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Save water and maintain water quality

Updated: Apr 25

19 December 2022 – Best view with desktop

Sustainability: A back-to-basics revisit of Water Security, Food Security and Waste Management

In a recent event organised by the World Bank Group The Global Green Finance Leadership Program (GFLP) 2022 on 29 Nov 2022 not only launched the Report Launch: Unleashing Sustainable Finance in South-East Asia but up the ante bringing delegates and visitors site visits to namely Solid Waste Management (i.e. Cenviro Sdn Bhd), Water Treatment Plant (i.e. Loji Rawatan Air (LRA) Sungai Semenyih) and Urban Farming (i.e. Sunway FutureX Farm). Aleevar team had the privilege to visit these facilities and to share our site visit experience.

I had the privilege to visit Water Treatment Plant (i.e. Loji Rawatan Air (LRA) Sungai Semenyih).

Water scarcity and the challenges faced by the Malaysian water supply industry

Water scarcity has become a global problem due to the increased demand by population and economic growth. Developing countries face the problem of degraded water quality, inadequate water supply, and poor sanitation infrastructure. Climate change has exacerbated the situation further with unpredictable weather patterns producing unprecedented downpours of rain resulting in flash floods in areas that have poor drainage management systems. On the other hand, drought occurs when some water catchment areas may not be able to provide a sufficient supply of water to communities.

In Malaysia, water resources of 80.8% are sourced from rivers, 17.9% from dams, and 1.2% from underground water. The report, The Malaysian Water Industry Status & Outlook Report 2020/21, mentioned the challenges faced by the Malaysian water supply industry are the need for water tariff adjustments, integrated water resources management, leakages due to Non Revenue Water (NRW), weak enforcement of pollution management and explore new water resources as a circular economy.

The revenue collected from water tariffs only covers 76% of the total cost of water production in Malaysia. This deficit of 24% is not financially sustainable for the water sector in long run. The impact is the water sector’s inability to upgrade and maintain the water assets, and to recover leakages from NRW due to ageing pipes. Besides that, Malaysia lacks IR4.0 smart technology in the sewerage system for the water supply industry.

The whole-of-government approach (WGA) of integrated water resources management by government ministries, agencies, and regulators is required to implement holistic water management practices from source, treatment, distribution, collection, and reuse based on the water catchment or river basin approach. Water pollution is attributed to a lack of legislation on the safety of dam water supply and a shortage of water management courses for new talent development.

Global average daily use of freshwater is 303-379 litres per person reported in 2005

The global average daily use of freshwater per person is 80-100 gallons (303-379 litres) for indoor use. The highest water consumption in the world in 2005 was Armenia at 598.0 litres per capita per day (LCD), followed by Costa Rica which consumed 539.2 LCD, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 507.7 LCD. The USA consumed 304.4 LCD and Malaysia consumed 177.5 LCD. Other countries closer to Malaysia such as the Philippines consumed 204.2 LCD, Vietnam consumed 191.7 LCD, India consumed 136.1 LCD, China consumed 129.3 LCD, Thailand consumed 119.2 LCD, and Indonesia consumed 86.8 LCD.

Water Consumption Per Capita Per Day (LCD)

Water consumption of 11,540 million litres per day (MLD) in Malaysia in 2021

The growth of water demand is affected by the growth of the population and the development of the economic sector in Malaysia. Water consumption was at 10,044 MLD in 2021 where the water consumption was from households at 59.1% and 40.9% by industries.

The average Malaysia of household water consumption was 201 litres per person per day in 2017 higher than the United Nation’s recommended requirement of 165 litres per person per day.

At the state level, the highest water consumption was Selangor at 30.1%, followed by Johor at 12.4%, and Perak at 8.3%.

Total water production in Malaysia (excluding Sabah and Sarawak) was 15,058 MLD in 2021

Total water production in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan was 15,058 MLD. The highest water production was Selangor (4,985 MLD), followed by Johor (1,848 MLD), Kedah (1,538 MLD), Perak (1,386 MLD), Pahang (1,281 MLD), Penang (1,126 MLD), Negeri Sembilan (811 MLD), Terengganu (656 MLD), Melaka (603 MLD), Kelantan (504 MLD), Perlis (236 MLD), and Labuan (84 MLD) in 2021. Based on the report from Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN), the total water production has increased from 14,056 MLD in 2017 to 15,058 MLD in 2021.

Total Water Production (in MLD) by States in Malaysia

The highest revenue water was Selangor at 3,612 MLD in 2021

Revenue water is billed authorised water consumption that reaches the consumers. The highest billed authorised water consumption was Selangor (3,612 MLD), followed by Johor (1,385 MLD), Perak (976 MLD), Penang (860 MLD), Kedah (770 MLD), Pahang (649 MLD), Negeri Sembilan (549 MLD), Terengganu (460 MLD), Melaka (414 MLD), Kelantan (239 MLD), Perlis (91 MLD), and Labuan (52 MLD) in 2021 reported by Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN). The water production in Peninsular Malaysia has increased from 9,407 in 2017 to 10,059 in 2021.

Total Billed Water Consumption (in MLD) by States in Malaysia

36.8% Non Revenue Water (NRW) in Malaysia loss due to pipe leakages, reservoir overflow and under registration

Non Revenue Water (NRW) is the water loss from water reservoir to consumers that may have been caused by pipe leakages, reservoir overflows, meter under-registration and illegal connections. In the conference of Asia Water 2022, Ministry of Environment & Water Malaysia mentioned the total NRW in Malaysia was 36.8% in 2021. The highest NRW in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan was Perlis (63.3%), followed by Kelantan (52.6%), Kedah (49.9%), Pahang (49.3%), Labuan (37.6%), Terengganu (32.8%), Negeri Sembilan (32.3%), Melaka (31.2%), Perak (29.6%), Selangor (27.5%), Johor (25.1%), and Penang (23.6%) reported by Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN). Previously, the total NRW (Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan) in 2017 was 33.4%.

