Malaysia expresses concern over its national water supply

Losing water: A kayaking team training at the Batu Dam in Selayang where the water level is running low due to the haze.

PETALING JAYA: First the haze, now the fear of water shortage.

Yesterday evening, there was hope of reprieve from the haze with thunder and lightning suggesting the start of a downpour, but what followed was a drizzle in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) said the demand for treated water had surged as people were drinking and washing themselves more often.

The haze, combined with the current dry spell that is set to last until September, has caused average reserve levels at the company's 34 water distribution plants to fall from 0.54 per cent last month to -0.64 per cent yesterday.

The figures are well below the minimum 10 per cent "safe mark" needed to guarantee continuous supply.

Syabas corporate communications assistant general manager Priscilla Alfred said consumers in parts of Gombak and Kuala Lumpur had started to experience a drop in water pressure since yesterday due to reserve levels going into negative.

"The haze has taken place during an unusually dry time of the year and it has worsened the overall treated water supply situation," she said.

Last year, 3,508,245 residents in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya experienced disruptions due to inadequate water supply while the figure was 2,914,820 as at the end of last month.

Based on current projections, the taps could run dry in parts of Hulu Langat, Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Shah Alam and Gombak from July next year if the current level of demand persists, Alfred said.

Several new water treatment projects are under construction to help meet the shortage but they are only due to be completed by January 2015.

The projects include the Sungai Selangor water scheme to serve the southern part of the state, the Sungai Labu project for Sepang and Nilai and the Bernam River Headworks for Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor.

National Water Service Commission chairman Datuk Ismail Kassim said the mitigation projects could only meet short-term needs.

"We must also look into implementing long-term solutions. I would like to stress it is equally important to carry on with the Langat 2 project to ensure we avoid any type of water crisis in the future," Ismail said.

The Langat 2 project involves the construction of a pipeline, a dam and a water treatment plant to transfer water from Pahang to Selangor.

The project has been delayed as it has yet to receive approval from the Selangor Government.