Malaysia: Water crisis imminent in Klang Valley

Sukhbir Cheema New Straits Times 28 Jun 13;

SHORTAGE: Six million to face problem

KUALA LUMPUR: WITH water reserves at an all-time low, water disruption is imminent for nearly six million consumers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) yesterday warned that with low water reserves in almost all of its 34 treatment plants -- they stand at less than one per cent rather than the required 10 per cent -- consumers from Kuala Lumpur, Petaling, Klang, Gombak and Hulu Langat can experience water shortage at any moment.

"The current water reserves in the treatment plants are at their all-time low, leading to the possibility of huge-scale water disruptions.

"If water disruptions take place, Syabas will only have enough water reserves to cater to 40,000 households," Syabas Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department assistant general manager Priscillia Alfred revealed to the New Straits Times yesterday.

Priscillia cited the high rate loss of non-revenue water (NRW) and a 3.5 per cent increase in demand annually as chief reasons for a potential water crisis on an unprecedented scale.

"As at June 20, the average demand for water had increased to 4,689 million litres per day (MLD) compared with water treatment plants' supply capacity of 4,661 MLD.

"We need at least 10 per cent of water reserves as a guarantee that there will not be any water disruption."

Priscillia said there were frequent breakdowns at almost all the water concessionaire's water treatment plants which had been operating at their maximum capacities of 180MLD.

"Each treatment plant has about four to five pumps."

"However, due to the high rate loss of NRW, many pumps have been clocking more than 220MLD. This is absolutely worrying."

Despite Syabas having implemented mitigation works that include upgrading water treatment plants, these had not alleviated the problem as obvious from the spate of water disruptions in the Klang Valley recently.

"With the rise in demand and population in Selangor, we can't even possibly meet the target of having 10 per cent water reserve," she said, adding that the short-term mitigation projects would take place until 2016.

The Statistics Department of Malaysia's decennial Population and Housing Census of Malaysia (Census 2010) showed that Selangor was the most populous state in the country with about 5.46 million people while Kuala Lumpur was seventh at 1.67 million.

With an annual two per cent growth rate along with rapid development, Priscillia described the situation as "alarming" despite Syabas having emergency contingency plans.

"We've spent RM10 million this year alone to upgrade 66 tankers, 750 static tanks and pump houses, but all these will not solve the problem in the long run."

The lack of treated water supply had forced Syabas to put on hold several approvals for new housing development in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya, a move supported by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

"As of Dec 31, last year, about 450 projects which collectively needed 304.72MLD had been put on hold. We have had to also put on hold 656 approvals for requests to supply 526.11MLD as of June this year."

Priscillia urged householders to use water wisely and suggested rain water harvesting for daily household use.

She also encouraged consumers to report burst pipes and leakages.