PETALING JAYA - Aside from having short lifespans, many underground water pipes suffer leaks due to vibration from heavy vehicles plying the roads above them, says Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) president S. Piarapakaran.
He said in the past, water pipes and roads were built in alignment with each other.
Overloaded lorries and other vehicles, he said, added pressure down into the pipes, shifting and breaking them.
"Some roads are not designed to take heavy loads.
"So, when the roads start sinking, pressure is placed on these pipes and they start to crack," he added.
He was commenting on The Star's report yesterday, quoting Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) that the firm found leaks in its water distribution network every six minutes.
Piarapakaran said replacing many of these pipes was also a problem as many operators inherited water systems plagued by poor record-keeping.
He alleged that there were areas where there were no maps detailing pipelines, making it very difficult for operators to find out where certain pipes were.
"Some pipes were laid before the operators came into the business and some of these were not recorded in the past," he added.
He also said contaminants could enter cracked pipes especially when the pressure was low.
High pressure, he said, made sure that nothing could enter the pipes.
Degraded pipes, he said, could carry mud and soil odours and that dirt tended to collect at bigger pipes when the pressure was low.
He also said operators not only needed a lot of money to change these pipes, but seemed to be approaching non-revenue water (NRW) problems ad hoc.
He said that the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry has agreed to fully restructure Selangor, Kedah, Terengganu, Pahang, Kelantan and Labuan's water services by the end of this year.
At the same time, he said Malaysians could play their part by cutting back on their water usage to about 165 litres per person each day, which would place less stress on operators.
The current average used per person each day is 212 litres.
Piarapakaran said NRW led to a combined revenue loss of RM4.99bil (S$1.94bil) from 2008 to 2010 nationwide, with RM1.74bil lost in 2010 alone.