We cannot live without water. But dirty water will surely make us sick - very sick. So clean water is a basic need to a healthy life.

Sad to say, the quality of tap water in Klang Valley, including the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, has deteriorated since the mid 90s. And currently the occurrence of dirty water is so widespread that nearly all water consumers in Klang Valley, estimated to be about 6 million, are consistently receiving tap water that is not wholesome and not fit for human consumption.

In addition to the dirty water problem, many water consumers in Klang Valley have often suffered water disruptions for days on end due to burst mains and water shortages.

The worse has yet to come. With the undue delay in the implementation of the interstate Pahand/Selangor raw water transfer project, consumers in the Klang Valley would have to face extensive water rationing from year 2008 to year 2012.

What has gone wrong? Can we see any light at the end of the tunnel?

Read more on:
The Institutional Setup,
Water Woes Under JBA,
Water Woes Under PUAS &
Water Woes After Privatisation.  


To begin with, let's take a look at the institutional set up of water supply in the state of Selangor. Under the Federal Constitution, water supply is a state matter and the Selangor state government, through the state water supply department (JBA Selangor) before its corporatisation in mid 2002, was responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of water supply in the state including the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. Before the corporatisation of JBA Selangor, the state government had already privatised all water treatment plants in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to three private companies, namely Konsortium Abbas (Sg. Semenyih treatment plant), SPLASH (Sg. Selangor Phase 1 & 3 and Puncak Niaga (Sg. Selangor Phase 2 and all other water treatment plants in Selangor and KL).

JBA Selangor was corporatised in 2002 and was known as Perbadanan Urus Air Selangor (PUAS). Most, if not all the staff in PUAS were ex-JBA Selangor staff who have opted to join PUAS. Notable exceptions were the CEO and the Financial Controller who were both seconded from the Selangor state civil service. The director of the former JBA Selangor was made the deputy CEO of PUAS.

At the end of 2004, the State Government of Selangor and the Federal Government granted a concession to Syrikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Sybas) to take over PUAS for a period of 30 years commencing on 1/1/05. The shareholders of Syabas are Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd (70%) and Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (30%) while the Federal Government holds one golden share.

Read more:
Water Woes Under JBA
Water Woes Under PUAS
Water Woes After Privatisation

Articles included in this section

Article No.


Publication & Date


JBA Selangor can't take full blame

The Star April 6, 1998


Stop being naïve over cloud-guiding

NST May, 1998


New Wangsa Maju plant may end up as white elephant

NST April 30, 1998


Climatic Changes caused by El Nino

Unpublished June 11, 1998


Like In Spain, The Rain Falls Mainly In The Plain

Unpublished April 21, 1998


Only modern tools can improve water systems

The Star July 14, 1998


Time to stop water leakage in pipes

The Star April 14, 1998


Explore other ways of tapping water supply

The Star May 14, 1998


Effective ways to reduce wastage of potable water

NST May 16, 1998


Dams, distribution systems are vital

The Star May 29, 1998


Water shortage could be due to operation of dams

The Star June 30, 1998


Plan now to meet future water needs

NST Aug 13, 1998


Water Shortage In The Klang Valley -- The Worst Is Yet To Come Unpublished


Dearer Water is Inevitable NST March 17, 2001


Dirty Tap Water & Rampant Use Of Domestic Filters – Cause For Concern Unpublished

3.1 Introduction
Prior to 1998, JBA Selangor appeared to be performing quite smoothly without many complaints by the consumers on dirty water or water shortages. However, this was not a real testimony that the department was efficient and capable.

The test came in early 98 when there was drought due to El Nino. JBA was completely at a loss of what to do with water shortages.

The drought laid bare the weaknesses of not only JBA Selangor but also the department of Water Works of the Federal JKR in handling a water crisis.

3.2 Authorities incapable of handling water shortage
There was a good deal of talks since mid 90s about the State's intention to privatise JBA Selangor to Puncak Niaga. This had caused a lot of uncertainties to many employees in JBA Selangor. On top of this, employees who left or retired were not replaced and this had resulted in shortages of manpower in some key sections of JBA Selangor. The inherent weaknesses of JBA Selangor became apparent when in early 1998, Klang Valley was short of water and put under water rationing. The water department was completely helpless in dealing with the situation. (See "JBA Selangor can't take full blame "

Not only was JBA Selangor helpless during the water crisis in 1998; the Selangor state and the Federal governments were also equally helpless, ineffective and gullible. Meagre panic measures were taken by the authorities such as treating water from ponds using portable plants and exploiting groundwater to alleviate the water shortages. To top it all, the Federal Government had even consented to an American "hi-tech bomoh" to "guide" clouds over the water catchment areas in the Klang Valley to induce rainfall! (See "Stop being naïve over cloud-guiding ".)

