PETALING JAYA - Leaky, ageing pipes are taking a huge toll on the country, with close to two trillion litres of treated water lost to seepage, poor water quality and frequent disruptions at the consumer end.
And it's going to get worse. Much of the problem lies in the 43,890km of ageing pipes around the country.
Made of asbestos-cement (AC), these pipes were installed in vast numbers decades ago.
They have a lifespan of 30 years and many have outlived their usefulness or are getting there.
Last year alone, nearly two trillion litres of treated water were lost.
The non-revenue water (NRW) was more than a third of all treated water pumped out of plants in 2012 - enough to supply every family in the country with water for 189 days, or fill 797,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The leakage forced water operators to pump more through the pipes to meet demand.
"An interruption of water supply for frequent pipe burst and repairs can cause low water pressure for consumers as well as affect water quality," said Malaysian Water Association council member Hairi Basri.
In 2012, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) found that of the 1.994 trillion litres of water was lost, and 3.479 trillion litres reached people's taps - an NRW level of 36.4 per cent.
Hairi said: "We can't be proud of an industry that lost 36.4 per cent of its final product before it could reach consumers."
SPAN executive director (Water Regulatory Department) Marzuki Mohammad said the installing of AC pipes was stopped in the early 90s and the country's pipes need to be changed.
Modern day water distributors use copper, stainless steel or ductile iron pipes.
"If replacement does not keep pace with the deterioration of the pipes, leakages and NRW will keep rising with water suppliers suffering more losses," he said.
It shows in SPAN's numbers. In 2011, a total of 1.939 trillion litres were lost. Last year, it was 1.994 trillion - a staggering 55 billion litres more.
There was a burst pipe, breakage or leak reported every 84 seconds in Malaysia last year, amounting to 376,159 complaints in total.
The number of unscheduled water disruption also rose from 214,270 in 2011 to 238,542 in 2012.