PETALING JAYA: Future El Nino episodes could be hotter, drier and would worsen river pollution.
Climatologist Prof Datuk Dr Shaharuddin Ahmad from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said global warming could bring a multiplier effect to the El Nino weather pattern, raising temperatures further.
“We could get a situation of higher than normal temperatures due to global warming going up even further when El Nino happens – an ‘El Nino Plus’,” said Shaharuddin.
He said the current episode of El Nino, which was causing dams to dry up and threatening water supply in various states, should serve as a wake-up call to Malaysians.
“We have to open the minds of people on what could happen if we continue to waste water. If it gets worse, measures such as cloud seeding will only have a limited effect,” he said.
Furthermore, severe hot spells could lead to worsened pollution in rivers since pollutants discharged into water bodies could not be diluted, thus disrupting water flow.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) president S. Piarapakaran said ammonia pollution, the most common cause of water treatment plant shutdowns, would be harder to clean up if El Nino starts to lower the water level in rivers.
“The contaminants need lots of water to dilute, so dry weather with no rainfall will make clean-ups harder.”
He said many treatments need to be upgraded to improve their ability to clean up ammonia contamination.
He said the extra equipment needed for this required space which plants located in dense urban areas do no have.
One solution, said Piarapakaran, would be to set up “ammonia stripping” facilities in the rivers upstream from the water intakes, which AWER proposed in 2014.
“This is going to be a repetitive problem so we need a permanent solution now instead of waiting for things to get worse before acting on it.”