August 28, 2015

Water Supply in Malaysia hits Historic Low

Water Supply in Malaysia hits Historic Low

Malaysia's Penang Reservoir by Jeremy Foo @flickr

Malaysia’s Linggiu water reservoir in Johor reached a historic low of 54.5 percent capacity in August, thanks to uncommonly dry weather and ever-increasing demand from Singapore, to which the reservoir exports much of its supply.

Although Singapore has been forced to stop drawing water from the reservoir 77 times this year and its government is getting nervous, the country has upped its local capacity to treat water and does not predict any restrictions on water use. The water supply in Malaysia, however, may not be in as good a standing.

This year’s El Nino weather pattern is forecasted to bring even more dry weather, and the water supply in Malaysia will suffer for it.

The common conception is that Malaysia’s water supply is endless. The country gets almost 3,000 mm of rain each year – the seventh highest in the world – but most of it is lost to surface run-off (51%) and evaporation (42%), leaving only 7% for the groundwater recharge that’s often used for drinking water (The Star Online).

Water pollution in Malaysia is also widespread, rendering some rivers unsuitable for use even after treatment. Add the carelessness with which Malaysians have been using their water to all this, and there is cause for concern.

The waste may be at its worst in Selangor, the Malaysian state containing Kuala Lumpur. Zaidi Abdul Talib, chairman of multiple Selangor utility committees, said in a recent meeting that each individual in Selangor uses between 235 and 250 liters of water each day. If this usage pattern continues until 2020, it will result in a total of 880 million liters of wasted water.

The Selangor government recently announced that multiple water-saving campaigns spanning the past three-years have failed to meet their objectives.

Although water restrictions will not likely be applied to Malaysia, it is speculated that Selangor and other areas should start increasing the price of water to make citizens think twice before wasting it.

At present, the Selangor state government subsidises the first 20 cubic metres of water consumed – making it essentially free. If the water supply in Malaysia is to last, this may have to change. A higher price on water – combined with education on water conservation – could turn the tide back towards a healthy water supply in Malaysia.

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