Helpless or not, the Federal government seemed to know how to look for golden opportunities to create a costly projects in midst of a crisis. It was announced out of the blue that a new water treatment plant at Wangsa Maju -- drawing 45 million litres of water per day from Klang Gate Dam -- was awarded to a contractor at an astronomical cost. (See "New Wangsa Maju plant may end up as white elephant ".)

3.3 El Nino blamed for water shortage
During the water crisis in 1998, El Nino had been cited as the main cause of low water levels in all water supply dams in Klang Valley and was made a whipping boy for water shortages during the second quarter of 1998. Even Datuk Kam U Tee, the ex Pengarah of Pulau Pinang Water Department and a senior and respected member of Malaysian water industry contended then that "the drought event that we have experienced was said to be worst in the last 150 years." His statement appeared in The Star of June 5, 1998 in spite of the earlier statement made by the Malaysian Meteorological Services Department that the 1997/8 El Nino did not hit the region as badly as in 1982/3. To put the picture in the right perspective, please (See "Climatic Changes caused by El Nino"). It is to be noted that from rainfall records of meteorological station near Langat Dam, the drought of 1998 (Jan - May) was computed to be only one in 13-year occurrence, a far-far cry from the a one in 150-year drought as stated by Datuk Kam.

El Nino or not, it is a fact that when it is raining cats and dogs in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, little or no rain falls in water catchment areas of Langat, Klang Gate and Semenyih dams. I tried to explain this phenomenon in my article "Like In Spain, The Rain Falls Mainly In The Plain ". This article was not accepted by our dailies - presumably because it was not written by an expert climatologist!

3.4 JBA Selangor lacked expertise to manage distribution net work
During the water crisis, one of the weaknesses of JBA Selangor was starkly exposed in its complete failure to properly manage water rationing in many water-starved areas in Klang Valley. Many parts of the affected areas were left high and dry without water for days on end. Whatever the lame excuses, the fact remained that JBA Selangor lacked information of its pipe network and the basic tools of modern technology to operate a water distribution system efficiently. This deficiency was the subject of my letter published in The Star "Only modern tools can improve water systems".

All those years JBA Selangor had failed to maintain proper records of all water distribution networks in Klang Valley. Coupled with its long-standing and ingrained "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" philosophy regarding the maintenance of water distribution systems, there had been a significant amount of treated water lost through pipe leakage. The seriousness of the loss, referred to as a part of Non Revenue Water (NRW), was brought to the notice of the public in my letter published in The Star "Time to stop water leakage in pipes".

3.5 No viable proposal by authorities to reduce water consumption

Bogged down with water rationing in the dearth of resources in JBA Selangor and the Federal PWD, no tangible proposals were put forward by the authorities to lessen the suffering of water consumers during that period of prolonged water shortages and to assure them that this unhappy episode would not recur in future. Instead, the usual campaigns were launched by the authorities to advise water consumers to reduce their daily use of potable water - like water for brushing teeth, gardening and car washing.

The only notable step forward was the suggestion of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to collect rainwater from roofs in storage tanks as a long-term, cost-effective solution to reduce water consumption. However, this requires amendments to the Uniform Building By-laws and as usual this topic was cleanly forgotten after the rains came. As a concerned water consumer, I have not only fully supported rainwater collection but also put forward some other alternatives to reduce the consumption of potable water. (See "Explore other ways of tapping water supply" and also "Effective ways to reduce wastage of potable water".)

3.6 Dams and distribution systems are vital to ensure adequate supply

The 1998 water crisis has also glaringly exposed other inherent shortcomings of JBA Selangor and other relevant authorities in the timely development and efficient operation and maintenance of water supply systems in Klang Valley. To ensure adequate supply of potable water, both source developments including dams, water treatment works, appropriate distribution systems and their operations and maintenance are important. However, one water expert, Datuk Kam contended that "Dams not the answer" and "Proper rationing is better way", in his letters to The Star on May 16, 1998 and May 22, 1998 respectively. That dams are not the answer must have amazed water consumers in Klang Valley when many of them were then not receiving a drop of water for days on end. I think my letter to The Star "Dams, distribution systems are vital" presents a more balanced view on the need to build dams and to maintain distribution systems. Hopefully my article would dispel the misconceptions presented by Datuk Kam.

3.7 Water shortage due to overdrawing from dams
The necessity to build dams for additional water storage in Selangor cannot be disputed as I have explained in my earlier article. However, their operation is also important to ensure enough supply from them during drier months. As the Meteorological Services Department had confirmed that the 1998 El Nino did not hit our region as badly as in 1982, the water levels in our water supply dams should not have fallen as drastically as they had. This is because the severity of 1998 drought was computed to be only one in 13-year occurrence, very much lower than that used for the design of dams. This led me to suspect that the water supply dams (Langat and Semenyih) had not been operated in accordance with prudent practice. My "investigation" led me to believe that there could be a lavish and wasteful release of water from these two dams. My letter to The Star "Water shortage could be due to operation of dams" helped to shed some light on the real cause of our water crisis in 1998.

