New Straits Times, 23 March 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The water crisis in Selangor is “unique” and it will take the state five days to recover from the next one, a water expert says. Malaysian Water Association (MWA) president Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Din said Selangor’s water crisis was unique compared with other states. “When there is production interruption, a zero or low reserve margin will result in the slow recovery to full supply, as experienced in the stoppage of the Sungai Selangor Phase 3 water treatment plant two weeks ago.” He said, based on the 2017 Malaysia Water Industry Guideline (MWIG), Selangor was the only state where two methods were used to calculate the reserve margin.

“The first is the plant design capacity versus production, which is the standard used in the water industry. Based on this, MWIG depicted negative figures for Selangor as the design capacity is lower than the production quantity. “The second is the plant design capacity versus distributable capacity. This method takes into account storage reserve in the pipeline and overloading water treatment plant. However, this method is not reliable, especially when there are leakages in the distribution pipelines that are difficult to quantify.” He said five days were needed to fill up the depleted reservoirs and resume normal operations.

“Despite having sufficient raw water storage, this does not add to the treated water supply due to limited capacities of water treatment plants,” said Kadir in conjunction with World Water Day yesterday. On Wednesday, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili had cautioned that the people of Selangor would continue to experience water cuts if the state government failed to address issues plaguing its water industry. Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, responding to criticisms of the state’s water industry, argued that the state’s dams had optimum water levels.

His retort was ridiculed by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang, who urged Azmin to understand the difference between raw water supply in dams and treated water. Malaysian Water Forum (FAM) president Saral James urged the state government to work with the Federal Government to improve its water industry. “There are many shortcomings in the Selangor government’s water management system. It needs to work with the Federal Government. “It is only by working with others that you can see where your weaknesses are.” James said Selangor’s reported water reserve margin of between zero and five per cent was “definitely low”, given that other states had an average reserve of between 20 and 30 per cent, which was a big gap.

“Although the problems lie not only within the Selangor government, it is puzzling as to why these problems (Selangor’s water issues) keep cropping up. She said Selangor needed to undertake the migration of its water industry seriously. “We are moving towards becoming a developed country. We cannot rely on old technologies. “This is a shared responsibility. The Selangor government should take charge when it comes to improving the state’s water infrastructure and management.” Earlier, at an event held in conjunction with World Water Day yesterday, James urged water players to boost operations for the sake of consumers.

“Access to water as a basic need must be improved. Consumers have the right to the best service.” She said the best example of this was seen in the recent water crisis which plagued Selangor. For almost a week, 2.5 million residents in the Klang Valley were left without water as maintenance work at a water treatment plant was conducted. On March 6, an explosion at the Sungai Selangor Phase 3 Water Treatment Plant left five people injured. The incident also meant that what was a four-day disruption was extended to a week, leaving many consumers in the Klang Valley high and dry. James said the incident had showed that more needed to be done to protect consumer rights. She said the association had received many complaints about water issues.

She said the association’s experience with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) during the recent Selangor water crisis left a lot to be desired. James said FAM had, on Tuesday and Wednesday, submitted a memorandum to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, and water operators on their recommendations to improve the country’s water industry. “We proposed that water operators create a ‘consumer communication plan’ for better communication between consumers and water suppliers. This will allow consumers to be well-informed so that they can take action when water cuts happen.” Present was Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman.