WATER is the most important element for human life. Man can survive for weeks without food, but without water, it is a different story.
Although water makes up about 70 per cent of the total earth surface, only one per cent of it is fresh, liquid and usable.
Most is contained within the seas and oceans as saltwater, and in the form of frozen water in glaciers.
Malaysians are lucky as we don’t face severe water scarcity like in other countries. According to the United Nations, 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and this causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.
Our water tariffs are among the lowest globally. Selangor and Johor charge only RM0.57 and RM0.80 per cubic meter of water respectively. Neighbouring countries like Thailand and Singapore charge RM1.09 and RM6.50 per cubic meter respectively for domestic use, making our water charges cheaper by at least 36 per cent.
Nevertheless, not every Malaysian appreciates the low charges. On average, our water consumption is 210 litres per capita per day. This consumption rate is 27 per cent higher than the limit recommended by the World Health Organisation, which is 165 litres per capita per day.
We require only 100 to 120 litres of water per person per day for our basic needs.
The prudent use of water is the key to sustainability. To prevent wastage, the first step is to be aware of how much water we use. This is evident from the monthly water bills.
Bathroom activities use up about half of the total water consumed in a typical household.
Washing laundry, meanwhile, accounts for one-fifth of the overall household water consumption.
Only about five to 10 per cent of water is used for drinking and cooking.
There are many simple and effective ways to reduce water usage in our daily activities.
FIRST, do not let the faucet flow when brushing teeth or shaving. Running tap water can use up four to six litres of water per minute. Instead, use a glass of water to rinse teeth;
SECOND, turn off the tap when soaping or shampooing and reduce shower time. An efficient shower period should not be more than five minutes for a high-flow showerhead or 10 minutes for a low-flow showerhead.
We need only 40 to 50 litres of water per shower;
THIRD, apply low-flush toilet for urinal uses. It consumes significantly less water than a full flush toilet. An efficient dual flush toilet can save water by at least 30 per cent; and,
FOURTH, operate washing machine only when you have a full load. Consolidating washes will not only save water but also energy.
Always use recommended dosage of laundry detergent to prevent excessive powder, which requires an additional rinse.
And, lastly, don’t forget to collect rainwater. It is free and perfect for outdoor uses such as gardening and car washing.
Remember, every drop of water counts.
DR LAU WOEI JYE
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia