Initiatives to ensure sustainability of IWK’s services


IMAGINE life without water – pretty difficult, isnt it? Without water, we wouldn’t be able to survive. All of us understand its importance and value.

Now imagine, if we flush the toilet and our waste goes straight into our rivers without treatment, our water sources would be polluted – leading to waterborne diseases.

Ask yourself, how would this impact our supply of water, public health or the environment?

The importance of sewerage services

This is where an efficient sewerage system is vital for the preservation of the environment and public health. As the national sewerage company, Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) Sdn Bhd is entrusted with developing and maintaining a modern and efficient sewerage system for all Malaysians.

This means that IWK takes the sewage from its source – homes, business and industry premises and puts it through a treatment process for the removal of suspended and floatable materials, elimination of pathogenic organisms and other harmful materials.

Once the sewage is treated, high quality treated effluent will be safely discharged to the environment through rivers, lakes or recycled for non-potable use.

The work that goes into operating and maintaining our sewerage system is highly technical, dangerous, dirty and difficult. With 28 years of experience under its belt, IWK has proven its capability in managing the country’s sewerage system efficiently.

However, managing the nation’s sewerage system has been no easy feat, especially for IWK to sustain its operations and financial sustainability, while also ensuring the preservation of our environment and public sanitation.

IWK’s core business: Managing sewerage systems and treating wastewater

IWK provides sewerage services to a population equivalent to over 29 million people by operating and maintaining a total of 7,352 public sewage treatment plants (STP) and 22,000km of sewer lines. This is a significant increase from 1,117 public STPs and 2,317km of sewer lines since IWK’s inception in 1994.

Over the years, the increase in public sewerage assets handed over to IWK has placed financial pressure on its operations.

IWK chief executive officer Narendran Maniam said: “While IWK continues to innovate to improve on operational efficiencies and effectiveness to protect the environment and public health, we are also challenged by the disparity between IWK charges, rising operational costs and increase in energy cost and consumption.”

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IWK provides sewerage services to a population equivalent to over 29 million people.IWK provides sewerage services to a population equivalent to over 29 million people.

The rise in assets under IWK’s care has significantly increased operational expenditures, yet IWK has maintained its charges to domestic connected customers at RM2 – RM8 per month. These charges are actually one of the lowest among the world.

“IWK is balancing the rising operational costs, which includes the maintenance of ageing assets, but there is only so much we can and have already done to cut down costs,” said Narendran.

The company has sought other measures aside to cutting down costs to ensure financial sustainability.

IWK’s venture into non-core businesses to reduce financial impact

In the area of financial and operational sustainability, IWK's excellent performance in managing the country’s sewerage system and assets over the past 28 years has earned the company an extension of its concession agreement (CA).

Along with this, the federal government has given IWK additional agreement to explore non-tariff based business activities to reduce the financial impact.

In this regard, IWK had embarked on a waste-to-wealth initiative beyond the conventional sewerage services as the company aspires towards circular economy through the reuse of its by-products, namely bio effluent, biosolid and biogas.

“IWK implemented cost optimisation measures such as the adoption of green technology throughout various operations. In our STPs, we reuse a certain amount of bio effluent to supplement water usage for non-potable use, while in six of our STPs, IWK is able to reuse biogas to generate energy,” Narendran added.

IWK also embarked on a water reclamation initiative via a joint venture with Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Air Selangor), to enable wastewater treated from IWK’s STPs to undergo further treatment to produce non-potable treated water that can be safely used for industrial purposes.

Narendran said that the company had also initiated, through a collaboration with a third party to reuse treated biosolid as feed to black soldier fly larvae to produce fat and protein pellets for export purposes. This can help reduce cost incurred for the disposal of biosolids to landfill.

The company is also pursuing its expansion to produce 10 tonnes of fertiliser pellets per day for non-crop plants.

Narendran highlighted that financial sustainability will continue to be a challenge for the organisation as it continues to remain committed to provide high-quality service to customers adding: “Not forgetting, ensuring we do not comprise on our adherence to compliance standards set by the Department of Environment for environmental protection.”

Operating and maintaining the nation’s public sewerage system comes at a cost that IWK will find hard to sustain, especially without sufficient revenue.

The current tariff will need to be rebalanced to drive IWK’s collective function forward, together with its customers, in protecting public health and the environment.

For more information, visit www.iwk.com.my

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