Water and power, the heartbeat of a nation

Intake tower in Layang Dam, Johor.

FOR an emerging economy like Malaysia, whose landscape is dotted with skyscrapers, industries and commercial entities and with an ever-growing population of urban and rural communities, sustainable water and power are key to developing progressively.

The ready availability of water in Malaysia has led to many taking it for granted.

Yet what simply flows out from the tap belies the complexity of the journey of water from its source, as it is challenged by pollution, climate change and non-revenue water management (NRW), among others.

Both water and energy are valuable resources that must be consumed responsibly as demand increases.

With a domestic and international footprint, Malaysian conglomerate Ranhill Utilities Bhd’s forward-thinking approach is firmly based on its vision of enriching lives through sustainable solutions.

Its presence in the environment sector dates back more than 30 years, providing water supply management and operator services, NRW management, as well as building and operating wastewater treatment plants in Malaysia, China and Thailand.

In the state of Johor, Ranhill continues to set industry benchmarks as its sole water operator. The group is also involved in the power sector, focusing on meeting the growing demand for clean energy as the largest independent power producer in Sabah.

In an unprecedented year of challenges, the group remains an industry leader by staying true to its circular economy model to sustainably meet current and future needs.

Helping communities thrive

As the sole water operator in the state of Johor, subsidiary company Ranhill Saj Sdn Bhd has been guided by the group’s circular economy approach to become a leader in sustainable water supply management.

Its water operations in Johor set the benchmark for the development and management of a modern water supply system at every point.

By leveraging proprietary technology and innovation - coupled with a high sense of responsibility - Ranhill continues to meet every standard set by the local water industry regulator.

Holistic water management requires key planning, preparation and mitigation for various social and environmental aspects such as climate change, less river water supply due to decreasing rainfall, high water consumption, as well as high NRW level and contamination of water sources.

New WTP in Pagoh, Johor.New WTP in Pagoh, Johor.

Minimising water woes from pollution

Contamination of the country’s rivers and waterways is an ongoing battle, but the key is in managing the situation to mitigate impact on communities.

In Johor, dealing with the issue of contamination that could potentially lead to water cuts is a daily challenge.

A dedicated task force begins by investigating the source of water contamination, which can range from excessive ammonia content, sand mining activities, uncontrolled farming and agriculture activities, to leachate overflow from chicken and pig farms, and palm oil effluent.

Uncontrolled land clearing can also cause soil erosion, especially during rainstorms, with the washed silt finding its way into rivers and causing raw water deterioration. With mitigation plans in hand, strategic solutions are implemented to gain control of the situation.

One of the biggest culprits is ammonia pollution, comprising of animal waste, fertilisers or pesticides, which find their way into the rivers and other waterways. Other forms of pollution include excessive metals content caused by illegal dumping or surface erosion, sand mining and land clearing activities.

The deterioration in raw water quality leads to the increased cost of treatment, attributed to increased cost of chemicals, energy and maintenance.

Ranhill has taken the initiative to investigate several sources of pollution, with remedial action taken, including to build a pollutant removal system.

Pollutant Removal System (PRS) as safeguard

PRS for Simpang Renggam.PRS for Simpang Renggam.

Ranhill operates the Simpang Renggam Water Treatment Plants 1 and 2. The most optimal measure to ensure the occasional surge of ammonia is addressed is with a point source pollution monitoring, removal and polishing solution. The high-tech PRS plant built by Ranhill is designed for intermittent, non-continuous treatment of wastewater and can be easily upgraded, expanded and relocated in the future.

SDE location of PRS for Layang Dam.SDE location of PRS for Layang Dam.

The Senai-Desaru Expressway (SDE) is the only expressway in Malaysia to have three PRS built by Ranhill to capture any possible chemical spillage on the road. The PRS will intercept pollutants before they enter waterways and reach the Layang Dam.

Going the extra mile for water

  • Remedial and long-term plans such as tapping ground water alternatives and offsite river storage (ORS).

  • Collaboration with Denmark-based NIRAS A/S and Aarhus Geophysics to undertake ground water mapping exercise that utilises state-of-the-art Aerial Electromagnetic Survey technology.

  • Big data analytics and green technology drive operational efficiency and ever-improving customer service.

Innovative solutions to manage NRW

The Group specialises in water supply network management focusing on NRW reduction and management through Ranhill Water Services (RWS).

Since its inception, RWS has gained experience in differing water supply conditions in different countries. Up until now, RWS has saved more than 640 MLD of treated water through all its contracts in Johor, Melaka, Kedah, Kelantan and Saudi Arabia.

Its expertise has also benefited water operators in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka by being the NRW mentor in the Water Operator Partnership Programme.

In addition, RWS has completed more than 17,000km of water asset Geographical Information System (GIS), 250 hydraulics models covering one million customer connections, over 1,600 District Metering Areas (DMA) designed and established and more than 800,000 hidden leaks found and repaired.

NRW monitoring in Johor.NRW monitoring in Johor.

True to the objective of providing innovative solutions to NRW, RWS has developed a NRW operations management system called AquaSMART (Patent No: PI 2012004388), customised to suit the specific requirements of NRW activities.

Realising the importance of having low NRW level, Ranhill envisions to have a 15% NRW level in Johor by 2030. This will translate to a saving of estimated 300 MLD of treated water, enough to supply 300,000 households.

In achieving this, 7,000km of old pipes and one million customer service connections will be replaced. GIS and network models shall be updated to reflect the current water supply system.

DMA monitoring by a Ranhill engineer.DMA monitoring by a Ranhill engineer.

In addition, the creation of DMAs will be continued to maintain full coverage and Active Leakage Control (ALC) activities are enhanced with the latest technology for leak detection.

Pressure management also plays an important role to ensure high service standard and sustained operations. In achieving the target, all the water supply assets are also installed with sensors and monitoring devices to detect anomalies for quick reactions.

On the commercial front, customer metering and billing shall be upgraded utilising the Internet of Things (IOT) approach. All those activities above shall then be monitored through the AquaSMART system for concerted implementation.

Water security, a joint responsibility

The state of our water is a joint responsibility, involving individuals, communities, industries and businesses, as well as state and federal authorities.

Ranhill works closely with key stakeholders and related government bodies to address water pollution. Programmes have been implemented to enlighten and generate awareness on the consequences of irresponsible acts against water.

Penalties, strict enforcement and monitoring play a crucial role in managing errant companies that treat rivers irresponsibly. However, more effective and tougher enforcement action is required to ensure cleaner river conditions.

The spirit of camaraderie shown by Ranhill Saj Sdn Bhd in supporting a fellow operator in times of need, with the delivery of water to Selangor will continue.

Equally important is the urgent need for sterner measures that include strict penalties for errant polluters of our waterways, more consumer awareness of wasteful consumption and careless contamination, heightened stakeholder engagement and federal policy enhancements that elevate how we protect our water.

For more information, visit https://www.ranhill.com.my/.

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