KUALA LUMPUR - The government must take steps to curb water wastage, particularly non-revenue water (NRW), to tackle the crisis, said experts.
"Malaysia's NRW is high compared with other countries. Aside from our efforts to ensure continuous water supply, we need to take drastic measures to reduce NRW to save the treated water for consumption," said International Islamic University Malaysia's Water Quality and Modelling associate professor, Dr Zaki Zainudin Ibrahim, in a telephone interview with the New Sunday Times yesterday.
Non-revenue water is water that has been produced and is "lost" before it reaches the customer, such as through pipe leakages, burst pipes, theft and inaccurate metering.
Zaki said in 2012, the national average of NRW was at 36.4 per cent of the 5,474 trillion litres of pipe waters produced, while the figures for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya stood at 33.1 per cent.
"The water condition is indeed critical in Malaysia, especially the Klang Valley.
"If we continue to neglect our water resources and continue to take it for granted, our situation will worsen," he said, adding that the government had to come up with a contingency plan to address the issue.
Zaki said one of the things needed to be done was to establish an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources.
This is to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment.
For example, Zaki said Malaysia had many agencies governing water resources and management, which made the handling of an issue "haywire", with authorities finger-pointing at each one when problems arose.
"The ministries and agencies need to be clear of their roles and responsibilities."
Echoing his thoughts was Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia's (AWER) president Piarapakaran S., who said if the NRW was brought down to 20 or even 25 per cent by 2020, close to 10 per cent of the water could be saved and utilised to meet increasing water demand.
He also noted that Malaysia's domestic water usage, as of 2012, was 212 litres per person daily, while it was only 151 litres in Singapore.
In Selangor that year, it reached 235 litres per person. Other states which recorded high volumes were Penang (285 litres), Perak (238 litres), Malacca (237 litres), Negri Sembilan (227 litres) and Johor (221 litres).
Malaysia Water Forum's research and policy executive, Mathini Arveena Ravee, said there were multiple reasons behind the current crisis, namely, high consumption, an unpredicted long dry spell, high NRW and pollution of water resources.
"Right now, we are only focusing on supply management. A comprehensive water demand management plan should be drafted and implemented."