WITH non-revenue water (NRW) losses costing up to RM400mil a year, the Selangor government is finally putting in place its plan to cut down the total losses in treated water from 35% presently to 25% by 2025.
Selangor Infrastructure and Public Facilities committee chairman Zaidy Abdul Talib said based on 2005 records the state had nearly 6,000km of piping made from older asbestos-cement (AC) material.
“A large portion of this piping is already over 30 years old, hence the frequent burst pipes that disrupt the end user’s water supply and contribute to the high NRW losses in the state,” he said.
Zaidy added that as of end-2015, only roughly 1,200km of piping had been replaced throughout Selangor and the accompanying Federal Territories.
To tackle the problem, the Selangor government is doing a year-on-year staged replacement programme starting from late 2016.
“We have identified 84 hotspots in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur that suffer frequent burst pipes in the last two years, so they are the most urgent.
“But the list does not end here, as you will have other areas coming into the picture because each year the pipes are aging further,” said Zaidy.
These 84 hotspots have a total of 422.5km of piping that need to be replaced, and serve 52,801 connections that amount to an estimated 264,000 users.
Previously, the state government had already outlined its target of reducing its NRW losses to 25% by 2025.
In a list shown to StarMetro, the first 23 of such hotspots have been identified throughout Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Langat, Klang, Sepang and Hulu Langat totalling 27,874 connections and an estimated 139,000 consumers.
Older AC pipes, said Zaidy, would be replaced with pipes made from steel, ductile iron, and also non-metal materials such as the common High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and modified unplasticised polyvinyl chloride (MUPVC).
“All these do not corrode easily, or do not corrode at all, and that makes them very suitable as long-term solutions,” said Zaidy.
Moreover, he explained, the quality of water delivered would be higher as a result of the newer materials used.
“We have already divided the 23 hotspots into 10 work packages, subdivided into Package 1A, 1B and so forth, and all have been awarded to contractors.
“Some have started work, while others are in the midst of getting the local authority’s approval to commence digging,” Zaidy said.
In accordance with the stage-by-stage nature of the project, Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd, the operator of most of the water assets in the state, will be replacing 84.17km of piping in 16 hotspots this year.
“These projects are currently being designed by the appointed consultant engineers, and we estimate the tenders will be sent out by this month or February,” said Zaidy.
Work is expected to start in April for the second batch, and finished within 12 months of the contractors being appointed.
“Depending on Air Selangor’s financial capacity in the future, the remaining 45 hotspots will be executed in 2018 and 2019,” Zaidy said.
To finance this huge undertaking, the state government has already put up RM100mil in the 2017 budget as a starter, with the entire project estimated at RM363.13mil.
However, the average cost per kilometre of pipe-laying in Selangor is estimated at RM850,000 per km, and in Kuala Lumpur, the cost is up to RM1mil per km.
One reason for the higher cost in Kuala Lumpur, Zaidy explained, was due to the higher charges for road resurfacing imposed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
From the consumer or end-user’s point of view, replacing the old pipes is something that is long-overdue, especially in view of the many incidences of water shortage plaguing Klang Valley residents.
According to Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Paul Selvaraj, of the many of the pipes – and even the country’s sewerage system – were put in place during Independence and had not been replaced to this day.
“It is especially ironic. If you look outside, and it may be raining heavily, but you are on water rationing,” said Paul.
He added that aside from expanding the sources of water for the state, it was also imperative to ensure the delivery system was optimised.
“It is not as spectacular as building a new dam, but it is probably a whole lot cheaper if you do it regularly and plug the leaks,” said Paul.
Aside from ensuring water supply was constant and reliable, the state government should also do its part in ensuring no contamination comes in at the source.
“If you constantly have factories being approved right on riverbanks, and they empty out into our rivers, like the incidents in Kajang recently, then you will still have rationing in the end.
Bandar Tun Razak MCA chairman Datuk Chew Yin Keen said Taman Connaught’s pipes in the Kuala Lumpur township had been replaced following pipe bursts.
“We noticed that the water quality was better than before,” he said.
Chew added that even with the improvement in Connaught, other housing areas in the constituency such as Taman Bukit Anggerik, Taman Len Sen, Taman Delima, Taman Dahlia and Bukit Cheras were still suffering from aging water infrastructure.
“All these housing areas’ pipes are more than 30 years old too, with lots of leakages and instances of pipe bursts,” said Chew.
He added that the pipe replacement exercise should have been done eight years ago.
“The replacement in Connaught was done only after numerous complaints from residents.
“I only hope the water concessionaire and relevant agencies provide the proper allocation because the situation is very urgent as your current loss of water is at more than 30%,” said Chew.
Speaking for the constituency he works in, he added that the cuts and service interruptions caused by burst pipes and aging equipment not only affected people’s lives, but also disrupted businesses and entrepreneurs, especially smaller ones such as hawkers, coffeeshops and even industrial areas in Bandar Tun Razak.
“The people also come to me to complain, and perhaps Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor needs to look into a compensatory gesture, such as giving at least a three-month rebate to demonstrate their appreciation for the ratepayers’ patience,” said Chew.
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