Wanton pipe replacement is wanton waste of money

In launching the National Water Conservation Campaign recently it was reported that an average Malaysian used 300 liters of water daily, "A wanton waste of water" (The Star, Aug 13).

It was also reported that Malaysia's high Non-Revenue Water (NRW) of 38% is due to leaking pipes and that RM1.4bil would be spent under the Ninth Malaysian Plan to replace old pipes.

Yes, a daily usage of 300 liters per head is a wanton waste of water. Similarly 38% NRW is also wantonly high. And to spend RM1.4bil in replacing old pipes would be a wanton waste of taxpayers' money!

NRW is that portion of the treated water put into the supply system that earns no revenue. Apart from loss through pipe leakages, under-recording of meters, illegal connections and legal non-metered supply are also causes. It is not just water lost due to old or leaking pipes as frequently reported in the media.

According to the latest Malaysia Water Industry Guide 2005, the national average NRW in 2003 is 39% and if the current NRW is 38% there is very little improvement over the last two-and-a-half years. At this rate, it would take another 35 years to reduce NRW to a satisfactory level at 25%!

The guides also provide details of pipelines and water losses in distribution. In summary, from 1999 to 2003, the length of pipelines in Malaysia increased by 6.6% whereas the water loss in distribution increased by 8.8% from 43 to 46.8 cubic meters per km of pipes per day.

This analysis shows that not only old pipes are leaking badly, but also the newly laid ones.

True, many AC pipes have already reached the end of their useful life many years ago and require replacement.

But like AC pipes, many other newly laid pipes, like steel, ductile iron, uPVC and PE also require rehabilitation and replacement. This is mainly due to poor workmanship during installation and jointing, wrong choice of type of pipes used and poor quality of pipeline materials and fittings.

Therefore the wholesale replacement of old pipes without any strategic planning to cover all aspect of underground assets will not be cost effective in reducing NRW.

In short, a wanton replacement of old pipes will result in a wanton waste of public fund.

An edited version of the above was published in The Star on Aug 21, 06 under the title "Sheer waste of water and money".

nakedeyeview.com.my 2007