Out of the floods and into the drought

Precious resource: The Sungai Selangor dam supplies water to folks in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. There is always the possibility of water rationing when the dam level drops too low.

After the experience of water rationing in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur last year, residents are entitled to question if our taps will run dry again.

AS a nation, we have just experienced one of the worst floods in our history.

Communities and families are only just coming to terms with the scale of devastation caused by the floods. The recovery and reconstruction process has already started with the Prime Minister promising that it would not be too long before flood victims’ lives return to normal.

Almost RM1bil has already been spent on flood relief efforts, and while the rebuilding process is ongoing, a review of our effectiveness in tackling this seasonal disaster should be conducted because it was obvious that we were not prepared to handle the scale of the floods, especially in the east coast and Pahang.

If we weren’t prepared for the heavy rainfall that caused the floods, are we prepared for a prolonged dry spell? The Meteorological Department confirms that the current wet weather will be replaced by the dry season from now until March and probably April, and concerns over floods will now be replaced with concerns over drought and water shortage, especially in the Klang Valley. After the experience of water rationing in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur last year, Malaysians are entitled to question if our taps will run dry again.

To make matters worse, the country is expected to experience the El Nino phenomenon – a weather anomaly that results in global warming. This phenomenon, allied to the dry weather spell, could seriously affect dam levels in the Klang Valley. Lest we forget, the falling dam levels, especially at the Sungai Selangor dam – our main water source – resulted in water rationing last year.

Currently, the Sungai Selangor dam level stands around 74%, a level that, if maintained, would be able to meet the water supply demands of the bulk of the Klang Valley. However, the Association of Water and Energy warns that we could still be at a risk of water rationing.

“The heavy reliance on the Sungai Selangor dam to service more than 50% of consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya will cause water to be used up quickly,” said its president S. Piarapakaran, adding that there would be higher usage by domestic users and industries in preparation for Chinese New Year and Ramadan.

This time last year, pictures of rows and rows of buckets, containers and water trucks were plastered all over The Star’s pages. No one would wish this scenario to be repeated again.

However, the Selangor government appears confident that there will not be a repeat of the water rationing exercise because they feel the water levels in the Sungai Selangor dam will be able to cater for the Klang Valley population for the rest of the year. This, I believe, is a dangerous assumption to make.

Selangor, together with Syabas, should already be planning a campaign to create awareness on the importance of water conservation. Let us educate consumers about water wastage.

If you wash your car once a week, consider doing it every fortnight. If you take a shower twice a day, consider taking a bath once a day.

If there is a prolonged dry spell, the state government should consider introducing legislation to restrict water usage, similar to certain states in Australia and California in the United States. Consumers in these countries have been told to stop watering lawns with sprinklers overnight, sweep rather than wash driveways, take shorter showers and flush toilets less frequently.

The state government should also consider other forms of water management, including desalination and rainwater harvesting. We are a nation blessed with abundant rainfall during certain months and the technology is already available to enable us to contain rainwater to be re-used when there is insufficient rainfall.

Cloud seeding should also be carried out in water catchment areas, sooner rather than later. Last year, cloud seeding was used as a last resort but this method ultimately had minimal effect because there weren’t suitable clouds available for seeding to be carried out. This precautionary method should be carried out now and in stages to ensure that there is consistent rainfall over dams and water catchment areas.

 Executive Editor Brian Martin’s wish for this year is not to see or read about the deployment of water trucks and the stocking up of containers and buckets. Let us all hope for a water rationing-free 2015. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Opinion , brian martin , water shortage


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