RESEARCH AND PROJECTS

IWP's core research focus and philosophy is to enhance water security-- the ability to access adequate quantities of water of an acceptable quality for human wellbeing and economic activity. IWP's research is organised around four research clusters.

Behavioural Studies

Behavioural studies explore the activities and interactions among human beings to create policy that can bring about change through desirable behaviours. Projects include:

  • Experiment on smart showers in Singapore
  • Experimental studies on willingness to drink recycled water
  • Experiments on water consumption using rebates among households
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About the project

The Four National Taps, i.e. imported water, catchment areas, recycled and desalinated water have given Singapore access to clean, safe water at a turn of a tap. However, it is equally important to manage water demand going ahead. The Singapore Public Utility Board's (PUB) Water Conservation Strategy has several programmes in place to manage water demand in both the domestic and non-domestic sector. Over the years, the efforts in water conservation have seen Singapore’s per capita domestic water consumption drop from 165 litres per day in 2003 to 150 litres currently. PUB aims to reduce daily per capita domestic consumption of water to 147 litres by 2020, and to 140 litres by 2030. A study shows that taking a shower is the single largest source of domestic water consumption, accounting for 29% of water usage in a typical Singaporean household.

The research project proposes a large-scale randomised controlled trial, testing the willingness to adopt a real-time feedback device that helps households conserve water in showering. The device has previously been tested in a field experiment in Singapore and has proven to be effective. This project is also an extension of existing research at the Institute of Water Policy on institutional change and the role of emotions in public policy. If successful, this project will form the basis of an immediately implementable cost-effective and scalable policy.


Smart showers

Research Cluster

Behavioural Studies


Objectives

  • How to change individuals’ and/or households’ behaviours regarding water consumption, specifically in a regular water-intense activity such as showering.
  • How large is the take-up rate by Singaporean households with a high baseline use in showering?
  • How do subsidies affect the take-up rate?
  • How does the offer of an installment plan affect take-up of the device?
  • Does demand for the smart shower meter become more sensitive to the subsidy under an installment plan?
  • How large are the water savings for participating households?
  • Are there spillover effects into other behaviors that consume water?

Researchers

Leong Ching

Summary

This research project aims to help the City of Kathmandu rebuild its water utility and improve the service to its people. This study builds upon an earlier study that tackles how water had been supplied and used in Kathmandu from 2001 to 2014. Even though the population has doubled, the water supply to the residents remained the same. By using large storage tanks, buying from private water vendors and digging private wells, the people of Kathmandu were able to meet their water needs. However, these coping mechanisms cost every household US$18 annually on the average. Interestingly, despite this situation, the people reported through a survey conducted that they were largely satisfied with the water supply situation.

This paradox is an interesting policy conundrum. What lies behind the apparent public acceptance of high coping costs? This study presents the hypothesis that much of the emotional valence of the policy lies uncaptured by economic proxies or public action – that is to say that the perception of water is not tied up to the coping cost; put alternatively, although coping costs are very high (as high as the monthly bills of developed countries) such costs have a relatively low role in the narrative of water.


Objectives

The study will present the narratives of water from three policy groups – residents, government officials and water vendors using the Q methodology. Its key focus are the emotional qualities of the coping costs (frustration, anger, fear) that are not captured by this economic measurement. How do these translate into narratives of water? And most importantly, what impact does this have on the public attitude towards the large-scale water reform that are here to come.


Research Cluster

Behavioural Studies


Researchers

Leong Ching

About the project

Building on recent papers reviewing PPPs in the water sector in Asia (Jensen 2016), an analysis of hybrid regulation (Jensen & Wu 2016) and a comparative analysis of water PPP concession performance under different ownership (Wu, Jensen & House 2016), this project aims to take forward our understanding of the role and impact of private sector management and finance of water utilities under PPP models.


Projects aims

Five distinct research areas will be explored, each of which would lead to a separate journal paper, and together would help to build further PPP expertise at IWP.

  1. “From private to public: the impact on Malaysia’s water reforms on performance and governance”
  2. “The Limits and Future Potential of PPP in the Water Sector”
  3. “Policy entrepreneurship in action: evidence from Cambodia’s water reforms”
  4. “Public entrepreneurs, private managers”
  5. “When risk management mechanisms increase risk”

Research Cluster

Water Governance


Researchers

Olivia Jensen

About the project

In China, the massive demand for water infrastructure and lack of capital has precipitated the rapid growth of PPP in the water sector. An increased focus on value for money in the public sector has led to a need to improve the efficiency of the management, delivery and effectiveness of public services. The study aims to compare and contrast how parties of China’s water sector understand the concept of PPP, and how they behave differently from each other during the PPP implementation process. The research examines the causes of these differences and possible problems that exist in the current system, thereby providing solutions and improvements to overcome, if not mitigate, the problems at a time when China is seeking to widen the use of PPP in public sectors. The research is expected to add to existing and growing literature on PPP of China’s water sector.

This research also serves as the first step to use quantitative method to explore the PPP issue in China. Given the current trend of promoting PPP by central government, but yet both policy design and implementation are in an ambiguous stage, further investigation on this regard is meaningful for both academics and practitioners. We would expect that the findings from this research could shed some light on the issue; and provide a support for future application of external grants using the similar method on China PPP topic.


Projects aims

 

Research Cluster

Water Governance

Researchers

Qian Neng

This is a collaborative research between the Institute of Water Policy and Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the Department of Geography (NUS). In this study, we (i.) quantified and identified drought episodes using the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) in the neighbouring regions of Singapore and Johor, Malaysia, and (ii.) qualitatively examined each region's drought impacts and consequent responses through archival research over the past fifty years. The data indicate that both frequencies and intensities of drought episodes in Singapore and Johor have increased over time, suggesting greater exposure to this hazard. However, there are notable variations in drought impacts in Singapore and Johor, and how each region addresses water resource management to drought with varying degrees of success. Despite the geographical proximity, significant variations in regional adaptive capacities suggest that different drought vulnerabilities exist. The efficacy of drought responses over different time scales was discussed. Finally, a combination of demand- and supply-side policies was suggested, especially in the long-term, to reduce vulnerability to this droughts.


Objectives

  • to quantify and identify drought episodes using the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) in the neighbouring regions of Singapore and Johor, Malaysia, and
  • to qualitatively examine each region's drought impacts and consequent responses through archival research over the past fifty years.

Research Cluster

Water Science & Public Policy


Project Team

Winston Chow, Joon Chuah