Not just a ‘pipe dream’

PETALING JAYA: From dry taps to drying dams, Malaysians have had to deal with a number of water-related problems.

Groups that work on issues related to the precious resource say that there could be better instances of water supply and quality in the long run if matters such as infrastructure and non-revenue water (NRW) were looked into.

Adjusting tariffs was also a possible solution, as it would provide those involved in the water supply process with better funding to ensure more optimal water supply services, they say.

Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia president Saravanan Thambirajah said infrastructure was one of the main issues resulting in water supply problems.

“The existing (infrastructure) is very old, with no major changes made towards it. This can cause issues related to the proper flow of water supply,” he said.

He said that a huge budget was needed to revamp the infrastructure, noting how it was improbable due to the stakeholders themselves having a lack of funding.

“The insufficient funds also leave authorities unable to bring in new technology to ensure a more efficient water supply process,” he said.

He said that another look was warranted at adjusting water tariffs to increase operators’ funding.

“The downside to this, however, would be that consumers could be up in arms about why such tariffs would be increased given that there was no guarantee of clean, continuous and quality water supply.

“Hence, those involved in the water supply process must show a commitment towards achieving this, alongside reducing NRW, as this alone can save a huge sum of money, which could increase operators’ funding,” he said.

NRW refers to treated water lost in the water supply system. This occurs due to instances of pipe leaks or water theft, among others.

“Stakeholders should hold engagement sessions with the public to explain why such problems occur and the steps needed to improve the situation,” Saravanan said.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said among the factors for low water pressure were high volumes of NRW.

“When the loss of treated water is high via pipe leakages, the pressure drops, resulting in less supply.

“NRW from pipe leakages also occurs due to old piping or land movement, causing existing infrastructure to be affected.

“Construction works too can result in pipes being unknowingly broken, with the leakage left unattended,” he said.

He said the presence of water service reservoirs was another factor that influenced water pressures.

“Generally, modern housing projects will mandate a service reservoir be built by the developer for every new development.,

“Old settlements alongside suburban and rural areas, however, do not have service reservoirs, resulting in either no water supply or lower pressure supply, especially during peak periods.

“Settlements at high elevations and locations far away from main reservoirs also face issues of low water pressure,” he said, adding that the issue could worsen during peak periods such as the dry season.

Among the possible solutions, Piarapakaran said, was for water companies to station static temporary water tanks to assist areas with low water pressure and ensure continuous supply.

“The water here can be filled up by water tankers too,” he said.

He said that the implementation of a continuous NRW reduction plan would assist in instances of treated water being lost.

“This can help meet increasing demand (by consumers) and will stabilise water supply pressure,” he said.

Long-term planning, he said, was also needed to ensure a sufficient treated water supply margin was available.

“Water catchment protections, pollution prevention, planning ahead for prolonged dry seasons, as well as constructing more water treatment plants, are vital,” he added.

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