SINGAPORE --Singapore, which imports most of its water from abroad, briefly cut supplies to thousands of households recently, rehearsing for rationing even though there is no immediate shortage or drought.
The shutoff of supplies to 30,000 residences across the island republic for several hours was part of the annual Save Water Campaign, one of a plethora of government-organized drives in this regimented society.
Adding an element of surprise, affected households were not informed before the cut. Unlike in past campaigns, there were no trucks distributing water to those homes.
``The purpose is to get Singaporeans to conserve water, which is a precious and strategic resource,'' Minister of Trade and Industry Lee Yock Suan said last month at the launch of the drive.
Singapore's water resources are so limited that it is forced to import most of its water from Malaysia, and the often strained relations between the neighbors have elevated the water issue to a national concern here. Roughly half of the 42 million cubic feet consumed here each day comes from Malaysia, under one treaty that expires in 2011 and another in 2061. The two countries have been unable to negotiate new pacts.
The government already has announced that water rates will rise annually from this year through 2000, just as the Asian economic crisis is pinching family finances.
The government-run Public Utilities Board added a warning that ``unconventional schemes'' such as desalination and rainfall collection will raise the price of water.
In May, Singapore announced it was working on plans to build two seawater desalination plants by 2011 in addition to one already under construction, to replace the water supplied by its northern neighbor.
Desalination would provide a controlled but expensive source of water for the country.
This year's Save Water Campaign also includes lectures, seminars, and various high-profile media publicity.
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