The Star, Saturday, 27 Jul 2019, 12:00 AM

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is not prepared to weather a water crisis, says a conservation group, warning that there would be “nothing surprising” about a shortage in 2025. The Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president S. Piarapa­karan said the auditing of the water industry meant that the government was forecasting future demand. The government agencies and regulators in Malaysia, he claimed, were ill-prepared for a water crisis. “We can actually see this by observing a lot of water disruptions and the slow supply recovery process. “In fact, Selangor is actually facing a water crisis – mainly due to very irresponsible steps at both the federal and state levels. “There is a 50-year forecasting document. This is more like a desktop study and can be used as baseline. “We will have to see the forecasting models and parameters used by agencies involved to see if this will eventually represent actual situation,” he said.

He was responding to a statement by Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry that it had commissioned a nationwide audit on the water industry in anticipation of longer droughts that the country would have to face due to climate change. The ministry was also studying the possibility of tapping underground water sources, which was expected to be completed next year. Piarapakaran also blamed the shortages on a growing demand for treated water. “We need to look at the population and economic activity densities. “These two parameters have been on the increase as Malaysia is a developing nation and a manufacturing hub. “So, there is nothing surprising if we face a shortage by 2025.

“However, under the Water Services Industry Act 2006 model, water operators must prepare a 30-year business plan and in this, the need to develop new treatment plants, non-revenue water (NRW) reduction, infrastructure replacements and improvements. “On the water resources part, pollution control will become an important aspect,” he said. Malaysian Water Forum president Saral James said the audit into the water industry should have been done earlier but since it was a new government, it was “better late than never”. The government, said James, needed to look at public water usage patterns, adding that it was important for the public to be aware of the importance of conserving water. “The way we are using water now – if we don’t do any public awareness to be conscious about water usage, then, definitely, there will be water shortages. “This is just another way to meet water demand, but just meeting water demands – like money – is never enough,” she said. She said while tapping underground water was a good approach, this needed to be done with proper study and research.