Time to stop water leakage in pipes
IT IS heartening to note that Puncak Niaga would be taking action to address the Non-Revenue Water (NRW) problem when it takes over the water distribution systems in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur under the privatisation of JBA Selangor (The Star, April 2).

NRW is primarily leakage and the under-recording of metres, but it also includes illegal and legal non-metered supply. In short, it is that portion of the treated water put into the supply system that earns no revenue.

In Malaysia, leakage constitutes 60 to 70% of NRW depending on locations. As such, it is useful to take a closer look at what part leakage reduction would have played to alleviate sufferings in the current water crisis.

For the first time in Selangor, NRW studies were carried out in Petaling Jaya and Sabak Bernam in 1986 and 1987. The studies indicated that leakage was a serious problem in the water supply distribution systems in those areas.

In Petaling Jaya, the overall NRW was found to be 36% of water produced with system leakage constituting about 50% of the total losses. In Sabak Bernam, the NRW was so serious being well over 50% of production that about 20% of consumers received water only at night.

In 1988, a national NRW study was carried out not only to determine the extent of leakage in most water supply districts in Malaysia but also to establish the need for NRW reduction and control on a nationwide basis.

This study estimated that the national average NRW in 1987 was 43% of production, of which 32% was due to leakage. In Selangor the levels of NRW in all districts were serious, varying between 35% (Kuala Lumpur) and 78% (Sepang).

The overall 1987 NRW level for Selangor was assessed to be 45% of production, 35% of which was system leakage. All the above studies recommended that widespread active NRW reduction and control programmes be implemented.

The main objective of these programmes is to reduce losses to an acceptable limit of below 25% which was set by the Asian Development Bank for loan financing. The reduction of losses will bring immediate cost savings in terms of production costs.

Furthermore, the water saved can be used to serve more consumers generate more revenue and to defer capital investment on new plants that would otherwise have to be incurred earlier to meet demands.

In Selangor, the state the importance of NRW improvement and during the late 1980s and early 1990s had initiated some NRW reduction programmes in Petaling Jaya, Sabak Bernam, and Kuala Selangor.

However, such initial success could not be maintained for long and soon the losses had regressed. The programme failed because of institutional and financial structure and management weakness, rather than lack of technical knowledge and expertise.

Selangor's 1997 figures on production and metered consumption indicated that the NRW was still high, approaching 40% of production. If is meter under-recording and other losses remained at 10%, system leakage would account for 30% of production.

In volumetric terms and based on a production of 2,550mld (million litres per day) 765mld of water produced had gone to waste. If system leakage had been reduced to 20%, the wastage would have been reduced to 510rnId, a saving of 255mld or sufficient water for about a quarter million consumers.

This amount of saving also far exceeds the projected production shortfall of 105mld for this year. So far in Selangor, the state authority has been concentrating on building expensive capital works by constructing dams and water treatment plants to cater for the ever-increasing demands for water supply in the state.

This is done with little attention given to NRW reduction and control. The reason could be that new water projects result in visible achievement, while NRW projects yield invisible results.

So far, the state authority has been just paying lip service to NRW reduction programmes as being generally a good approach to improve the water supply situation.

It is a classic situation where everyone knows the problem, everyone has some idea of what can be done about it but somehow no one gets around doing it.

With additional available water resources now becoming scarce, it is about time that action be taken to reduce all losses in the distribution systerns.

This action may be too late now to ease the current water crisis in the Klang Valley. But a stitch in time saves nine and, in the long run, NRW projects would go a long way towards improving the water supply situation generally and also in the event of another crisis due to drought, which can come again anytime since weather is so unpredictable nowadays.

nakedeyeview.com.my 2007