IF there is anything Malaysians in most parts of the country especially in Peninsular Malaysia take for granted, it’s their water supply.
In fact, far too much for granted.
I specifically mention Peninsular Malaysia because in many remote parts of Sabah and Sarawak water supply is scarce due to sparse population and in many areas, people depend or survive on wells or rainwater.
By the same token, most Malaysians perhaps don’t even realise how blessed they are living in a country where piped water is available in abundance while many parts of the world are grappling with acute water shortages or hardly any supply at all.
Coupled with this is the fact that water policies all this while have pampered consumers so much so that Malaysia can be described as one country where people just don’t know or appreciate the real value of water.
Let alone give water, easily life’s most vital resource, the respect that it sorely deserves.
As the wise saying goes, water is life and life is water.
Policies such as fixing water tariffs so cheaply for both domestic and commercial consumers or at well below production costs – which means the authorities subsidising water – might be politically popular but at the end of the day they only result in highly wasteful water consumption patterns or usage.
A classic example is Selangor, our most developed state where the state government’s free water policy now into its 10th year has led to some serious rationing especially as raw water reserves fell dangerously low.
Another reason is the long delay in the completion of the additional treatment plant called Langat 2 that was orginally supposed to be ready in 2014 but till today is still not completed.
As a Selangor resident for over three decades now, I hate the fact that I continue to receive my monthly bill that shows practically zero amount to pay because my household consumption is below the trigger point of 20 cu m of free water monthly per registered consumer.
By the way, 20 cu m of water is equivalent to 20,000 one-litre bottles of water.
No wonder companies are doing roaring business selling bottled water. Just imagine their sheer profit margin.
I asked one chief executive officer of one state water authority to comment on so much water being given away free and this is what he had to say: “It’s a crime against eco-sustainability of water.”
The Selangor state government has announced plans to review this policy where only those in the low-income group or the B40 are entitled to free water.
The earlier this review is enforced the better so that the public start paying for water as everybody else in the world.
Also there is a need to reduce further the 20 cu m benchmark.
Talking about water wastage, it will shock visitors or tourists from water-deficit countries if they come across just how much water is used or wasted by carwash outlets in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor to clean one car using water jets.
In this regard, let’s take into account the rampant cases of water theft or illegal extensions of water as regularly reported by SPAN, our national water services commission.
The culprits or offenders are the building sites.
Can you imagine or even tolerate construction companies which often boast of their projects having gross development value running into billions but flagrantly not paying for their exponential water consumption.
Of course once found out by SPAN, they will be fined but the amount they would pay in return is peanuts compared with the value of water that they had illegally piped through during the construction period.
Regular readers of this column can vouch that I am passionate about water issues and since I started Off The Cuff in 2011, I have written numerous times about water.
I can claim to walk the talk on water because it’s in my nature to use water sparingly.
There is background to this – I was born in Kapit, one of Sarawak’s remotest upriver districts and during my childhood, my civil servant father was transferred from place to place and in some locations, we didn’t have piped water as people enjoy or take for granted now.
It also pains me to see how wasteful many fellow Muslims are in using water every time they do their ablution before prayers at mosques and suraus.
Ablution should be done by using water wisely or sparingly instead of having full blast of flowing water.
It’s my hope that preachers in their sermons tell their congregation about the proper water usage from the Islamic viewpoint.
The most welcome news so far this year for me is the announcement by SPAN that it is drafting a new law requiring Malaysians to use less water. It’s a long overdue piece of legislation and something I have reason to celebrate for as a passionate save-water activist.
The proposed law, now about 80% complete, will make labelling and the use of water-efficient devices mandatory.
SPAN executive director Marzuki Mohammad said the commission is engaging with stakeholders, industry players and non-governmental organisations before the new law is tabled in Parliament.
“With the law, manufacturers of products such as bathroom fittings and washing machines must label their products according to a three-star rating system.
A one-star product uses or dispenses between six and eight litres of water per minute, a two-star product between four and six litres while a three-star product between 1.5 and four litres.
The proposed law will also compel developers to install water-efficient fittings in their new projects.
Selangor for example uses up to five million litres of treated water daily and if we can save just 10% that would mean saving up to 500,000 littes a day.
Congratulations SPAN and to all consumers, stop wasting water.