By Michelle Ng

Yes, believe it or not, there are indicators as to whether a country or state’s water levels are healthy or not. This is determined by what is termed the “water reserve margin”, which is calculated by deducting water demand (i.e. the amount of water consumer’s use), from water supply (i.e. the amount of water produced by water treatment plants). The role of water reserve margins is to fill the distribution system to compensate for the water lost due to any production or distribution disruption. Users will experience minimal disruption.

By the standards set by the Water Commission of Malaysia, a state should have a minimum of 15% water reserve margin. Selangor’s water reserve margin is hovering at about 10%.

At present, the Selangor State Government has been investing heavily in capital expenditure by building more water treatment plants to solve this issue. In my opinion, this modus operandi can only bring us so far given Selangor’s depleting land bank. What we need to do, like many countries, is to look into water demand policy – only then can we be sustainable.

As at June 2022, each Selangorian is using 260 litres per person per day (l/p/d). This exceeds the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 165 l/p/d, which is the amount of water needed to live a comfortable life. This target is achievable, given that our counterparts in Singapore are using only 160 l/p/d. Believe it or not, despite achieving these targets; Singapore has embarked on a journey to reduce water consumption by 30% in the coming 30 years.

Aside from education (e.g. turning of the tap when brushing teeth, waiting for a full load before using the washing machine, turning off the shower when lathering etc), one good way of managing demand is to use water efficient devices. That said, there needs to be standards to determine whether a device is water efficient or not – and that is being pursued by the Water Commission – this would play a bigger role in new housing developments.

What I am interested in are existing housing developments where taps and appliances have already been fitted.

Together with Air Selangor, my office has embarked on a study in Subang Jaya by engaging 100 homes comprising of terrace houses, bungalows and apartments, to retrofit their taps and measure its impact. Should this exercise produce the results we anticipate, we would pioneer water demand policy in Selangor and perhaps even Malaysia.

As many of you know, I’ve just delivered my first child. Part of the reason why I am passionate about this issue is because of the impact it has on the environment. Reducing water demand means diverting less water away from our bays, lakes and rivers. It also means reducing the energy used to produce treated water, which means reducing our carbon footprint and consequently slow climate change.

We all have a role to play in preserving this earth for our future generation. I am not perfect, and far from that, in fact, but where I can make changes in my life to bring less damage to Mother Earth, my conscience demands that I do. I hope that you feel the same way too.