Some flaws in 9MP on Water Sector

Data extracted from the 9th Malaysian Plan (9MP) show that RM8.20bil will be spent on water supply projects for the whole country and out of which RM1.57bil will be spent on the replacement of 4,613 km of old AC pipes. At the end of the 9MP, the Government hopes the Non Revenue Water (NRW) would be reduced to 30% in the year 2010.

The latest Malaysia water Industry Guide shows that in Malaysia there are 43,673km of old AC pipes out of a total of 97,283km of pipes in service in the country.

Assuming that the same quantity of AC pipes were to be replaced in every coming Malaysia Plan, it would take another 9 Malaysia Plans or 45 years to completely replace all these AC pipes. That is an awefully long time from now!

The studies of both local and foreign consultants in the past 20 years or so have shown that replacing old pipes indiscreetly is not value for money.

Most water authorities, when questioned, have over the last decade attributed the high levels of NRW to leaking AC pipes. If this assumption is correct, the Government should have implemented this long ago. And why not?

The proposed AC pipe replacement spread over a span of 45 years, if carried out without any strategic planning to cover all aspects of NRW reduction will not only be non-cost effective but also not be able to solve the inherent weaknesses of the present distribution systems in this country.

As had been pointed out by me and my friends in this field several times in various media over the last few years, it is futile to carry out such NRW reduction without a comprehensive pipe Asset Management Plan appropriate for every region.

Between 1993 and 2003, the total length of pipes has almost doubled with no more AC pipes laid during this period. Why then is the NRW deteriorating in Selangor and many other places? Is it because the new non-AC pipes laid are also leaking just as badly?

Unless there is a change of mindset of the high-level policy makers in the Government and a necessary course correction, water supply for us in Malaysia is surely going to be doomed.

An edited version of the above was published in The Star on 22/5/06. 2007