Selangor to ration water; other states may follow suit

People selling barrels of water in Balakong, Selangor.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's richest state is going to ration water for the first time in 16 years, and other parts of the country may follow suit during the prolonged dry spell.

Starting today, some Selangor residents will alternate between two days of regular water supply and two days of dry taps, until end-March when rains are expected to return.

Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim said this will start with households in areas already experiencing water disruptions since Feb 7.

According to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor, which supplies water to Selangor and the Klang Valley, some 100,000 residents and businesses in areas such as Balakong and Kuala Langat have faced dry taps on and off for a fortnight.

Some five million people live in Selangor, which is Malaysia's most densely populated state. Tan Sri Khalid did not specify which areas would be affected but said the rationing will help conserve water in dams for two months.

"We pledge that every consumer will receive water, but it will be rationed to ensure supply every two days," Mr Khalid told local reporters on Monday. "This way taps do not run dry for long."

Malaysia is facing one of its driest seasons with some places experiencing temperatures of up to 40 deg C daily since mid-January. As consumers take more frequent showers because of the heat, water levels in several dams supplying the Klang Valley have plunged to their lowest in the last decade.

The Klang Valley last rationed water in 1998 following El Nino weather. This time, other states are also facing a water shortage.

Two districts in Johor - Batu Pahat and Pontian - may also start rationing water, its state public works executive committee chairman Hasni Mohammad said, as dams supplying water there are currently 5 per cent away from critical levels. "The water at the dam can sustain supply for only another two weeks," he told reporters on Monday.

Last week, Negeri Sembilan declared a state of crisis after taps in thousands of households ran dry.

The dry spell is likely to continue, said the meteorological department, except for stray showers.

The department said it is difficult to do cloud-seeding - when rain-inducing chemicals are sprinkled in clouds from an airplane - because there are so few clouds.

The lack of rain has also caused a spike in peat and bush fires around the country.

Residents in Petaling Jaya such as Ms Chong Lily, 32, a housewife, are taking no chances.

She bought a large water storage container and has kept it filled with water since last week though her taps are still running fine.

"You'll never know when you need the reserves, so better be safe than sorry," she told The Straits Times.

yyennie@sph.com.sg

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