Fewer water pressure complaints by HDB residents, but problems persist
The scene at 32 Balam Road during water pipe replacement works done for a number of units. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)
SINGAPORE: While the average number of complaints the PUB receives on low water pressure in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats has gone down in recent years, the problem still plagues a number of residents.The national water agency told Channel NewsAsia in September that over the past two years, it received an average of 85 instances of feedback a month on low water pressure in HDB units.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 staff inspecting the water pipes. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)
PUB said 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."On Oct 2, Channel NewsAsia visited Block 32, Balam Road to see how workers engaged by the Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) fixed the problem.Five contractors, together with two PUB staff, 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," MPTC public relations manager Tan You Yi said."With PUB's recommendation, we are replacing the common water pipes for these units."
Workers using various tools to replace the water pipes. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)
One resident of Block 32, who wished 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."RESIDENTS FRUSTRATEDBut for some residents, dealing with the problem has been more challenging.One 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."
The new water pipes installed at 32 Balam Road.
The resident, who works in sales, added that because he takes a longer time to shower with the heater on, his water and electricity bills have gone up.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. "I have no choice but to endure the current issue."HELP NOT VERY USEFULMr Goh said a plumber was sent to his home. "He didn't seem helpful, and told me low water pressure is common if you stay on the highest three levels of the block."Other 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.
Block 32, Balam Road. Repair work was done on the 6th, 7th and 8th floors of the 10-storey block. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)
The Bedok 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 the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), contractors entered his home and told him his water pressure is "good enough".
But to illustrate how weak it was, he pointed his shower head upwards and said the water could not go up more than 15cm, or the length of a short ruler."If you have strong water pressure, the water should still be able to go up high enough," he said. "In reality, if the water hits my body and it doesn’t feel the pressure, then you know it’s not strong 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.
Workers replacing the water pipes at 32 Balam Road as a resident looks on. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)
And like Mr Goh, the Bedok 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."He added that some neighbours living on the same floor have complained of the problem, while "this problem is entirely not faced on the lower floors".Channel NewsAsia has reached out to AHTC for comment. on this case.NO MINIMUM WATER PRESSURE SPECIFIEDCases like these have led to calls for PUB to set 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 had replied that the agency is reviewing the requirements, but "will not rush into formulating new regulations".
File photo of water dripping from a shower head. (Photo: AFP/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
According to PUB's handbook on application 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 25 metres 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.PUB 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.I'm not going to spend thousands of dollars trying to redo my piping; it doesn’t make sense.Until something changes, the Bedok resident said he will have to get used to his current predicament and avoid showering at the same time as his wife.Contractors have offered to fix the problem by installing a "reverse plumbing or a build-up system" in his house, but that will cost thousands of dollars, he said."I'm not going to spend thousands of dollars trying to redo my piping; it doesn’t make sense," he said, adding that ample water pressure is something that should be provided by the authorities.He ruled out moving out too. "We didn’t pay a premium for our house just to leave over water pressure, but it does cause a lot of frustration."