Water levels in 20 dams falling, but Malaysia not facing crisis yet

Residents of Balakong, Selangor, without water supply for more than a week, huddles around public pipes outside their neighbourhoods to collect water during the Selangor water crisis.

MALAYSIA - A water crisis is looming after the prolonged dry spell caused water levels at dams and rivers to drop, with Selangor and Johor being put on alert.

The Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) yesterday revealed that, following the dry spell, water levels at 20 dams and 21 rivers nationwide had fallen between 0.3m and 1m since last Saturday.

"Although it is unlikely there will be rainfall in the next few months, the water supply from the dams could last up to two to three months.

"We have not reached the critical phase yet," DID Water Resources and Hydrology division director Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor told the New Straits Times.

He said the country would plunge into the critical phase when water levels at the dams could last for only one month.

The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry yesterday said Selangor recorded the worst drop in water supply because of the high demand for treated water, compounded by a drop in water levels at Sungai Selangor and the Klang Gate dam and closure of two treatment plants in Batu 11, Cheras and Bukit Tampoi, Kuala Langat, because of high levels of ammonia.

"As of yesterday, the active storage capacity at Sungai Selangor and the Klang Gates dam were recorded at 52.02 per cent and 55.79 per cent, respectively," it said, adding that the authorities were monitoring the situation.

It said the water from the dams had to be released to ensure an optimum water level in the rivers, especially Sungai Selangor, which supplies 60 per cent of water for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The dry spell, it said, had resulted in a higher content of ammonia for water treatment at Sungai Langat.

"The ministry has informed the National Water Services Commission (Span) to consider a water rationing exercise in affected areas if Syabas puts in a request.

"In Johor, Syarikat Air Johor Holdings (SAJH) has been given approval by Span to conduct a water-rationing exercise in Kluang district," it said, adding that the exercise began on Tuesday after the water level at Sungai Sembrong Kiri dropped, affecting the supply from the Sembrong Timur water treatment plant.

"On Wednesday, the Sembrong Timur water treatment plant saw a drop in supply from 31 million litres per day to 19 million litres per day.

"The water-rationing exercise affects 51,036 households in Kluang."

The ministry said although water levels in many dams had dropped, the country's water situation was under control and all water operators were told to obtain approval from Span, as stipulated by the law, if they sought to carry out water-rationing exercises.

"They were also told to include their contingency plans, which include management strategies, water rationing schedules, communication plans and other mitigation measures, such as deployment of water tankers and static water tanks."

In Seremban, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said supply was restored to 80 per cent of the affected 1,437 consumer households here yesterday, with the remaining 20 per cent in Sendayan to receive water supply today.

"We reactivated the old pipes from the Kuala Sawah water treatment plant to supply 22.71 million litres per day to areas in Rasah, Mambau and parts of Seremban and Sendayan," he said, adding that the state government had approved RM2.6 million (S$994,000) to build pipes connecting the Spring Hill water treatment plant to supply an additional 11 million litres per day of water to areas in Sendayan.

He said the state government would also install pipes to channel water from the Triang dam to the Ngoi-Ngoi water treatment plant to provide an additional 136 million litres of water per day.

"These two contingency plans are expected to be completed in three weeks."

In Johor Baru, state Works and Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad said SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd , the state's water supplier, was ready to conduct cloud seeding operation.

"SAJ is ready to do cloud seeding. They will carry it out only if the condition worsens, as the cost of a cloud-seeding operation could come up to RM300,000," Hasni said yesterday.

However, he said, the water situation in the state was manageable and there was no need for cloud seeding for the time being.

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