PETALING JAYA: One of the main reasons behind the low water reserve margins is Malaysia’s non-revenue water (NRW). And that is mainly the result of leakage from faulty pipes.
The country has an average NRW of 35.5%, which means for every one litre of treated water produced, 0.355 litre is lost.
Leakage accounts for 70% of the country’s average NRW.
Replacing and laying new pipes is by no means simple and some water operators do not even have the financial means to do so.
This then would trickle down to water tariffs, where state governments would have to make hard and sometimes unpopular decisions, said National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chairman Datuk Liang Teck Meng.
“The longer you drag the issue, the worse it will become. Water operators need money to lay new pipes.
“If the operators are unable to make money or are financially strapped, they can opt to migrate to the Water Asset Management Company (PAAB).
“Operators can transfer their liabilities to PAAB over a period of time, for example 45 years, with an interest of around 3% to 4%, and they will have access to funds to lay new pipes to control water leakage and improve the water reserve level,” Liang told The Star in an interview yesterday.
PAAB is an entity under the Finance Ministry and is part of the Federal Government’s efforts to restructure the water services industry to achieve better efficiency and quality.
Liang said that when water operators were faced with lack of revenue, they would not have enough money to build more plants, which was also vital in raising the water reserve margin.
“That’s why we always encourage states to migrate their services to the PAAB.
“If the company itself is already in bad shape, do you think financial institutions and banks will offer you loans?
“The funds from the PAAB are guaranteed by the Government. The funds can be used to lay new pipes and build new plants which will help ensure that the water reserves go up,” he added.
If the low level of water reserves are left uncontrolled, Liang said more water disruptions might occur during the dry seasons or when there are water pollution problems.
He said when there is a margin of 20% to 30%, a water treatment plant can be closed only for several hours if there was upgrading or repair work to be done.
“Once the work is completed, the water from the reserves can be channelled to the users and the residents immediately.
“There will be no need to wait for the water to be treated first.”
States with the highest NRW are Perlis at 56.3%, Pahang at 52.8%, Kelantan at 49% and Kedah at 46.7%. Selangor has an NRW of 32%.
“If you look at Kedah, it means that almost half of the water they produce is gone.
“States with high NRW have to settle this problem and also review their tariffs to bring these companies back on track.
“As far as Selangor is concerned, until the Langat 2 is completed by 2019, there is no way we can increase the state’s water reserve margin to 20%.
“We also worry about next year as a report from Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) showed Selangor may face a deficit because the water they treat is insufficient to meet the demand,” he said.
Liang said consumers should use water wisely.