3.8 Timely development of new water sources essential

The only viable alternative to overdrawing of water from dams to meet demand is to develop new water sources early. In the midst of the water crisis of 1998, the construction of Sg. Selangor Water Treatment Works Phase II (SSP II) was in full swing. But nothing was mentioned about the next and last phase of the project i.e. SSP III. It must be noted that the development of the whole of Sg. Selangor Water Supply Schemes (SSP I to III) was identified and planned more than decade ago with each phase to commence and be completed within a certain time frame in order to meet demand. But suddenly the SSP III water supply scheme came alive after a long period of stagnation and was hastily awarded at an astronomical price in late 1998. See "Plan now to meet future water needs".

Again, the requirement to transfer raw water from Pahang to Selangor was identified in the 80s and it was reported that work on designing the project was to have started in 1999 with construction scheduled to commence in 2001 for completion in 2006. It is now 2002 and still no one has any inkling of when this mammoth -- but now urgent -- inter-state water transfer project is going to kick off. See ”Water Shortage In The Klang Valley -- The Worst Is Yet To Come”. I will not be surprised that one fine day in a-not-too-distant future, the Government will suddenly announce that this project is to be awarded - again at a highly inflated price?

3.9 Hefty increase in water tariffs

The rain finally came in the second half of 1998 and the agony of water consumers was soon forgotten. Everything seemed to be back to normal except that consumers were beginning to complain about dirty water coming out of their taps.

In the meantime, all the remaining water treatment plants (27 in number) in the State of Selangor were privatised to Puncak Niaga. And the construction of SSP III stage one and the planning of the inter-state water transfer from Pahang were both reported to be progressing well.

So, there was once again the air of complacency amongst the authorities on water supply to Klang Valley. But this did not last very long as in early 2001 the Selangor state government suddenly announced a hefty increase in water tariffs, 20% to 60% for domestic consumption and 50% to 60% for commercial and industrial consumers. Its main reason for the increase was to reduce government's annual subsidy of RM1bil to JBA Selangor. The current average revenue collected from domestic and industrial consumers based on existing tariffs was only 77 sen per cubic meter while the cost of production amounted to RM1.80 - a subsidy of almost 60% by the Government. In spite of the facts and figures presented by the Government the hefty increases did not go down well with the water consumers in the state.

To determine whether the hefty increase of water tariffs was justifiable, I took a look at all the facts and figures available and analysed them rationally. A paper entitled "Dearer Water is Inevitable" was prepared and was published in NST. In short, the increase was necessary because firstly, the State was purchasing all treated water from the treatment plant operators at a prohibitive price and secondly, the reduction of NRW had not being seriously addressed.

3.10 Dirty tap water & rampant use of filters
As with all other unpopular government policies, the hue and cry by water consumers in Klang Valley over the hefty increases in water tariffs seemed to have abated after a short time. But they were still not content with the quality of water they got. More and more complaints of dirty water are appearing in the press and everyday conversation. Again, JBA Selangor is helpless and is not doing anything but blaming old leaking asbestos cement (AC) pipes for causing the dirty water problem. As a result of government's apathy, more and more water consumers are turning to installing domestic water filters at their premises.

I decided then to investigate the quality of water supplied to some of my friends' houses. Six water samples and one used filter cartridge were collected and sent to a laboratory for testing. The results obtained were analysed and a paper was prepared, entitled "Dirty Tap Water & Rampant Use Of Domestic Filters – Cause For Concern".

The article was not published in our dailies; NST thought it was too long and too "academic" and "technical" while The Star thought it would be best to be written as a feature. The story did eventually appear in The Star, Section 2 on March 21, 2002; though the part on rampant use of water filters was conspicuously left out. But the response from JBA was most disappointing. The deputy director of JBA disputed the results of the tests saying that I was not qualified to collect the samples! What a nincompoop!

Read more…
Water Woes Under PUAS
Water Woes After Privatisation





Article No. Title Publication & Date


Need to improve water quality

The Star Jan 29, 2002


Dirty way to sell water filters

The Star April 23, 2002


Do all water filters have dept's approval?

The Star April 22, 2002


Illegal to install water filters to service pipes

The Sun Oct 2004


PUAS, what about banning all domestic water filters?

The Sun Sept 19 2003



M’kini Jan 21 2004


PUAS' about-turn decision on water vending machines intriguing!