Total Non Revenue Water (%) by States in Malaysia

Air Selangor operates 5,000 MLD of water treatment plants in Malaysia

Although 70% of Earth’s surface is covered with water, 97% is ocean water and only 3% is freshwater (i.e. drinking water). The largest water treatment plant in the world is operated by James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant in Chicago with a capacity of 1.4 billion gallons (5,300 million litres) per day, followed by Guandu Water Treatment Plant with a capacity of 981 million gallons (3,713 million litres) per day in Brazil, and General San Martín Water Treatment Plant in Argentina with the capacity of 894 million gallons (3,384 million litres) per day. The largest water treatment plant in Singapore is Changi Water Reclamation Plant (CWRP) with the capacity to treat 176 million gallons (666 million litres) of used water a day.

In Malaysia, one of the largest water operators in Selangor state is Air Selangor with a production capacity of 5,000 million litres per day (MLD) with 34 water treatment plants. I have visited personally one of the notable water treatment plant, organised by the World Bank Group, Loji Rawatan Air (LRA) Sungai Semenyih has a production capacity of 700 MLD completed by 2024.

Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant, the largest water treatment plant in Malaysia, has a production capacity of 1,130 MLD of treated water operated by Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB). The second highest water consumption state was Johor with a production capacity of 2,133 MLD is operated by Ranhill Holdings Berhad. One of the biggest water treatment plants in Johor is Loji Rawatan Air (LRA) Semangar with a production capacity of 318 MLD. In Penang, Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant (SDWTP) produces more than 80% of treated water in Penang and is operated by Perbandanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP). The production capacity of SDWTP increased from 136 million litres per day (MLD) in 1973 to 1,228 MLD in 2019.

Production Capacity (in MLD) of Selected Water Treatment Plant in Malaysia

Wastewater treatment from sewage water to the river

Wastewater treatment protects humans and restores the water supply from harmful and toxic elements found in wastewater. The water treatment plant can help to remove the chemicals, particulates, organic materials, and other debris from the raw water, and treating the raw water result in clean and potable water that can be used for consumers. The water quality is important for consumers because water contaminants can lead to health issues (e.g. gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, neurological disorders).

There are eight stages of the wastewater process to treat wastewater from screening to effluent disposal.

Water treatment plant from raw water to consumers

The process for a water treatment plant is to maintain the water quality through treatment. The raw water is processed to be clean water through several steps namely coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection in each basin before clean water reaches the consumers.

An illustration impression (refer to Note 1) of LRA Sungai Semenyih by the author during the site visit

Air Selangor sourced water from the Semenyih dam and Sungai Langat. Raw water from the Semenyih dam is processed through water treatment 2 before monitoring water quality through the river monitoring system. The river monitoring system monitors the water quality of the raw water from Semenyih dam and Sungai Langat. Raw water is then taken to Semenyih 2 water treatment plant. Clean water is provided to consumers through a balancing reservoir after the process of the water treatment plant. For full details in the infographic, please click Air Selangor water management ecosystem.

Importance of water treatment

The benefits of having water treatment are:

1. Protect the health and reduce the annual death rate from drinking treated water.

2. Reduce wastage by purifying wastewater (that was discharged from consumers) and channel back to the community and natural environment.

3. Protect the environment and balance the water cycle by maintaining groundwater and surface water.

4. Solve the problem of water shortage and countries with limited access to safe water.

Government’s plans and framework ahead

To solve the problem of water scarcity in Malaysia:

1. Non Revenue Water (NRW) to be reduced from 36.8% in 2020 to 25% by 2030 by replacing the old pipe with new pipes that water loss due to leakage of old pipes

2. Implement Water Sector Transformation 2040 (WST 2040) to transform the water sector into a dynamic economic sector

3. Implement Environment Sustainability Plan 2020-2030 to produce reclaimed water based on 35 suggested initiatives

Suggestions by the water supply industry

Some suggestions provided by the water supply industry to overcome the challenges faced by water supply industry:

1. Restructuring water tariff to have a fair water tariff to offset the 24% of the total cost (currently funded by government subsidies)

2. Monitoring water leakage for sewerage systems by using the Internet of Things (IoT)

3. Integrated water resources management by adopting a holistic approach to water resources, water supply, wastewater, and sewerage management under one national policy

4. Stricter laws and enforcement against water pollution for the industry by the government

5. Establish centralised training programme based on standardised learning outcomes for new talent by the water sector industry

6. Implement new water technologies (Water 4.0) by exploring new cost-effective technology to replace old, traditional, and inefficient systems/solutions/materials

The 3 key takeaways to look out for in households are:

1. Turn off the water when not needed can save hundreds of litres of water per day

2. Invest plastic discs the size of a 10-cent coin with 5 holes namely Thimble to reduce water flow by at least 15%

3. Harvest rainwater to use for various non-drinking applications to reduce overall consumption by almost 50%

For more information, please contact

Note 1: Although Aleevar Consulting had made every effort to ensure that the accuracy of information contained in this media (i.e. report, website) has been obtained from reliable source. Aleevar Consulting makes no warranties, expressed or implied and is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

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