1. Implement Holistic Non-Revenue Water (NRW) Management
In 2014, Penang’s NRW (or water loss) percentage was 18.25% as compared to the national average of 36.6%. Since 1999, PBAPP has sustained Penang’s NRW to be the lowest in Malaysia based on “traditional” standards that are adopted worldwide. The main emphasis has been on water lost between treatment plants and meter positions for landed residences, high-rise buildings (including apartments and condominiums) and commercial premises.
As Penang is a water-stressed state, PBAPP is now looking to expand its NRW management programme to minimise water loss throughout the water supply value chain. The proposed new areas of focus are water catchment areas and raw water supply systems upstream, and internal reticulation systems downstream.
As it stands, a total of 62.9 sq km of green forestlands have been protected by legislation in Penang as water catchment areas. These areas are precious natural “greenscapes” that catch water in a highly developed state and are now “off limits” to potentially destructive projects and activities. PBAPP is carefully monitoring these areas to prevent harm or destruction by encroachment or illegal activities.
Moreover, PBAPP will also ensure that all its major hardware for raw water extraction and storage, including intakes, canals, dams, mains and pumping stations are carefully maintained to perform optimally.
At the same time, PBAPP is planning to work with the Penang State Government to draft legislation to compel mandatory annual inspections of internal reticulation systems in all high-rise buildings, as in Singapore, to prevent and reduce water loss, while ensuring continuous good supply of water for all the residents.
2. Raise the Value of Water (WCS and Trade Tariffs)
The reason why domestic water supply is cheap in Penang is simply because it is subsidised by PBAPP. In 2014, PBAPP’s domestic water supply subsidy amounted to RM74.77 million. This amount of subsidy will increase yearly, and is not sustainable, especially if Penang wants secure and sufficient water supply in the future. As such, PBAPP will increase domestic tariffs gradually until it bills domestic water consumers at cost for consumption of up to 40,000 litres per month by Year 2020.
At the same time, Penang’s trade water tariffs for consumption of up to 500,000 litres per month are lower than the tariffs charged in Jakarta, Singapore, Manila, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing, Macau, Seoul, Vientiane and Bangkok. The trade tariffs will also be raised gradually to sustain Penang’s competitiveness as well as to raise much-needed funds for critical water supply projects.
This initiative will also encourage the people conserve water, just as they are conserving energy and fuel that cost much more.
3. Increase Public Awareness and Participation in Water Saving
Even with engineering efficiency, PBAPP cannot sustain continuous good water supply without the support of the people. As such, PBAPP will step up its publicity campaign to deliver the following messages:
4. Promote Water Saving Devices (WSDs)
In countries that prioritise water saving, it has been shown that WSDs (such as shower heads, tap equipment, toilet systems, washing machines and automated dish washers) can reduce water consumption by up to 70%. Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and USA have implemented mandatory or voluntary labelling of WSDs as part of their water saving campaigns.
In Malaysia, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has discussed the possibility of implementing a WSD campaign. PBAPP will work with the Penang State Government to launch a campaign to encourage consumers to install WSDs in their homes and offices; and to replace out-dated plumbing fittings with WSDs. At the same time, developers and plumbers will be persuaded to fit WSDs in new development projects as well as to retrofit existing buildings with WSDs.
5. Develop an Additional Raw Water Resource
In the past 40 years, the Muda River has served as Penang’s main raw water resource. Projections indicate that Muda River can reliably quench Penang’s thirst until 2020. Beyond that, an additional water resource is needed. An additional raw water resource for Penang’s future – the Perak River, located in the neighbouring state of Perak, that has yet to be tapped to its full potential.
Raw water from the Perak River can be pumped to a water tunnel constructed across the highlands that separate the river from the Kerian Basin in Perak. The raw water will then gravitate through the tunnel and discharge into Sungai Ijok, a tributary of Sungai Kerian. Since Sungai Kerian is a geophysical feature that defines the boundary between Perak and Penang, PBAPP can then extract the raw water within Penang’s boundary for treatment and distribution.
This proposed Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme (SPRWTS) has the potential to deliver an additional 1,300 million litres of water per day (MLD) to Penang. The implementation of this scheme will also reduce dependency on the Muda River, and hence, reduce the risk of a water crisis in Penang during periods of drought.