Aiming to find answers to raw water issues

THE Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) will carry out an independent feasibility study on contingency plans to mitigate Penang’s raw water risks in the near future.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said PBAPP is planning to present the study on its proposed ‘Penang Water Supply Initiatives 2050’ (PWSI 2050)

projects to the state executive council for review and approval.

He said the feasibility study takes into consideration several factors, which include updated projections of water demand in Penang towards 2050 based on actual PBAPP data recorded from 2010 to 2019, as well as projected water demand from new development projects in Penang.

“The study also includes timeline considerations to mitigate raw water risks by 2025, feasibility of the proposed projects and technologies besides the costs and other options, ” he said in a recent statement.

Jaseni said the initial PWSI 2050 contingency projects proposed in 2019 include three packages.

“The first package, Package

12A of the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant (WTP) has a potential yield of 114 million litres per day (MLD). Package 12A involves the construction of a new 114 MLD water treatment module in the Sungai Dua WTP.

“Package Two is the Sungai Perai Water Supply Scheme (SPWSS) with a potential yield of 136 MLD. The SPWSS is aimed at tapping Sungai Perai as an additional raw water resource for Penang.

“Package Three would include Phase One of the Penang Desalination Water Supply Scheme (PDWSS) with a potential yield of 250 MLD.

“Phase One of the PDWSS proposes the construction of a sea water desalination facility in the southern area of Penang island.

“Its purpose is to address the increasing water supply needs in Balik Pulau and the surrounding areas, as well as for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project towards 2030.

“Phase One is scheduled for commissioning in December 2024 and the subsequent phases may be implemented until 2050.”

Jaseni said as a state with a small geographical footprint, Penang is a state with unlimited socioeconomic resources but very limited raw water resources.

“Our raw water risks are related to two key rivers that represent raw water resources, which are Sungai Muda and Sungai Perak.

“Sungai Muda has a yield of 1,200 MLD per day for Penang in 2020. Since 1974, Penang has been largely dependent on one primary raw water resource which is Sungai Muda.

“As at 2020, PBAPP abstracts more than 80% of the raw water that Penang needs daily from this river, at its Lahar Tiang Intake in Penang.

“However, it has been projected that Sungai Muda may reliably meet Kedah and Penang’s combined raw water needs only until 2025. Moreover, PBAPP is concerned with the impact of logging in Ulu Muda, Kedah, and the water catchment area for Sungai Muda, ” he said.

He said Sungai Perak has a projected yield of 2,000 MLD by 2050 for both Penang and Perak.

“In 2011, when Penang migrated to the National Water Services Restructuring Initiative (NWSRI), the Federal Government agreed to fund and implement raw water resource projects for Penang.

“Since then, PBAPP has proposed the implementation of the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme (SPRWTS).

“As at December 2020, talks between the state governments of Perak and Penang have reached a ‘stalemate’ as Penang wishes to buy raw water from Sungai Perak, which is located entirely in Perak, while Perak wants to sell Penang treated water.

“For now, it appears unlikely that the Phase One of 250 MLD of the SPRWTS will materialise by 2025, the deadline for PBAPP to tap a second and alternative raw water resource for Penang to complement Sungai Muda, ” he said.

Jaseni said PBAPP has proposed Package 12A of the Sungai Dua WTP, the SPWSS and PDWSS to mitigate Penang’s raw water risks by 2025.

“However, these initial PWSI 2050 projects do not fully mitigate Penang’s raw water risks, vis-a-vis continued abstraction of raw water from Sungai Muda on a daily basis, conservation of Ulu Muda as a Northern Corridor Economic Region water catchment area and tapping of Sungai Perak as a second major raw water resource.

“The initial PWSI projects were originally conceptualised to complement, and not replace the existing Sungai Muda Water Scheme and the proposed SPRWTS.

“The PWSI may be expanded or modified to address crisis scenarios, such as REE mining in Ulu Muda that will affect both the quantity and quality of the raw water that is available from Sungai Muda, ” he said.

Jaseni said Penang may consider the option of pursuing larger- scale desalination projects to better insulate the state from long-term raw water risks until 2050.

“However, the price for achieving raw water security via desalination technology will be high, ” he said, adding that Penang’s current average tariff for the first 35,000 litres of domestic consumption per month is 32sen per 1,000 litres.

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