GEORGE TOWN: The “waterfall that never dries” is staying true to its reputation, despite months without decent rainfall.
While folk in the northern region have hardly had any rain since December, the waterfall in Penang Botanic Gardens is still feeding the oldest water treatment plant in the country with 9.4 million litres per day (MLD).
The Star visited the waterfall with special permission from Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) and found it cascading down as if there was no dry spell.
“During wetter days, 18MLD will tumble down from the waterfall. So there is a loss of about 50%. This is the normal difference between the wet and dry seasons, ” said PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa.
He said since the days of Penang’s founder Captain Francis Light, this waterfall had never dried up no matter how bad the drought was.
Even during the super dry El Nino phenomenon in 2016, Jaseni said the waterfall still provided about 9MLD.
He said the water treatment plant at the bottom of the waterfall was built in 1804 and it was the main reason Swettenham Pier became a famous port.
“It was built by Indian workers brought here by Britain and that is why there are famous Indian temples along Jalan Kebun Bunga, which used to be called Jalan Air Terjun.
“An aqueduct channelled the treated water from there all the way to the pier.
“The never-ending water supply drew all the ships from Europe to resupply themselves before sailing to the far east to Cathay, which was what they called China back then.“Penang owes its existence, importance and significance to this waterfall’s unending water supply, ” he said.
Penang’s water supply during this dry spell is holding steady, with Ayer Itam Dam’s level at 52.8%, Teluk Bahang Dam at 33.9% and Mengkuang Dam at 73% as of yesterday.
Perlis and Kedah are in the “very dry” category of the Meteorological Department’s December Drought Monitoring Report, with Alor Setar facing a six-month rain deficit of 4% and Chuping in Perlis having a 22% six-month rain deficit.
Kota Baru in Kelantan, however, is on the Level One (lowest) drought warning because its six-month rain deficit is 42%, more than the safe level of 35%.
Perakians, Selangorians and Sabahans are having it easier with a three-month rain surplus in the wet to very wet categories.
The inter-monsoon period is expected to kick in only in April and bring wetter times for the northern states in the peninsula.