The Sun  Feb 05, 2004   


Tap water should be fit to drink

The Sun April 22, 2002


Address dirty water problem fast

The Star Nov 16, 2002


Consider law suit against PUAS for dirty water

M’kini Sept 29, 2003


AC Pipes Made Scapegoat For Dirty Tap Water



Planned approach needed to ensure clean water supply

NST April 25, 2002


Replacing pipes no solution to water woes

The Star Feb 19,2002


Irresponsible of PUAS to shift blame

M’kini, Dec 15, 2003


Go Ahead and Test the Water Quality

The Sun Jan 28, 2003


Water tests should be for all of Klang Valley

The Star Jan 28, 2003


Works Minister denies water is unclean

The Sun Jan 31, 2003


PUAS should come clean about water quality

The Star Oct 3, 2003


Accurate facts and figures needed to be credible



Overdrawn dams causing shortage

The Star March 28, 2002


Classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul

The Star  Sept 16, 2004


PUAS is barking up the wrong tree

M’kini & The Sun  Sept 22 04


Award only one single contract for water supply services

The Star Sept 27, 2004


Klang Valley water shortage – The worst is yet to come

The Sun May 14, 2004


A Herculean task to resolve water woes The Star May 26, 2004


Finally a light at the end of tunnel The Star April 28, 2004


Get water supply priorities right

The Edge Aug 9 2004


Clean slate for water privatisation

The Star Sept 10, 2004


No-Go To Privatize Puas Now The Star Nov 2004


Is it viable to privatise PUAS?

NST Nov 4, 2004


The serious impact of PUAS privatization The Star Dec 13, 2004


Exposure just the tip of the iceberg

The Sun Nov 13, 2004

JBA Selangor was corporatised in 2002 and was known as Perbadanan Urus Air Selangor (PUAS).

As a corporation, PUAS, though wholly controlled by the Selangor State Government, should be operated as a business concern, like any privately owned company.

But because most of the staff were from ex-JBA who were well entrenched in their old way of doing their work, not only there was no improvement to the water supply but also the quality of services deteriorated.

4.1 PUAS closing its eyes on water filters, vending machines and dirty water
a. Water Filters
The widespread occurrence of dirty water has invariably helped to promote the sale of domestic filters. Many filter promoters took advantage of the government's silence and indifference to the plight of water consumers and made wild and damaging statements on the quality and standard of our drinking water. Hoping to draw the attention of the water authorities on the unethical practice, I wrote an article "Need to improve water quality" which was published in The Star on Jan 29, 2002.

Again my article seems to have fallen on the blind eyes of the authorities and as a result the promoters of water filters became more unprofessional and unscrupulous in the promotion of their products. One promoter even had the guts to use the test results of the six water samples I took which was published in the story in The Star on March 21, 2002 and used them to promote its water filters. I was terribly upset and wrote a letter to The Star, which was published on April 23, 2002. (See "Dirty way to sell water filters")

Seeing that the promotion on the use of water filters is getting more aggressive, I tried to highlight to the public the dangers associated with their use. The article "Do all water filters have dept's approval?" was published in The Star on April 22, 2002.

The consumers just do not seem to care about the possible contamination of public water supply due to the installation of water filters. Many of them are adamant that, as PUAS can not supply clean water, they have the right to install domestic water filters to the service pipes in their premises. They are obviously ignorant of the Water Supply Rules which forbid installation of unapproved fittings to all service pipes. In response to one recalcitrant I highlighted again the danger of installing water filters in my letter to The Sun “Illegal to install water filters to service pipes” (The Sun Oct 04)

b. Water-vending machines
Besides the rampant installation of domestic water filters, water-vending machines along five-foot ways in commercial areas in Petaling Jaya suddenly appeared in 2003. These machines were also directly connected to the service pipes. Initially MBPJ carted away a number of them because they were illegally installed and were obstructing the pedestrian traffic along the five-foot ways. Similarly PUAS outlawed them because they were illegally connected to the service pipes. I was pleased by the authorities’ actions, particularly by PUAS and I wrote a letter “PUAS, what about banning all domestic water filters?” supporting PUAS’s action but also suggested that it should also ban all water filters.

But my elation was short-lived. I was very disappointed when I learnt, through the media, that the President of the Consumers’ Association of Shah Alam (CASSA) had urged PUAS to work with the water vendors instead of banning their machines. Aghast, I wrote “Just Sue PUAS, PERIOD!” so cross with CASSA’s proposal.

And soon after, the CEO of PUAS allowed the water-vending machines to stay with some minor changes to their connections to the public mains. I wrote “PUAS' about-turn decision on water vending machines intriguing!” and the rest is history!

c. Dirty water
The rampant use of domestic water filters in the Klang Valley is simply because the tap water is dirty and not fit for human consumption.

I started to highlight this issue in the printed media in 2001 and had even collected some water samples for testing in the laboratory. The story was published in The Star in early 2002 (See Water Woes Under JBA Selangor).

Subsequent to the above, I wrote a couple of letters to the print media; one to The Sun “Tap water should be fit to drink”, one to The Star “Address dirty water problem fast” and another to Malaysiakini “Consider law suit against PUAS for dirty water” as provided for under the Consumer Protection Act. It has always been my contention as potable water is a “goods” under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, affected consumers should consider taking action against PUAS under this Act.

