Steps to take to avoid future water woes

BASED on the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas (a publicly available global database and interactive tool that maps indicators of water-related risks; available at


water-risk-atlas), some areas in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Perak and Selangor will face water issues by 2020. And global warming is expected to reduce Malaysia’s annual rainfall, further increasing the chance of water shortage if immediate steps are not taken.

Review tariffs: Water tariffs are based on customer type such as domestic (residential), commercial and industrial. Bulking up small users with heavy users in the same category stops water operators from increasing tariffs to control large users, as any increase will hurt small users.

Multiple new categories based on water use purpose and quantity is needed to allow tariff increase in large ones. An increase in tariff for larger users will force them to adopt water-saving mechanisms such as rainwater harvesting, water recycling, etc. Malaysia’s low water tariff for commercial, industrial and large household usage creates the condition of over usage.

Improve monitoring systems to reduce non-revenue water: About 35% of Malaysian piped water is lost through leaks, burst pipes, theft and poor metering. Water operators should install meters across their transmission pipes (large pipes) to relay real-time water pressure and volume to a central command centre. The difference between volume and pressure between two connections signifies water loss along the particular pipe, allowing personnel to respond immediately.

Water operators should also upgrade all their water meters to improve water billing accuracy, particularly with large users. Recently, TNB installed digital meters for homes in Melaka which improved reading accuracy. The sudden spike in their electricity bills forced households to be more prudent in their electricity usage in a short span of time.

Water efficiency conversion

for B40: Malaysia uses between 220 litres and 240 litres of water per day, which is 33% more than the United Nations’ recommended 150 litres per day. Water efficient products could save up to 60% of water usage while rainwater harvesting for flushing alone saves 30%.

However, the B40 (lower income group) cannot afford the initial cost of such steps, hampering their conversion ability. Water operators could introduce a water efficiency conversion initiative whereby operators pay for the conversion upfront before billing to the consumer as a small fixed instalment. Post-repayment, the B40 will enjoy a lower water bill.

The potential savings for water operators in terms of capital expenditure due to lower demand could fund the initiative.

Mandatory water-efficient product labelling scheme (WELPS): WEPLS is a voluntary water-efficient product labelling scheme to label water-efficient products. The absence of mandatory labelling and usage of water-efficient products have flooded the market with cheap and low-efficient equipment.

By making labelling and adoption of water-efficient products mandatory, water usage can be optimised. Voluntary adoption has been known to have little impact.

The government should realise that by now and follow in the footsteps of Singapore, which im­proved its water security through mandatory labelling.

Act now before it’s too late.


Vice Youth Chief

Pemuda Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Pemuda PSM)

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