Make Saving Water a Malaysian Culture

Monday February 22, 2010

Source: The Star

IN RECENT weeks, there has been much anxiety, even anger, at the water situation in many parts of the country, viz, Sabah, Klang Valley, Kluang and Penang to name a few.The current dry and hot spell exacerbated the situation. Consequently, there has been much talk about looking for alternative water sources, increasing bottled water production, cloud seeding, etc.All these have surfaced because we are facing drought conditions now. We have seen such happenings before, and such moves have been proposed before. But nothing was done.The fact is, Malaysians are generally a wasteful and apathetic lot in that too much water is used and wasted with little care. Water is provided very cheaply as the tariffs are heavily subsidised by the Government, ostensibly to enable the poor to get access to water and not to burden the masses.The Government also tries to attract foreign investors in the form of factories and multi-nationals into the country by offering cheap water tariffs.This is where the problems arise. Though the country is blessed with adequate rainfall and abundant raw water, cheap water tariffs and rapid development coupled with rapid population increase (natural increase and immigration) have combined to threaten the sustainability of water resources.Pollution, climate change, destruction of water catchments and other reasons have all exacerbated water resources in terms of deteriorating quantity and quality. Malaysians are largely a water wasting society in that large amounts of water are used. The average per capita water consumption is more than 300 litres a day.Urban dwellers are even using more than 500 litres per capita a day. There is great difficulty in getting Malaysians to save water because of low water tariffs and public apathy.The country also practises a water supply management approach rather than a water demand management (WDM) or a combined approach. Many rivers have reached their maximum supply capacities. Hence, water supply alone will not ensure sustainable water supply in future.Malaysia needs to quickly implement a WDM strategy. Malaysians can help solve much of our water woes if each of us were to reduce our water demand by just 10%. The idea is to get all water consumers on board.Better still, start drumming it into their heads and start getting people to save water. Once people get used to the idea of saving water, they will feel less pain and stress when the Government issues a water rationing order.One good way to start is to get everyone to reduce one flush a day. This is easily done as one does not need to flush every time one visits the toilet for a short call. Flush once after every two visits. Close the toilet cover to reduce smell.One flush is about nine litres of water. If every Malaysian flushes one flush less a day, we will save 234 million litres of water a day! This amount of water can fill up approximately 10 medium-sized dams, and the water saved can be utilised during a drought. We need to create a water saving society.

President,

Prof  CHAN NGAI WENG,
Water Watch Penang.