop is important and goes a long way if saved. I do my part to ensure that we never have to go through water rationing again," he said.

Daily water consumption has gone up by about 4 per cent during this dry period, said Dr Balakrishnan on Friday.

National water agency PUB is pumping 35 million gallons of Newater a day into reservoirs to maintain water levels.

It is also issuing 25,000 advisories to heavy water users, while households will be given water-saving tips.