IT is ironic that Malaysia, which is blessed with 2,500mm of rainfall annually, should experience water shortages.
For many households, especially in Selangor, Kedah, Penang, Pahang, Johor and Kelantan, water is an unreliable source.
Water cuts are frequent. Consumers are always stressed and worried; will there be water tomorrow? Or will they be getting a WhatsApp message saying that there will be water disruptions because of a burst pipe or read reports that thousands of households will not be having water supply due to contamination at the water processing plant that serves their area.
Consumers get more anxious when a festive season is approaching or a family event, such as a wedding. Will there be water? Water disruptions have just become too common, so much so, consumers simply have no trust and confidence in the water delivery system.
Three major causes of these water disruptions are broken pipes, water pollution and rapid urbanisation. Broken pipes are the cause of non-revenue water losses, and unscheduled water disruptions.
Water pollution is perhaps the biggest cause of contaminated water and thus water disruptions to households. It is primarily caused by industrial waste, sewage and waste water, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, dumping of garbage and leakage from landfills.
Deforestation and excessive logging contribute to water wastage and water contamination.
Thirdly, the expanding urban population and the excessive use of water by consumers lead to water wastage and water shortages.
What is the way forward? Clearly, the responsibility of reliable, safe and affordable water rests on both federal and state governments and several agencies. Most importantly, water issues should not be politicised.
Water constitutes a basic human need for all. Safe water is necessary for human consumption and to sustain life. Planning for a reliable water supply thus needs a holistic approach.
Forum Air Malaysia strongly proposes that federal and state agencies put their differences aside to focus on the need to provide reliable, safe and affordable water to consumers. There should be greater inter-agency cooperation and collaboration to ensure water pollution threats are minimised, if not entirely eliminated.
There should be greater cooperation and collaboration between state water operators and Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN), the water regulator, to ensure that consumers have access to safe and reliable water. SPAN should focus on regulating and forcing the water industry to comply with established standards and practices to ensure reliability, safety and affordability of water supply to households.
Finally, more awareness and education programmes need to be undertaken to promote better water consumption and conservation by consumers.
We consume above the international standards of water consumption, according to global statistics. Better awareness and education should promote more responsible water consumption.
Datuk Paul Selva Raj, President, Forum Air Malaysia