(Some of the quick steps taken the State Government when the state faced with serious water contamination and people’s anger over the matter got worse on daily basis. Image source: YB Hannah Yeoh)
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Couple months ago (and the month before as well), a good number of households (including yours truly) in the good state of Selangor was hit by prolonged water supply disruption. The culprit was water contamination – earlier from a source in Selangor (which the state government took swift actions) and later from sources from other states.
The disruption of water supply created havoc to our daily routine and we had to be on our toes when the SYABAS water tanker comes to the residential area. Thankfully to the quick work by the hard working people at SYABAS and other agencies related to water supply, the taps was running high again by afternoon of Deepavali and remained uninterrupted since then.
Inconvenience to the end users no doubt but then again, it is a wake call for the authorities & the state government to take notice and make plans for the future.
NST reported this at the start of the water supply crisis:-
Centre for Environment, Technology and Development chairman Gurmit Singh describes the water management system in the country as “fragmented”. “We are in this situation because we have badly managed our surface water resources. On top of that, we have the dichotomy between the federal and state governments.
“Most state governments have failed to protect and maintain their water catchment areas. This compromises and adversely affects our reservoirs and water supply. We rely on surface water, but much of it is being wasted through badly maintained and burst pipes.”
But, he says Malaysia has not reached the stage where it needs to resort to underground water sources. Gurmit calls for more efficient irrigation practices, as this will mean more water for consumers. He also suggests that industries be supplied with raw, not treated water. “They do not need high-quality water because they mainly use it for cooling purposes.”
(This was back in 2007 – do we have enough water catchment area protected and enforced in 2016 and beyond? The fact the water treatment closed down more often than usual due to water pollution seems to suggest that we are lacking the means to protect our natural resources. Image source: Google)
The Semenyih water treatment plant was shut down for numerous times this year despite the abundant supply of raw water (unlike 2 years, we were struggling to get raw water due to prolong hot season). Thus far, contamination of raw water has blamed and it had come to a point where the state government even began to get suspicious – is someone sabotaging the state government with the water issue?
Well, whether the suspicion turns out to be true or not, at the end of the day, it boils down to enforcement, enforcement and enforcement. Water contamination will not go away in the near future but addressing them before it gets worse and forces the shutdown of the water treatment systems is the key step here and it had to be done so consistently.
Back home, we had been prepping for water shortage and water rations way before 2014 when the level of water in the dams was dangerously low. What has changed in the years thereafter is information channels and the community coming together to assist each other in time of crisis.
The residents at my residential area belong to the resident association who in turn created a group chat room. So one gets the news of water disruption, this valuable information is quickly shared among the rest of the residents. Often it takes a couple of hours from the time the water treatment plant shuts down and to the time the taps at home go dry.
So if one gets the information as early as possible, there is more than enough time to quickly save up water. That means the house water tank to be full to top as well as the 3 huge water buckets (one is kept at the porch for ease of filling up water from SYABAS water tankers). Then there is several smaller buckets and in addition to that several containers of clean water for drinking & cooking.
And as an additional measure, couple of cartons of 1.5-litre drinking bottles also kept in the “doomsday storeroom” – 12 bottles cost less than RM10 per carton (which is a good deal). The trick is to buy them upfront & store before the news gets leaked on the water disruption and there is a mad rush to buy drinking water.
At one point, I even had to drive out to places where there is not water disruption to buy drinking water as the ones near my house had fully sold out (including those expense ones).
And we have been keeping sharp eyes on water leaks to ensure that in time of crisis and when water becomes precious, we don’t have hidden leaks that reduce our water storage. And in the past, major leaks had come from broken water tank and in the end, we had to make a whole water tank replacement (after several attempts to patch the holes in the old water tank). That replacement cost us almost RM1000 but it was worth it in the long run.
Keeping the water at the water tank aside, we set priority on which of the water containers we will use first so that when the water authorities send their water tankers, we can get ready the empty containers and pots to be replenished fast.
And there is a good reason for that. The water tankers do not come at a scheduled time and sometimes by the time they pass by the road in front of the house, the water level in the tanker is very low (they will send another tanker full of water later but we won’t know when). There were once the water tanker came in the early mornings when it was raining heavily and everyone was fast asleep – at times, the timing just sucks.
And big containers are not feasible to use when the water tankers come because it does not fit the hose of the tanker and when it is full, it will be difficult to carry them. So we empty the smaller containers into the bigger containers as and when the level of water comes down. We then arrange these smaller containers, buckets and pots nearer to the main door so that we don’t have to search for them later when the water tanker comes.
And everyone in the family chips on the effort of collecting the water from water tankers and this includes the kids who can carry the smaller containers. And like a well-oiled machine, we keep doing it until the big containers are full and thereafter the smaller containers as well (thanks to the SYABAS guys who wait patiently for the residents to get their supply of water)
In addition to the off-beat water tanker timing, we also did not forget about the natural source of water – the rainwater which we can use for dishwashing and for the toilets. Thankfully it rains often in the evenings so there is no lack of opportunities.
There is no high tech rainwater harvesting system in place yet but a rough, low tech system consisting of simple buckets and roof gutters does the job just effectively. But a proper rainwater harvesting system is still in the pipeline in the future.
In end, a good mix of quick information, plenty of upfront storage of water to last the whole family for a couple of days, prioritizing the usage of water and ensuring ways to replenish the supply of water kept us in the “cool” until the water contamination issue resolved and the supply is back to normal.
There are many people in this country still don’t have access to clean water for their daily use so it is important we manage the water resources effectively and conserve water as much as possible. Our water resources already under tremendous constraint to meet the ever-growing population and industrial needs, so faster we act, the better we can manage in the future.
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