In the midst of all the hoo-ha about dirty water by consumers, the Selangor state government suddenly came out with a proposal to replace all AC pipes (about 5,000km) in the State at a cost of RM1.2bil to overcome the dirty water problem. To me, it is the most ludicrous proposal I've ever heard. Again the authorities have found an unfortunate whipping-boy for the dirty water problem in Klang Valley. See my article "AC Pipes Made Scapegoat For Dirty Tap Water ", I also made my point clear in my article in NST "Planned approach needed to ensure clean water supply" and a similar article "Replacing pipes no solution to water woes" in The Star.

In addition to using old AC pipes as a scapegoat for dirty water, PUAS’ general manger of operations also attributed the dirty water problem to pipe repairs and shoddy work by housing developers’ pipe-laying contractors in a report in NST (Nov 25, 2003). In response to this report I wrote an article “Irresponsible of PUAS to shift blame” which was published in Malaysiakini.

The dirty water was so rampant that even those living in ivory tower were affected. In early 2003, when the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin decided to test the quality of water supplied to Kuala Lumpur, I supported him by writing two letters to the print media; one to The Sun “Go on, test the water quality” and the other to The Star “Water tests should be for all of Klang Valley”. But, the Works Minister insisted that the water was safe to drink. Exasperated, I wrote a letter to The Sun “Works Minister denies water is unclean ”. The results of tests on water quality were reported to be unsatisfactory and it was then that the Works Minister finally admitted that the water quality in the Klang Valley needed improvement. But the Selangor State Secretary still denied that the water was unclean. On this I wrote a letter to The Star “Finally, agreement on quality of water”. As usual, the results of tests were not published and soon the whole issue was forgotten!

4.3 Muddle over water issues
While the water authorities are going on a wild goose chase and barking up the wrong tree vis-à-vis the supply shortage and dirty water problem, some learned people find pleasure in muddling up the situation further by making inaccurate and misleading statements in the press. Prof. Dr Chan Ngai Weng in his article to The Sun (April 12, 2002) "It pays to curb water demand" contends that, amongst others, by reducing NRW by half, many states would not need to build large and expensive dams and that Malaysia's average water price at RM0.34 is simply too dirt cheap; and ranked lowest amongst 16 most developed countries not endowed with high rainfall. As a senior member of the water industry, I am duty bound to point out a few areas of inaccuracies in Prof. Dr Chan's statements and to put the picture in the right perspective. I wrote an article to The Sun "Accurate facts and figures needed to be credible" but it was not published (for reasons that it might hurt and belittle our learned professor?).

4.4 Overdrawn from dams causing water shortages
The 1998 water rationing in Klang Valley was reputed to be due to El Nino. But my suspicion was that the water shortage was due to overdrawing from the dams. My suspicion of the mismanagement of dams was proven correct when in early 2002 many areas in Klang Valley again experienced water shortages. The water production figures of Sg. Langat and Sg. Semenyih treatment plants, published in our dailies, were 477 million litres per day (mld) and 637mld respectively as against their safe yields, based on a one in 30-year drought, of 386mld and 645mld. Therefore the treatment plant operators have been overdrawing from the dams to a tune of 25% from Langat Dam and 17% from Semenyih Dam. More details on this subject is presented in my article "Overdrawn dams causing shortage" to The Star.

PUAS was not only not fully aware of the significance of overdrawing water from these two dams but also had condoned and apparently approved this imprudent practice by the treatment plant operators. In the report on "Why water shortages occur" published by NST on April 7, 2002, the deputy director of PUAS (formerly the director of JBA Selangor) was quoted to have said "…normal production at these two dams were higher than their designed production capacity because there was little choice but to meet the ever-growing demand of four million water-thirsty Klang Valley folk." So, my assertion that the main cause of water shortages in Klang Valley is the result of overdrawing from dams has been proven beyond any doubt!

Again in September 2004, Kajang was reported to subject to water cuts. This was because the water level in Sg. Langat dam was at its critical level. From published data, it was clear that there was a 20% overdraw of water from the dam. To remedy this, PUAS was pumping 10 to 15 million of water per day from Sg. Semenyih dam to supplement the Langat dam; a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul! A full account of this gross mismanagement of dams was written to The Star under the title: ”Classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

4.5 Other issues compounding the water woes
The water woes in Klang Valley had been largely due to the “denial syndrome” that had afflicted the water authorities in the Federal and the Selangor state governments.

In addition, the authorities’ actions or lack of it and attitude left a lot to be desired.

On one occasion, when the residents of an apartment approached the CEO of PUAS to adopt a lower tariff code to charge for the water consumed, the latter arrogantly told the residents to go court if they were not happy with the tariff. He further announced that PUAS was running at huge annual deficits and that the current tariffs were too low compared to the rates paid to the water treatment plants concessionaires. On this issue I wrote “PUAS is barking up the wrong tree” to Malaysiakini and The Sun.

On another occasion the Selangor Meteri Beasr announced that a marginal tariff increase would be necessary for the state government to reduce losses suffered by PUAS and for the latter to improve water quality and services. He also suggested that the water treatment concessionaires should take over the water supply distribution so as to reduce the high NRW. On this issue I wrote a letter “Lump all water services in one contract” to The Star.

