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Understanding Your Water Bill In Singapore: What Water Tariff, Conservation Tax And Waterborne Fees Mean

Staying home and working from home more may take a toll on your water bill.


While we are accustomed to an uninterrupted water supply, where we can drink straight from the tap, Singapore has significantly limited access to natural water resources. We depend on the Johor River to meet 50% of our daily demand for drinking water – and will do well to reduce water wastage. In fact, the Water Resource Institute thinks that Singapore will be 1 of 8 countries that are most vulnerable to disruptions in water supply by 2040.

Read Also: My OEM Plan Is Expiring: Should I Switch Back To SP Group?

The Government Supports Household Utilities With GST U-Save

As part of the Singapore Budget, the government typically supports public households via GST Voucher U-Save payments. This is to help reduce the cost of utiltiies and water bills for those living in public housing – with smaller HDB Flat Types getting the most support.

As we can see in the table below, those living in HDB flats can expect to receive between $760 and $440 in GSTV U-Save rebates in 2023.

GSTV U-Save rebate 2023

Source: GST Voucher

As part of the $1.1 billion Cost-of-Living Support Package announced on 28 September 2023, households can look forward to an additional $20 per quarter of U-Save rebates from January 2024 to December 2025, or a total of $80 per year for 2 years. This is expected to benefit 950,000 Singaporean HDB households.

Of course, this comes on the back of an earlier announcement that water prices is set to rise by $0.50 per cubic metre, or over 18%, over the next two years – with a $0.20 increase in April 2024, and another $0.30 increase in April 2025. Below, we look at the exact increases in our water bills over the next two years.

How Often Are Water Meters Checked?

While we tend to use a similar amount of water each month, we can expect “bill shocks” from time to time, especially when there are changes in our water usage habits. On top of higher usage, our water meter is only read once every two months, according to the SP Services website. On the months that meters are not read, the average daily usage of the last two actual reads will be used for our billing.

This means that at least one month, and maybe more, of increased usage may have passed before we receive a water bill based on our actual usage.

Those who prefer to be billed based on actual meter reading monthly can submit our meter reading by:

  • Phone (1800-2222-333)
  • SP Services smartphone app
  • SP Utilities portal
  • submitting a photo of our water meter reading via whatsapp to 8482 8636.

Also, while PUB may be our national water agency, SP Services acts as PUB’s metering, billing and payment collection agent.

PUB is also transitioning to a Smart Water Meter that started in 2022 and Phase 1 of the Smart Water Meter programme aims to install about 300,000 smart water meters across residential and commercial premises by 2024.

Read Also: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Do With Your SP Services Utilities Account

Why Are There Different Charges On My Water Bill?

Our water bill comprises three components – Water Tariff, Water Conservation Tax, and Waterborne Fee. We are also charged based on our water usage, with those who use more than 40 cubic meters of water each month charged a higher price.

Source: PUB

If we use between 0 and 40 cubic meters of water, we will be charged a lower price on all three cost components. If we use more than 40 cubic meters of water, we will incur a higher price on all three cost components – amounting to nearly 35% more per cubic meter of water.

This means that if we were typically using under 40 cubic meters of water each month, and exceed that amount in recent months because of our changing consumption patterns, the increase in our water bill may be even larger.

#1 Water Tariff

We are currently charged a Water Tariff of $1.21 or $1.52 for each cubic meter of water, depending on the two tiers of water consumption level. From 1 April 2024, this will rise to $1.29 or $1.63, and from 1 April 2025, it will rise to $1.43 or $1.81.

The Water Tariff component of our bill is meant to cover costs incurred in various stages of water production process, including collection of rainwater, treatment of raw water and distribution of treated potable water to customers.

#2 Water Conservation Tax (WCT)

Introduced in 1991, the Water Conservation Tax charges a percentage of the water tariff. According to PUB, this is meant to reinforce the message that water is precious from the very first drop.

While we are charged the Water Conservation Tax from the very first drop of water that we use, what we are actually paying is the cost for PUB to produce and convey the next drop of potable water, which is likely to come from more costly production methods such as desalination and NEWater, rather than imported water or water collected from local catchments.

From the chart above, we can see that households who use more than 40 cubic meters of water per month have to pay $0.99, which is 65% of the already higher price of water they incur. On the other hand, households using less that 40 cubic meters of water per month are charged $0.61, or 50% of their Water Tariff, which is a lower percentage of the already lower amount they pay for each cubic meter of water.

Again, this will be raised to $0.65 in April 2024, and $0.72 in April 2025. Those who have higher water usage will also see their bills go up commensurately.

#3 Waterborne Tax (WBF)

This was previously termed Waterborne Fee. Today, we pay a Waterborne Tax of $0.92 or $1.18 per cubic meter of water we use, based on whether we use over or under 40 cubic meters of water. This will rise to $1.00 or $1.25 in April 2024 and $1.09 or $1.40 in April 2025.

The Waterborne Tax goes towards meeting the cost of treating used water and maintaining the used water network.

When Was Water Prices Last Raised?

In the next two years – 2024 and 2025 – water prices will be raised by over 18%. This will impact both households and businesses in Singapore. As we can see in the table below, the base water price will be raised by $0.20 from 1 April 2024, and by a further $0.30 by 1 April 2025 – amounting to a total increase of $0.50 from today’s water price. Those who use more water, will also see their water bills spike by a higher percentage.

Singapore water price increase in 2024 and 2025

Source: PUB

The increase in water price is split into the 3 categories of our water bill, i.e. the Water Tariff, Water Conservation Tax (a % of the Tariff), and the Waterborne Tax.

Water prices were last raised in 2017, in two phases. We can see this on the above chart, with the first phase introduced on 1 July 2017 and second phase on 1 July 2018. Simultaneously, the Sanitary Appliance Fee (which was a fixed fee of $2.80 per toilet bowl fitting) and the Waterborne Fee were merged into a single volume-based fee. A second change to encourage water conservation was also included, by introducing a tiered Waterborne Fee for households using above 40 cubic meters of water each month.

Source: PUB

The overall increase in total price we would incur for our water usage amounted around 30% to over 40%.

According to PUB, the increase in water price would go towards meeting rising costs of water treatment, reservoir operations, NEWater production, desalination, used water collection and treatment, as well as the maintenance and expansion of the island-wide network of water pipelines.

Looking at the PUB annual report, operating expenses had overtaken operating income by its 2014 financial year.

In 2017, at the time of the water price increase, PUB’s cost of operations was over $1.3 billion. This was a 66% increase from 10 years prior to that in 2008. Its operating income had only risen 38% in that time to $1.3 billion. In FY2018, its Net Operating Loss shrank to $0.7 million, and it made a positive Net Operating Income in FY2019 and FY2020. In FY2021, though, operating expenses rose 10.5%, and PUB made a Net Operating Loss.

PUB Annual Report Income and Expenses

Source: PUB Annual Report 2021/2022

According to the PUB website, it does not seem like water prices are raised very often, and the last time before the 2017 raise was in 2000.

 

This article was originally published on 26 Apr 2022 and updated with new information.

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