EIGHT out of 11 states in peninsular Malaysia are exposed to water supply risks this year, according to a panellist of a webinar entitled “Making $ense of Treated Wastewater”.
“This will prolong if we are not careful, ” said Malaysian Water Association president Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Din at the online event.
Organised by Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) Sdn Bhd in collaboration with Star Media Group Bhd, the webinar was moderated by Taylor’s University Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences lecturer Dr Jovy Lai Zee Wei.
Among the states at risk, said Abdul Kadir, were Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Melaka.
“We are blessed with abundant water but our current management of water resources needs improvement.
“We need to have better and more efficient energy in the raw water source, ” he highlighted.
Citing statistics by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), he added that Perlis had the highest water consumption of 300 litres per capita per day.
Selangor’s consumption was more than 200 litres per capita per day while Kelantan was the lowest.
Labuan and Pahang use less than 200 litres per capita per day.
“Wastewater is a term used to describe waste material. It includes industrial liquid waste and sewage waste that is collected in towns and urban areas then treated at urban wastewater treatment plants.
“The treatment is a process to convert wastewater, which is water no longer needed or suitable for its most recent use, into an effluent that can be either returned to the water cycle with minimal environmental issues or reused, ” Abdul Kadir elaborated.
He said wastewater treatment plants were one of the most expensive industries in terms of energy requirements.
Large amounts of energy was needed to treat wastewater for reuse or disposal, he noted.
According to the International Energy Agency, global electricity consumption for wastewater collection and treatment would require over 60% more electricity in 2040 compared to 2014, as the amount in need of treatment increased, he shared.
While sharing experiences in Western countries, Abdul Kadir said, “It is important to view wastewater treatment plants not merely as waste disposal but rather as resource recovery facilities.
“This means they have the potential to produce clean water, recover nutrients and sale materials, reduce reliance on fossil fuels through energy-efficient processes as well as renewable energy production.
“The water sector in Malaysia is in a nascent phase, with unique opportunities for water reuse to be implemented on a wider scale as a sustainable practice within a framework of integrated water management.”
While the obvious approach is to reclaim wastewater as additional resource for water supply, he said, there were innovative approaches to recover other valuable resource resulting from the “other waste.”
This is for sustainable management to prevent discharging of wastewater into the water cycle and to protect the environment and health.
“It is high time we introduce the ‘sustainability through zero waste’ management concept by maximising the waste to resource and waste to wealth.
“The private sector’s involvement can expedite the transformation of the sector to be sustainable in the long term, ” he added.
IWK Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Narendran Maniam said that during the movement control order (MCO), river water quality had significantly improved even as IWK discharged the same volume of treated effluents.
He said IWK had about 7,000 sewage treatment plants that produced 5,600 MLD (million litres per day) of treated effluence.
“We have 96% to 97% of effluent compliance (set out by the Environment Department).
“Effluent is discharged back into the waterways daily, where it has a huge potential to be reused for non-potable purposes such as cleaning work and other industrial or manufacturing activities, ” he said.
He added that in fulfilling its circular economy approach, IWK had three significant by-products namely biogas, biosolids and bioeffluent derived from wastewater treatment.
Under the Green Technology Masterplan (GTP), IWK produced green by-products by adopting the waste-to-wealth approach without compromising the environment while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Non-governmental organisation EcoKnights vice-president Amlir Ayat said information should be disseminated to the public, especially among schoolchildren and the corporate sector to enable everyone to know their part in achieving sustainable water management.
“One person’s waste is another man’s treasure, ” said Abdul Kadir.
“We need to change the culture by changing our habits to make it happen. Do not take wastewater for granted, ” he added.
Narendran said IWK would work with all water utility companies nationwide to supply bulk reclaimed water.
“We urge them to come forward to support and collaborate as this will definitely ease available water resources for human consumption, ” he added.
Amlir reiterated, “If you want water to be clean and fresh for you, do not pollute it.
“Throw your rubbish in the right place. Use water wisely.”
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