KUALA LUMPUR: Johor is exploring ways to overcome its water shortage problem that was made worse early this year by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
These include a RM4bil water treatment complex capable of drawing more than a billion litres per day from Sungai Johor.
The project, which is at the discussion stage with the state Economic Planning Unit (Upen), will have three water treatment plants, each producing 360 million litres per day.
It will also see the construction of a road along a 5km-long barrage, a type of dam, across the estuary of Sungai Johor that will cut down travel time between Pasir Gudang and Pengerang by half an hour.
The treated water will primarily be supplied to high growth areas in Pengerang – where the mammoth Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development (Rapid) project is – and Pasir Gudang, as well as the Iskandar Malaysia development zone and even Singapore.
The project, to be developed under a private finance initiative (PFI), is targeted to meet water demand in the state until 2050.
It is understood that a paper on the project has been presented twice to Upen.
Once built, the barrage will be the longest in South-East Asia.
Currently, there is a RM95mil barrage being constructed further upstream along Sg Johor, near Kota Tinggi, which is only for the purpose of keeping out salt water.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Social Science and Humanities Faculty dean Prof Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman said the integrated complex would draw supply from brackish water at the estuary.
“Water catchment dams are usually built upstream where the water quality is better and not at river mouths where there is a possibility of salination from sea water.
“But we should tap into the potential of this brackish water. There is a higher volume of water at the river mouth.
“Besides allowing us to harvest more supply, it dilutes any pollution,” said Prof Mohd Ekhwan, who is providing his expertise on hydrological and water quality modelling for the project.
The salination in the water would then be filtered out using membrane technology, reverse osmosis or the use of ultra-violet light at the treatment plants, he said.
“This will give us even better water quality, one that complies with standards set by the Health Ministry,” he said, adding this would also help the development of local membrane technology.
Unlike a conventional dam, a barrage has gates to regulate the amount of water passing through it.
Prof Mohd Ekhwan said the flowing water would turn turbines built into the barrage, which would in turn generate electricity for the treatment of water and reduce operational costs to as low as an estimated RM1.5mil a month or RM18mil a year.
State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the proposal was still in the initial stages and any decision would be brought up to the state executive council, chaired by Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
“We get a lot of proposals, especially when the state was hit by a drought previously and when levels were low at our dams.
“The rainy season has started and we have KIV-ed these proposals,” he told The Star.
Hasni, who is on a working visit to Japan, said that whether the state embarked on the project would depend on its financial resources or the terms and conditions for the PFI.
Johor was also seriously looking at other sources of water, he said.
“This includes tapping into underground supplies and building desalination plants,” he said, adding the planned Forest City would have its own water supply.
The supply would not only cater to consumers there but also to the entire Iskandar Puteri area.
Forest City is a 1,386ha mixed development project, which includes a smart city on man-made islands along the Johor Straits.
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