Prepping in Malaysia: Water Rations


water chart level

(More people means higher consumption and coupled with a longer run of the dry season causes a dangerous level at the water catchment areas. Image source: TheStar)

Here are some snippets on the on-going water ration that you may have or may not have read.

At first comes the disbelief and outrage of the whole idea of water rationing (understandably from those who need a constant supply of water for business) – after all, we never had water ration in the past before and it is a fact that Malaysia stacks at the middle of the tropics and is no stranger to heavy rain in the evenings makes water rationing almost an alien concept :-

Malaysians reacted with a mixture of disbelief and outrage over the announcement that even more water cuts would be headed their way beginning this Friday. Having been forced to change their lifestyles to weather the water crisis, residents and business owners alike were demanding that the authorities figure out a way to improve the situation fast.

(Source)

This year, water rationing has become a harsh reality and I am sure in the coming years, water rations would be a yearly event. And despite the disbelief & outrage that one may make on the water rations, this is reality and there is nothing anyone could do if we do not want to deplete the water so quickly. Water ration in the Klang Valley started with Phase 1 back in February 2014, subsequently Phases 2 & 3 was initiated and we have now come to Phase 4 which started last week and already there are talks of Phase 5 water rationing:-

Phase four of water rationing in the Klang Valley begins on Friday but talks on phase five are already taking place as water reserves at dams in Selangor continue to drop below critical levels. Insiders say if the water levels decrease and rain does not fall over the water catchments areas, rationing could continue until the end of the year.

(Source)

And for the record, even the wettest town in the country is facing the same problem and this should indicate the chaos in the climate system in the last few years:-

Water rationing in the country’s wettest town, Taiping, begins today and will last two weeks. Public utilities, infrastructure, energy and water committee chairman Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharuddin said the water rationing will affect 23,719 households in Taiping as well as several areas in Kamunting.

“Although there was heavy rainfall near the Air Kuning dam area over the weekend, we will still go ahead with rationing to control and maintain a healthy level of water supply in the district,” he said. He said this is the first time water rationing is being carried out in the state.

(Source)

It may get worse in the coming years. Water has always been one of the key priority at home when it comes prepping and readiness for unexpected long term water disruption. Now we are faced with actual water rations with some saying will last until July this year (or worse December), it was interesting to see what worked and what did not and what can be improved.

Rainwater harvesting system

Before I go further, for your information, there is no rainwater harvesting system in place yet. It is not that I have not given it’s due thought on this – no doubt, rainwater harvesting system will cut down the usage of treated water used for car washing, toilet and general cleaning and will save up on the water bills. One big problem is finding enough space for the rain water harvesting system. It is not a small piece that one can just plug and play. Presently there is only limited space on my porch and the only I could expand it is if I renovate the whole place (one day I will) by shifting the pillars to the side and tile up the whole area. For the time being, there is no time or budget for that.

But having said that, I wonder why there has not been a greater call for rain water harvesting system to be part of the standard facility for all new housing areas. House price is already at an insane level – a couple of more thousand does not make any much difference. This rain water harvesting system remains an illusive item to most of us and it is not because of the price or lack of suppliers in the country but rather it is due to a lack of the space.

I did try to set up a very rudimentary rainwater harvesting system – a simple pail set at where the rain water falls from the roof and the water then stored in a water drum that can be sealed and used for toilets. But this cannot be done all the time especially when sometimes there is a serious lack of rain and if it rains, it is not enough to fill up the pail.

Realigning water usage

Obviously with water rations in place with 2 days with water and 2 days without water, we had to change our lifestyle rather drastically.

The first one to be thrown out of the window was my weekly car wash. I also have decided not to visit the road side car wash – it is still good water down the drain (I wonder why road side care wash centers are not banned in time of water crisis). On the days when we don’t get water, we still use the washing machine for washing clothes as normal BUT not for the whole washing process. My wife hand pre-washes the clothes first using less water (assuming) and then put these clothes into the washing machine on SPIN mode which spins the clothes but does not use water. There’s less work for my wife too.

Long showers have been cut short too. These days we take enough to keep ourselves clean. This however does not apply for the kids – they still have to take a proper shower. Same goes for cooking at home (which also means dish washing). On the days when we don’t get water, we don’t cook. We opt to eat outside. However the negative side of this is that we have to spend more money to buy food from outside. Yes, we save water in a way but in the long run, it is not cost effective. Money that could be used for water bills ends up many fold over on outside food and drinks.

And last week, when the kitchen cabinet contractors finally came to start work on my new kitchen cabinet (yes, finally!), we had to schedule their work time with the day when we get the water. Thankfully the workers’ boss understood the situation and rescheduled the work schedule for us.

pailswatershortagelim0103

(Selling like hot cakes – plastic water storage. Image source: theStar)

Extra storage

The other aspect of water ration is water storage. With less water used on days when the water is rationed by realigning the use of treated water, there is an added comfort if you have that extra storage of water lying some where in the house, just in case the water ration is extended for another day or two. Water storage is very high on our priority list.

In addition to the house water tank located on the roof, we had to ensure that we had stored enough water for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and for use of toilet and this must be enough to last the whole household for at least 2 days or more. From the onset, as part of my prepping readiness, I had ensured that storage for drinking water is addressed first. We can go on without bathing for days but we cannot do the same when it comes to drinking water.

The 2 large 15 liters water containers was more than enough to sustain us for the 2 days (despite the water disruption and the warm weather making us to drink more water). Based on my calculation, it should last us for at least a week. And to be on the safe side, for my daughter’s use, we also bought 2 boxes of 1.5 liter drinking water bottles. Each box has about 1.5 liter 12 bottles – so in total we had about 66 liters of drinking water which is sufficient to meet the daily recommended water intake per person for 1 week. In addition to this, we had filled up 4 pots of raw tap water that can be easily boiled for drinking. That adds another 40 liters of drinking water. So drinking water was not a major problem.

For bath and toilet, we had bought 3 huge water containers (about 80 liters each) at about RM70 each (price jacked due to the water crisis, no doubt) and this is filled to the brim when we had water and kept this stored water unused until the house tank water goes dry.

Moving forward

Then the question that begs to be answered is whether with Phase 1, 2, 3 & 4 water rations in place, does it really saves up water? If you ask me, it does not – it seems like we still use the same amount water on an average basis. Dirty clothes still need to be washed. We still need to take shower and use the toilet. We may not cook at home but since we buy food from the outside, the restaurant still uses water. But this is something for the authorities to consider in the long run. As individual preppers, what is more important is storage and managing usage for greater sustainability.

This makes an interesting case study for prepping in Malaysia in the coming years and may inspire non-believers, those who had thought good things are here forever to be a prepper. Water rations could just be start of things to come. With more changes to the global climate, things will change and some will change drastically. At the end, it will fall on how ready we are to meet these changes.

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Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


Read these first

indonesia_tmo_2013170

(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

00-ria-novosti-infographics-be-200chs-amphibious-firefighting-aircraft-2010

(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

Election Time Water Spates


UPDATE 2: Now it looks like the Federal Government using the same issue to bait for more votes. Najib said that Selangor’s water crisis can be solved but only when the people choose a government that can solve the water and trash problems. He went on to say that “it cannot be that the federal government cannot solve the problems. We can do it”. So, what’s stopping them from granting the necessary approval to the Selangor State Government to resolve the issue? Another case of you help me, I help you? I just hope the voters are not stupid as they wants us to be.

UPDATE 1: I-told-you-so. From Malaysiakini – The federal government has made an initial decision not to allow the Selangor government to take over the operations of state water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas). The special cabinet committee on the Selangor water issue agreed at its meeting that there are “substantial and procedural” matters that have not been met to allow Selangor to takeover Syabas. However, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the final decision would be made after the attorney-general deliberates on the matter. Seriously, one should not wait for the AG’s decision as well, the outcome seems to be rather obvious.

Back to the original post

(If you ask me personally, it seems to be another political power play by the BN Government in trying to wrestle back the State of Selangor – they have been at it since they lost it in the last general elections. So is this latest case of water crisis in the state another trick in place to create more trouble in the state and for the Pakatan Rakyat’s leadership? You tell me. Image source: Zunar / Malaysiakini)

Read this first:-

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) has become a threat to our national security by threatening 7 million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with water rationing where there is no shortage of water.

When SYABAS insisted on low water levels, visits by the Selangor State Executive Committee members Ronnie Liu and Xavier Jeyakumar to the various damns across the state yesterday proved that the dams are full and there is no shortage of raw water. Now SYABAS has officially admitted yesterday that there is no shortage of raw water, but instead shifted the goal post to claim that there is now shortage of treated water.

This is essentially an admission that the SYABAS treatment plants are either operating inefficiently or there are not enough treatment plant capacity at existing water reservoirs.

(Source)

And this:-

A cabinet committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has been set up to help resolve the Selangor water crisis.

It will look into the ‘serious’ conflict between the federal government, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) and the Selangor state government, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin today. The two contentious issues are water rationing proposal by SYABAS, and Mentri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s announcement that the state will take over SYABAS’ management – claiming that the latter had failed to discharge its duties in line with the concession agreement.

“The committee will look into issues such as water supply in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya,” Chin said no representative from the state government was invited to sit in the committee agreed upon during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

(Source)

If you have been reading the newspapers, internet and the blogs (from both sides of the divide) for the past few months, there seems to be some kind of a “guerilla warfare” against the 2 main opposition ran states of Penang and Selangor (the states of Kedah and Kelantan has a bit harder to touch). It is not a big surprise though – it has been so since BN lost big time in 2008.

