Consumers still using as much water as when dams were full

The Star, 1 Apr 2014

PETALING JAYA: Selangor’s dams are running dry, but its residents are still using nearly as much water as they were when the dams were full.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry secretary-general Datuk Loo Took Gee said people in Selangor were only using 7% less water despite the water rationing in the state.

As of yesterday morning, the Sungai Selangor dam in Kuala Kubu Baru recorded a 36.53% capacity. Its critical level is 30% – which will be reached in just two weeks if water levels consistently drop.

“Despite the water rationing, the regulator has found that the (amount of) water saved is a mere 7%. The demand has only dropped by (that much),” Loo said in an interview, citing National Water Services Commission figures.

It was reported that the demand for treated water in Selangor was 4,641 million litres a day.

This would mean that a mere 325 million litres are saved each day, which Loo said was not enough. Malaysia, she said, had low water tariffs and Selangor gave 20 cubic metres of water for free to its residents each month.

This did not motivate people to save water, and the ministry was mulling the possibility of a water surcharge to stretch the state’s resources, Loo said.

“It’s a possibility in light of the present dilemma that we have right now…If you go beyond a certain consumption, you must increase (charges),” she added.

According to the Malaysian Water Industry Guide 2013, Selangor residents are charged RM0.57 per 1,000 litres for the first 20,000 litres. This is bumped to RM0.72 for the first 30,000 litres and RM0.77 for the first 35,000 litres.

The state’s last tariff review was in 2006.

Loo said the Government might consider declaring a water emergency before dams reached critical levels.

“We’re not going to wait until the levels reach 30%,” Loo said, referring to the Sungai Selangor dam, the state’s largest.

“I hope that by the end of April there’ll be more rain coming. We have to prepare the necessary measures needed to be invoked, just in case,” she said, declining to say when either a surcharge or emergency might take effect.

She added that the ministry was considering taking water from the Labu and Ngoi-ngoi treatment plants in Negri Sembilan to supplement Selangor’s water needs during this time.

If the critical level is reached, a water emergency can be declared and the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister is given discretionary powers to do whatever he wants to conserve water resources.

He would have the power to ban car-washing and garden-watering as well as take action against those violating the water emergency rule.