Water-rationing will see taps go dry some days

Residents collect water from a water tanker at Taman Setia Balokong, outside Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR - Some three million residents in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor as well as businesses big and small are bracing themselves for the prospect of dry taps on some days, as a water-rationing exercise kicked in on Thursday.

Entering Ms Zuraini Jallal's kitchen, one cannot miss the assortment of big bottles that she has assiduously filled up, following a month-long dry spell that has led to Selangor's largest water-rationing exercise in 16 years. This will end on March 31.

These days, Ms Zuraini makes do with a pail of water when she cooks for her husband and young daughter.

"Better than eating out every day or we would be broke now," the 35-year-old part-time actress quipped when The Straits Times visited her 600 sq ft apartment in Desa Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, on Wednesday. But she has found other ways to save water.

There are lots of used polystyrene plates and cups in the rubbish bin.

"Wet wipes are very useful," she said pointedly as her four-year-old daughter went to the bathroom.

She also encourages her husband, a bus driver, to bathe at the office.

Ms Zuraini's home is one of the 60,000 households that will be affected by the water rationing.

Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Johor are going through an especially dry season, with dams at critical levels and rain not expected until the middle of March. Water rationing is imminent in Negeri Sembilan and Johor, while the federal government is mulling over declaring a national emergency if things get worse.

A spokesman for water distribution company Syabas, Ms Priscilla Alfred, told The Straits Times that housing areas will be divided into Zone One and Zone Two, with each taking turns to get two days of piped water followed by two days of dry taps.

"Households and industries will be able to plan their schedules much better," she said.

Since Jan 28, residents specifically in the Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts of Selangor have found themselves with no water intermittently.

Water trucks were deployed to make deliveries, but these were ad hoc and sometimes took place in the early hours of the morning.

Food businesses have been hit.

"It's too difficult to haul water to the stall every day," said Ms Ima Yusof, a 50-year-old helper at a nasi lemak stall, which has been closed for three weeks.

Datuk R. Ramalingam, who heads a grouping of Indian restaurants, said 130 of its members in Selangor and KL have been forced to suspend their business.

On the eve of the water rationing, some residents wondered if it would be implemented as smoothly as officials had promised.

"The state government said rationing would start on Tuesday, but then Syabas said Thursday," said contractor Saifuddin Ahmad.


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