Even though water shortage in the Klang Valley loomed large in consumers’ mind, the water authorities were still dragging their feet in the implementation of the inter-state water transfer from Pahang. I first brought up this subject in 2002 and the letter to The Sun “Klang Valley water shortage – The worst is yet to come” was the second time I had raised this issue. Another letter on the same subject entitled “A Herculean task to resolve water woes ” was also published in The Star.

4.6 Light at the end of the tunnel?
In early 2004, the cabinet, under the new Prime Minister, was reshuffled and the Water Supply Department was moved from the Ministry of Works to the new Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications under Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik. Soon after taking over the Water Department, Dr Lim announced a number if initiatives to revamp the water supply sector in the country. Amongst the new initiatives was the setting up of the National Water Commission (NWC), the establishment of bench-marks for water supply services and the deferment of water supply privatization until after the setting up of NWC. The announcement was a breath of fresh air for water consumers especially in Klang Valley who had endured dirty tap water and frequent water shortages for a long time. I was also elated and wrote a letter to The Star “Finally a light at the end of tunnel”.

But “all talk and no action” seemed to be the trade mark of the new water Minister. The most urgent project, i.e. Pahang/Selangor raw water transfer, was already more than two years behind schedule but the new Minister was not only too complacent about it but was also adamant that without this project Selangor would not face any water shortage in 2008. In an interview with The Edge in July 2004, Dr. Lim said by cleaning up the rivers, looking for groundwater sources and reducing NRW, Selangor would not be short of water. In response to this I wrote a letter to The Edge “Get water supply priorities right”.

Before the water department was transferred from the Works Ministry, it was reported that the Selangor Government had already given the green light to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Sybas) to proceed with the privatization of PUAS. Syabas, was 70% owned by Puncak Niaga Holding, the biggest water treatment plant concessionaire in Selangor. The main reason of privatization of PUAS was to resolve the high percentage of NRW. Surely as Puncak Niaga’s business was supplying water and Syabas’ was to reduce NRW, putting two together was a conflicting proposition. On this issue I wrote a letter to The Star entitled: “Revamp water services holistically”.

The privatization of PUAS was officially confirmed at end of Oct. 2004 when Dr Lim, in his about-turn decision, announced that PUAS had to be privatized to Syabas because it was technically insolvent. But how could Syabas turn around PUAS without hefty increases in water tariffs and enormous subsidies from the Federal Government? Looking into this issue, three letters were written; one to The Star entitled “No-Go To Privatize Puas Now”, another to NST entitled: “Is it viable to privatise PUAS?” and the third one to The Star entitled:”No need to hurry”.

Many were surprised and could not understand why PUAS had to be privatized without waiting for the setting up of Water Supply Commission and other regulatory devises. The answer was not difficult to discern as nowadays all powers in almost every ministry have been usurped by the central agencies. Soon after the announcement my friend and I wrote to The Sun a letter entitled: “Exposure just the tip of the iceberg”.

At the way the authorities are going about solving the perennial water woes in Klang Valley could anybody still see a light at the end of the tunnel?


Article No.




Water privatization - are the states trying to beat the red light?

M’kini March 2, 2005


Our new broom sweeps in more water woes

M’kini July 20, 2005


Action not words needed to deal with a recalcitrant outfit



Dam crisis due to overdrawing

The Star Aug 25, 2005


Solve water crisis, not just talk about it

The Star Sept 22, 2005


Where has the water gone?

The Star Oct 12, 2005


Appalled by water authority's ignorance on Sg. Selangor Dam

The Star Dec6, 2005


The naked truth about smelly water

The Star March 9, 2006


Why test water using parameters for sewage effluents?

NST March 29, 2006


Close down polluting landfills immediately

The Star April 5, 2006


Why no Cabinet Committee on dirty water?

The Star March 21, 2006


Water tariffs: Income-based won't work

NST July 19, 2006


Raise rates to hurt those who waste

The Star Aug 3, 2006


Water supply designed for five

The Star Aug 9, 2006


Leakage control not the only criterion

NST Aug 18, 2006


Wrong to base tariff revision on reduction of NRW

The Star Oct 19, 2006


Some flaws in 9MP on water sector

The Star May 22, 2006


Sheer waste of water and money

The Star Aug 21, 2006


Watered down by bad workmanship

The Star Aug 29, 2006


Selangor water transfer project - get on with it!

Malaysiakini May 31, 2005


Act now to save resources – conservation must become a way of life

The Star Aug 8, 2006


Act now to avert a crisis

The Star Aug 22, 2006


Water plans not viable – water rationing inevitable

The Star Dec 5, 2006


Unwise to privatize rivers

The Star Feb 14, 2006


Unreasonable for consumers to pay for stolen meters

The Stat Aug 14, 2006



PUAS was privatized to Syabas effective 01/01/2005 contrary to the pronouncement by the new Minister for Water that water privatization would be put on hold until after the setting up of all the regulating devices. This privatization was bulldozed through by the Selangor state government with full support from the central agencies. The new Minister for Water was powerless in this respect and had to humbly swallow his own words.

