KUALA LUMPUR – The next few years or so are poised to be critical for the water sector in the Klang Valley in view of the dwindling margin of treated water reserves.
Currently, the treated water reserve margin for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya stands at less than one per cent on an average basis, with the margin swinging into negative territory during peak hours, said Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) general manager, corporate communications and public affairs, Priscilla Alfred.
She said in order to meet the increasing demand for water from 7.5 million consumers, all 34 water treatment plants catering to Selangor and the two federal territories were currently operating at full capacity, with no room for expansion.
“They are all on overload mode and all their pumps are working 24 hours. In a comfortable scenerio, each plant could allow one or two pumps to ‘rest’ from time to time but now all the pumps have to be utilised round the clock to cope with the demand,” she said.
As at November this year, the distributable quantity of water by the 34 treatment plants stood at 4,686 million litres per day (MLD) while the demand for treated water between January and October came to an average of 4,587 MLD.
In October alone, the demand for treated water rose to 4,647 MLD.
Factoring in these figures as well as the three to 3.5 per cent increase in the average demand for treated water in KL, Putrajaya and Selangor every year, “the amount of distributable treated water capacity today is insufficient to cater to the demand,” pointed out Priscilla.
The hike in the demand for water can be attributed to various factors such as the opening of new townships and industrial developments, and peak demand during the hot season, weekends or after office hours.
Elaborating on the treated water reserve margin, which is currently below the required minimum of 10 per cent, Priscilla said a “desirable” margin would be 20 per cent.
“The desirable level will provide a cushion during water supply interruption and later help expedite recovery in supply.
“It will also help support any sudden surge in demand for water, such as during hot and dry weather and at peak periods,” she told Bernama in an interview recently.
In the meantime, Syabas supports the government’s initiative to develop the Langat 2 water treatment plant in Hulu Langat, Selangor, which, pointed out Priscilla, was the best alternative to alleviate the shortage of treated water and shore up the reserve margin.
Langat 2, being developed at a cost of almost RM3 billion, is funded by the federal government.
According to Priscilla, once the first phase of the project is completed in 2017, it would provide 1,130 MLD of treated water. Upon the completion of Phase 2 of Langat 2 in 2020, an additional 1,130 MLD of treated water will be made available.
“The additional treated water from Phase 1 is almost 20 per cent more than the projected demand in 2017 and it can sustain consumers’ demand up to 2020.
“The additional supply from Phase 2 will further sustain demand for treated water up to 2024,” she said, stressing that this was based on the assumption that the demand for water would grow at three to 3.5 per cent every year.
Langat 2 was initially scheduled for construction in 2010 but it was delayed due to the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government’s refusal to issue a development order.
The state government had earlier this year given the go-ahead for the construction of the treatment plant and the then Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim signed a memorandum of understanding with Energy, Water and Green Technology Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili in February this year.
While Syabas has made the case for the construction of Langat 2 to avert a possible disaster in the near future, it is also concerned about the raw water levels in dams and rivers despite Malaysia enjoying abundant rainfall.
Priscilla said interruptions in water supply could also occur if there was insufficient raw water available for treatment.
Such a situation, she said, could occur during hot and dry seasons as well as when river water was polluted by diesel and oil spillage or has high content of ammonia.
Referring to the Cheras Batu 11 treatment plant which had to be shut down in February due to the high level of ammonia in Sungai Langat (from where raw water was channelled to the treatment plant), she said the state authorities were carrying out stringent checks to ensure that wastes were not dumped into the river.
“Whenever we come across water pollution, Syabas writes to the state government as land and river matters come under its purview,” she added.
Association of Water and Energy Research president S. Piarapakaran also urged the authorities to continuously monitor raw water sources to ensure that the water remained safe for consumption.
“A very high penalty should be imposed on any party caught polluting our rivers,” he said, adding that the authorities should also consider installing pre-treatment systems at the Cheras Batu 11, Bukit Tampoi and Sg Semenyih water treatment plants to reduce the ammonia content in raw water.
While much depends on Mother Nature to provide bountiful supply of raw water, the authorities have to do their part to ensure that the water sources remain clean and there is enough treated water.
Consumers, too, can make a big difference if they, in Priscilla’s words, adopt “good water saving habits” and learn to conserve water.
“Malaysians consume over 210 litres of water per person per day in contrast with the worldwide average of 150 to 180 litres. This shows the high water consumption pattern in Malaysia,” she said.
The high water usage can probably be attributed to our low water tariffs. In Selangor, the rates for domestic users for the first 20 cubic metres (m3) of water is 57 sen per m3; for the next 21 to 36 m3, it is RM1.03; and RM2 for subsequent amounts.
Other countries like Singapore, said Priscilla, charged about RM3 per m3 of water, which was quite steep by Malaysian standards.
“Singapore keeps the rate high because the authorities there feel that the right price generates the right behaviour,” she added. – BERNAMA