Huge amounts of treated water supply in five states wasted

PETALING JAYA: Huge amounts of treated water are wasting away in five states due to their ageing water distribution infrastructure, causing about half of their supply to become non-revenue water (NRW).

According to NRW statistics, water lost through leakage or theft, from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) show that Sabah is losing the most amount of treated water supply among the five states at a staggering 677 million litres per day (mld).

That amounts to 55.1% of Sabah's treated water supply of 1,229mld, much higher than the national average NRW rate of 35.5%, and almost matches the Semenyih Water Treatment Plant's output of between 700mld to 720mld.

The Semenyih Water Treatment plant serves 337,450 accounts or about 1.6 million consumers.

Kedah comes close second with 46.7% of its 1,315mld supply or 614mld becoming NRW, followed by Pahang at 52.8% or 596mld out of its 1,128mld treated water supply.

Then comes Kelantan, with 49% of its 454mld treated water supply or 222mld becoming NRW while Perlis has the highest NRW percentage of all at 56.3%, losing 124mld out of 220 mld of its supply

SPAN Corporate Communications and Consumer Affairs Unit director Hisyam Samad said the leading cause of such losses is the old pipes that are still in use in these states, and to a certain extent, in other parts of Malaysia as well.

"Asbestos Cement (AC) pipes still contribute to the bulk of the leakages. Of the 145,895km of water pipes in Malaysia, 42,976km or 29.7% are AC pipes in use for more than 30 years.

"Some states have more AC pipes than others, with Kelantan, Perlis, and Kedah having 57.7%, 49.1%, and 53.9% respectively. These pipes have exceeded their economic operational life and need to be replaced," Hisyam told theSun.

He said the states have not invested enough into replacing old pipes or into holistic ways of managing NRW but noted that this is not an easy task due to the huge amounts of funds and investments required.

Hisyam said this can be provided by Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB), a subsidiary wholly owned by the Finance Ministry tasked to restructure Malaysia's water services industry, when state governments transfer their water assets and liabilities.

He said most states have already adopted the new system, with the remaining ones being Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis.

Hisyam added that Perlis had already signed a restructuring agreement while Kedah and Selangor are in the process of migration, with the latter being held back by the acquisition of water concessionaire SPLASH.