SINGAPORE: The number of complaints the PUB receives about low water pressure in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats has gone down in recent years, although dozens of people are still giving feedback on the issue every month.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the national water agency said that over the past two years, it has received an average of 85 instances of feedback a month on the issue.
In comparison, then-Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said in 2015 that over the previous five years, PUB received about 100 pieces of feedback on the issue each month.
Dr Balakrishnan was responding in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament for Hougang SMC Png Eng Huat, who had asked how such problems are addressed.
PUB told Channel NewsAsia that the causes of low water pressure include "partially closed valves in the water supply pipes to the unit, stoppage of pumps and chokage in tap strainers".
The agency added that such fixtures are usually installed and maintained by either the town council, the building management or unit owner.
"PUB works closely with the town councils to attend to feedback received and are able to typically resolve the problem within the day."
Last month, Channel NewsAsia visited Block 32, Balam Road to see how workers engaged by Marine Parade Town Council were working to fix the problem there.
Five contractors, together with two PUB employees, were seen replacing water pipes on the higher floors of the 10-storey block.
"The town council had received feedback from a few units at the mentioned block about the low water pressure, and we had since been working with PUB to resolve the issue," Marine Parade Town Council's public relations manager Tan You Yi said.
"With PUB's recommendation, we are replacing the common water pipes for these units."
One resident of Block 32, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the work carried out seems to have resolved the problem.
"Once PUB got involved, things started to move quite quickly with a number of possible solutions being looked at," he said. "The water pressure is now much improved."
While PUB is receiving fewer complaints about the issue, some residents that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that they have ongoing difficulties.
Warehouse assistant manager Yeo Shuan Chee, who lives on the 12th and highest floor of Block 211, Tampines Street 23, said he estimates the water pressure in his unit to be two times weaker than at his parents' home.
"It really becomes inconvenient during showering," the 47-year-old said. "Especially when I want to wash off the soap and the water pressure becomes super weak. My wife is also starting to get sick of it."
A resident of Block 715, Bedok Reservoir Road, who asked not to be named, said the weak water pressure in his home has been "extremely" frustrating.
The 35-year-old, who lives on the 12th and highest floor, realised the problem soon after moving in three years ago, when the water pressure "didn’t seem strong enough" compared to his previous home in Marine Parade.
"Obviously, that’s not a very happy situation," he said. "Every morning, given the fact that we have to rush for work, I don’t think many of us really have the luxury of spending half an hour in the shower."
A Whampoa resident, who only wanted to be known as Mr Goh, similarly discovered the problem when moving in one-and-a-half years ago, and now spends a longer time showering and cleaning the toilet.
"Even when the main water switch is turned to the max, the water pressure is very weak as compared to my previous house," said the 38-year-old, who lives on the 10th floor of a 12-storey block. "I have no choice but to endure the current issue."
UNCERTAIN WHO TO APPROACH
Mr Yeo said he did not alert PUB or his town council because he gathered from online forums that they would "not do anything" about such complaints.
Instead, he installed "laser-cut shower heads" that are supposed to bring up the water pressure, but those did not solve the problem.
Buying a S$388 electric water heater with pump seemed to make things better, Mr Yeo said, but the pressure still drops drastically "when too many people are using water at the same time".
For Mr Goh, a plumber told him that the issue is common "if you stay on the third-highest level of the block", while contractors told him the problem could not be fixed.
"I might try to feedback to other agencies, like PUB or the town council," he added.
The Bedok Reservoir resident brought the issue up with PUB but was referred to his town council because "it’s not the issue with the flow of water, it’s the issue with the pressure and the pumps".
When he called Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, contractors entered his home and told him his water pressure is "good enough".
The resident also said he was asked if the problem could be caused by the appliances in his home.
"But that can't be the case because the appliances we use are relatively expensive ones and not run-of-the-mill," he added.
And like Mr Goh, the Bedok Reservoir resident was told by external contractors that the problem "has to really do with the fact that you’re on the top floor".
Because of how high he lives, his unit is one of the first to receive water that flows down from the roof tanks above, leading to an insufficient "build-up of pressure", he explained.
"So whichever pressure system they use, it is not able to really provide that kind of pressure we need for our flow."
NO MINIMUM WATER PRESSURE SPECIFIED
Cases like these have led to suggestions that there should be a minimum water pressure standard for HDB homes.
Back in 2015, Mr Png asked if PUB would consider specifying a "minimum pressure for the supply of water to individual HDB flats".
Dr Balakrishnan replied that the agency is reviewing the requirements, but "will not rush into formulating new regulations".
According to PUB's handbook on applications for water supply, "the water pressure available at different parts of the island varies depending on the elevation of the land and on the time of the day".
"Generally the Water Supply (Network) Department maintains a water pressure capable of supplying directly to water fittings not exceeding 25m above mean sea level," the handbook said.
"This means that water supply to water fittings above this level has to be indirect via water storage tanks."
While the Code of Practice for Water Services specifies a maximum allowable pressure for water supply to residential units, there are no specified requirements for minimum pressure standards, PUB said.
The agency told Channel NewsAsia that the review "concluded that it was not useful to stipulate a minimum pressure requirement across all residential units as there are different performance specifications for different water fixtures".
"Setting a minimum pressure may result in fixtures not being able to achieve its water conservation objectives," it added.
Until something changes, the Bedok Reservoir resident said he will have to get used to his current situation.
He ruled out moving out. "We didn’t pay a premium for our house just to leave over water pressure, but it does cause a lot of frustration."