Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Water down the drain - thanks to Syabas

Water down the drain

K Ramasegar | November 21, 2013
Syabas has waited too long to change the network of pipes thus causing massive leakages and water supply disruptions.
It is mind-boggling to think there is pipe leak every six minutes and the country loses two trillion litres in non-revenue water (NRW).
Total revenue from water in 2010 is RM4 billion and nearly half of it is non-revenue water (NRW) amounting to RM1.7 billion.
The problem of old pipes bursting is only going to get worse and it will not be long before a leak is detected every minute or even 30 seconds or so.
Are the authorities, especially Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), continue to do nothing until there is a full-blown water crisis affecting the whole country?
Yes, Syabas has been repairing burst pipes and laying new ones on an ad hoc basis but what are the long-term measures taken?
The authorities may even have long-term plans but when are they going to implemented? Even if they act now it is too late because it will take years to change all the old pipes and the leakages will become more frequent.
Either the people in Syabas are ignorant or they have failed to understand the gravity of the situation.
When the four treatment plants in the Klang Valley were shut down for a week due to river pollution early this year, more than a million consumers suffered with many staying with relatives and some in hotels. Flat dwellers were the worst hit having to carry pails of water many floors up.
Imagine a bigger scenario if the wastage becomes critical and there is not enough water reaching industrial users, the engine of the economy.
The economy will be affected and worse still the problem cannot be fixed in a few days. It will take years to change all the pipes in the country and how are consumers going to cope for a such a long period of time.
But why did the authorities let the situation be all this while when the problem was known long ago.
Why didn’t the department heads plan and request for funding from the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry and get moving?
It would have made more economic sense to have started changing the pipes 10 years ago in a staggered manner rather than waiting for collateral damage to take place before action is taken.
Planning for future
The frequent water supply disruptions due to burst pipes are becoming common now and this should have been an indication to Syabas to be proactive and plan for the future.
Malaysian Water Association council member Hairi Basri had said an interruption of water supply due to pipe bursts and repairs could cause low-water pressure as well as affect water quality.
Consumers are not sure any more if the supply they have been receiving is not contaminated.
Last year, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) found that 1.994 trillion litres of water was lost, and 3.479 trillion litres reached people’s taps – an NRW level of 36.4%.
Malaysia is the probably is only country where only 73.6% of the total treated water produced reached consumers. That is massive wastage of 36.4%, costing billions in lost revenue.
It has been reported there were no maps detailing the pipelines, making it very difficult for operators to find out where certain pipes were.
This is rather amusing because details of all pipes laid must have been recorded because payments had to be made for the work done and for the the relevant authorities to inspect before the money is paid.
Plans must have been submitted by the contractors to seek approval and there must be some records somewhere.
There is no excuse for poor record-keeping because Syabas is a big organisation not a small sundry shop.
The 1998 Klang Valley water crisis should be a lesson to all when the Klang Gates Dam, Batu Dam and Semenyih Dam suffered a substantial drop in water level following the El Nino phenomenon.
The water shortage affected almost all the residents in the Klang Valley causing the government to impose water-rationing.
The demand for water is increasing annually and how are we going to increase supply with so much going down the drain.
It is time to form a panel to look into the water problem now before it bursts out of control.
RamaSegar is a FMT team member.

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