With the back-door approach to the privatization of PUAS and a toothless tiger as a Water Minister, many in the Klang Valley do not have much hope that their taps will be smooth flowing with clean water in years to come.

When water was taken out of the Ministry of Works and a new broom was put in charge, there was hope that the water woes in Klang Valley would soon become a thing of the past. But after the privatization of PUAS, the water issue in the country appeared at sixes and sevens with the water Minister making u-turns at will and with almost every state water authority free to pronounce policy at its whim and fancy.

On this “free-for-all” state of affairs, two letters were written and published; one “Water privatization- federal government losing control?” and the other “Minister for water wishy-washy”.

When the federal government appeared to be in topsy-turvy in dealing with the water supply problems in the country, the Selangor water concessionaire, Syabas took advantage of the situation and blatantly contravened the concession agreement by importing pipes from Indonesia for its pipe replacement program. A letter on this episode was written (but unpublished) entitled: “Action not words needed to deal with a recalcitrant outfit”.


I’ve written on this subject a number of times. The first was in 1998 when water supply in Selangor was still under JBA. At that time JBA blamed El Nino for causing the Langat and Semenyih dams to dry up. But the severity of drought during the 1998 El Nino was estimated to be only 1-in-13 year while the dams were designed for a drought return period of 1-in-30 year. The main cause of the dams drying up was due to a lavish and wasteful release of water from these dams.

Then in year 2002 the same alarm bell sounded again after JBA was corporatised and run under PUAS. It was then indisputably established that the dam operators were overdrawing to a tune of 20% from these dams! And PUAS was fully aware of this and condoned the actions of the operators.

Again in 2005 after PUAS was privatized the drying up Selangor dams was highlighted again and the authorities simply blamed the dry weather for the cause. Two letters were written to refute the water authorities’ contention. See “Dam crisis due to overdrawing” and “Solve water crisis, not just talk about it”.

Towards the third quarter of 2005, it was announced again that the water levels in Selangor dams were falling due to lower rainfall. The worse was the Sg. Selangor Dam, completed in 2003, where its water capacity by mid September had receded by more than 50%! I was astounded by the revelation and so I gathered some relevant information like rainfall records and the amount released from the dam for treatment. A simple computation revealed that more than 50% of the dam’s impounded water was “unaccounted”. Something was amiss and I wrote to The Star a letter entitled “Where has the water gone?” to prove my point that the low level of water in the dam was not due to drought.

Lucky more rain came towards the end of that year to avert the water crisis and the issue was quickly forgotten.

But two months later and totally out of the blue, a letter entitled “Sg. Selangor Dam behaving normally” written by the Deputy Director (Technical) of Selangor Water Monitoring Department, was published in The Star. In his letter, he not only misinterpreted what I had written in my previous letter but also presented misleading information on Sg. Selangor Dam. I was completely taken aback that The Star had allowed this letter to be published. I spoke to the Editor and told him pointedly that by publishing the uncalled-for letter, my credibility had been badly affected. He agreed therefore to publish my no-holds-barred reply entitled “Appalled by water authority's ignorance on Sg. Selangor Dam”.

[Soon after the last letter was published, something happened to my car which I found it difficult to comprehend. In one Friday lunch in Bangsa, I parked my car as usual in the underground car park and handed the car keys to an attendant at the car-wash station to have my car washed. After lunch, I drove off to return home. But the car soon stalled and I was lucky to be on a main road with parking spaces by its side. I parked my car and called CBT whether he knew any car mechanic nearby. He came and we went to a car repair workshop nearby. A mechanic came to my car to take a look and after a quick check, told me that the fuel pump was not functioning. I called my mechanic in PJ and asked him to get a tow truck to tow the car to the workshop. CBT was kind enough to send me home in his car. In the evening I went to the workshop and the mechanic told me that there was nothing wrong with the fuel pump! The problem was that the fuel pump cable was wrongly connected! This could only be done by someone who came to the car washing centre and meddled with the cable. And who was this SOMEONE?]


Many consumers in Klang Valley had a rude shock one morning in early March 2006 when foul water came out of their taps. Initially, the water authorities attributed the smelly water to discharge of effluents from animal farms, factories, garbage dumps, and oxidation ponds sited along Sg. Selangor. After further investigation, it was determined that the cause was due to the discharge from the leachate pond at Bt. Tagar Landfill. I post a few questions in my letter to The Star entitled: “It’s clear why tap water was smelly”. Simply put; it was the dereliction of duty by all parties in the management and operation of our water resources.

Even though the source of pollution was identified, there were denials.

First, it was reported that though smelly, the water was safe to drink as laboratory tests were carried out to determine the quality of the water produced. But what was shocking was that the water was tested using the parameters set out under the Environment Quality (Sewage and Industrial Effluent Regulations 1979)! I wrote to NST a letter entitled: “Why test water using parameters for sewage effluents?” questioning why the tests were not carried out under the National Standards for Drinking Water..

Secondly, the operator of the Bukit Tagar Landfill categorically denied that the smelly water was due to the yet to complete leachate treatment facilities.

With a lot of confusion, the Government promptly acted by: 1) instructing DOE to investigate the cause of the smelly water and 2) setting up a Cabinet Committee to address the issue. To me all these actions by the Government are superfluous as the only practical solution to solve the smelly water problem is to close all sanitary landfills which are located within the Sg. Selangor river basin. See my letter to the The Star “Close down polluting landfills immediately”.

But why Cabinet Committee on Smelly Water? Surely dirty water which is prevailing in the Klang Valley for over a decade deserves more attention and a Cabinet Committee on dirty tap water would be more meaningful. See my letter to The Star “Why no Cabinet Committee on dirty water?”.

As usual, more than a year after the smelly water debacle, nothing was heard about the investigation by the DOE or the Smelly Water Cabinet Committee. Again, like everything else, the issue had slipped into oblivion!


The Minister of Energy, water and Communications, since taking over the water portfolio in early 2005 had made many off-the-cuff statements and one of these was to raise water tariffs so that the rich would pay more. What a nincompoop! My response was a letter to NST entitled: “Water tariffs: Income-based won't work”.

However, less than a month later the Minister announced during the launching of the water conservation campaign that water wastage might lead to higher tariff. I supported this approach and suggested, in my letter to The Star “Raise rates to hurt those who waste”. But as usual, the water conservation campaign soon fizzled out.

One consumer in Selangor was not agreeable to my suggestion that water tariffs for those households consuming in excess of 35 cubic meters per month should be raised significantly. She said she had a family of ten and, in her case; it would be unreasonable to raise the water tariff for the third block (exceeding 35 cm/month). My response in my letter to The Star entitled “Water supply designed for five” was simply to let her know that she had a family which doubled that of an average family!

During the third quarter on 2006, the water tariffs in Selangor, KL and Putrajaya was subject to review. It was also officially announced that, according to the terms of the concession agreement, the increase of water tariffs would be based on the reduction of NRW from 43% to 38% in 2006. I totally disagree that the adjustment of water tariffs should be based on NRW reduction. On this issue I wrote two letters, one to NST entitled “Leakage control not the only criterion” and another to The Star entitled “Wrong to base tariff revision on reduction of NRW”.

The tariffs were finally raised by 15% for those households consuming more than 20 cubic meters per month.


In the 9MP, RM1.57bil or about 20% of the total allocation for water projects in Malaysia would be used to replace 4,613km of old AC pipes. At this rate it would take another 9 Malaysian Plans to replace all AC pipes! But the water authorities hope to reduce NRW to 30% by end of 2010. Again, the water authorities are barking up the wrong tree. On this issue I had earlier written about it and I couldn’t help but to write again. This time I wrote three letters to The Star:
1. “Some flaws in 9MP on water sector”,
2. “Sheer waste of water and money” and
3. “Watered down by bad workmanship”.


The Pahang/Selangor interstate raw water transfer project is expected to kick off in 2008 though in March 2005 the government had signed the RM2bil loan agreement with Japanese Bank of International Cooperation. After signing the loan agreement there was a fear that local contractors would not be able to compete with international contractors. I wrote to Malaysiakini a letter entitled “Selangor water transfer project - get on with it!”, to dispel the unfounded fear.

To recap, the project was to commence in 2002 for completion in 2007 to avert water shortage after 2007.

With the protracted delay in completing the project, I put forth a numbers of measures to conserve water.

One is to made conservation of resources a way of life. This letter “Act now to save resources – conservation must become a way of life” was published in The Star.

Beside the above, other measures are included in my letter to The Star “Act now to avert a crisis”.

By the end of 2006, the water authorities suddenly became aware that Selangor, KL and Putrjaya would face serious water shortages in the coming years. Instead of getting the raw water transfer project started immediately, they put forward some plans to deal with the impending water shortages. To me, they are just some desperate measures and on these I wrote in a letter to The Star entitled: “Water plans not viable – water rationing inevitable”.

Out of the blue, the Selangor government suddenly announced that three rivers in the state would be privatized to concessionaires to extract sand and to carry out industrial developments. Again this must be another decision from a nincompoop! See “Unwise to privatize rivers”.

Nowadays, most of the domestic water meters in new housing estates are located outside the premises where the consumers have no control over the security of the maters. Many of these meters have been stolen and under the existing water supply rules and regulations the consumers are solely responsible for the safe custody of the meters. It is high time that the Water Supply Rules be amended. See “Unreasonable for consumers to pay for stolen meters”.



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