In Penang for example, there seems to a major hoo-haa on the hillside development (previously it was on the issue of Malay traders and low cost housing) and in Selangor, it is on the State Government’s so-called botched Talam debt rescue plan of which both DAP’s Tony Pua and MCA’s Chua Tee are having a go at each other (interestingly there is only silence from the so-called crusaders of public funds on the millions to be spent on 2 fucking pandas!) and the claims of shortage of water in the Klang Valley blamed on the State Government not approving the new Langat 2 treatment plant (previously it was on the sand mining, garbage collection and PTPTN fiasco).

Out the many attacks on the PR’s led State Government, the on-going spate on the water issue is more critical and is more relevant to us all. After all, life is going to be very tough if you don’t have enough water for your daily needs – especially for those with small children and elderly relatives. Just imagine having a zero drop of water in your taps but on the outside it is raining cats and dogs. Just imagine having overflowing water at the dams but not enough water flowing out from the water treatment plants.

The Selangor State Government had formally submitted their proposal to take over the operations of SYABAS to the Federal Government and it seems that the Federal Government had formed a committee of some kind to response to the proposal. But I don’t think the proposal (or any proposals for that matter) from the State Government on taking over SYABAS will ever succeed at the Federal level (this is not the first time the State Government have to deal with the Federal Government on the same issue – read “Federal Govt Sabotages Selangor“). And why should they?

Just look at the list of politicians heading the committee and you may question their impartiality on the requests (one is actively involved in the Take Back Selangor mission by citing the water issue as well). After all, the more trouble that the State Government is having, the more BN politicians will be able to paint the State Government as more inefficient, self-centred and corrupt. More so with the general elections coming up in the next months, you can expect more dirty politics to be lined up at both ends and I don’t think I am alone on this line of thought.

From Malaysiakini:-

Ferdtan: Like the passage “my cup runneth over”, we have more than enough for our needs. Why did water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) cause panic among Selangorians by suggesting that the water levels at the dams are low and they may resort to water rationing? The fear is further heightened by the coming Ramadan whereby difficulties would be suffered by the Muslims preparing food and cakes for themselves, and for sale during the festive season. Now it has been pointed out to be a blatant lie. The dams are full. Can a police report be made against SYABAS for spreading unfounded rumours causing panic among the people? This is an act of political sabotage. They must be censured and when Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya, SYABAS will be remembered.

Chipmunk: The mastermind behind this propaganda is none other than Umno. As usual, they instill fear into the rakyat and try to sabotage Selangor after having lost the state. Remember that Prime Minister Najib Razak said “Defend Putrajaya at all costs”, and this is one of their ways. The Selangor government should sue the pants off SYABAS for taking the rakyat for a ride. This is very unethical of SYABAS. But then again, Umno never had ‘ethics’ to begin with. Let’s see what the next act of sabotage Umno will come up with?

Kazakh: SYABAS is an Umno crony company, we all know that. They are now all out to destabilise the Pakatan state government by any means and we know the mainstream media papers are only reporting one side of the story. But we are not stupid, we support the state government’s move to take over the water management with immediate effect.

Mohan Gandhi: It is clear SYABAS is working with Umno-BN to manufacture a water shortage. With all dams at maximum capacity, why can’t SYABAS treat the water progressively over time? The main issue is the siphoning of the inflated project cost from the proposed Langat 2 treatment plant. All that is needed is better planning from the existing water treatment plants. You mean after all these years, Rozali cannot figure that out.

Odin: Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin Kah Fui, I don’t have Einstein’s brains, but I don’t even have to think to tell that some of you in the BN stand to make a few hundred million each in easy money from the Langat project. The Selangor state government won’t play ball, and so you are making things difficult. The actual victims of your vengefulness will be the ordinary people – people who have to spend hours daily on the road to and from their workplaces, who have to struggle to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living. But to you all, they are nothing more than collateral damage. ‘People first, performance now’ did you all say? Rubbish! It’s ‘Me first, money now’.

(Source)

Interesting comments no doubt but let try to leave the dirty politics from the current water spate between SYABAS and the State Government for a second and let’s ask some pertinent but obvious questions – we may just have a real crisis at hand and we should not be missing the forest for the trees.

  • Do we really have a problem of the water supply not being enough to meet the demands of the day?
  • If the current supply is not enough to cover the current demand, do we have enough raw water to start with?
  • If we have enough raw water to start with, then do we have enough treated water to be distributed? And if no, what we are doing to ensure we have enough raw water for the treatment plants?
  • If we have enough treated water to be distributed, why raise the water issue then? If no, are the current water treatment plants being managed and running efficiently?
  • If current water treatment plants being managed and running efficiently, then there is a strong reason for us to relook into expanding the number of water treatment plants that we have by opting for the new Langat 2 water treatment plant. If no, then what are the shortcomings and what can be done to ensure that the current water treatment plants are managed and running efficiently?

MTUC and Coalition Against Water Privatisation posed similar questions to SYABAS:-

  • Outflow of raw water from dams and pumping stations into treatment plants from January 1, 2012-July 15, 2012;
  • Meter readings of the outflow of treated water into respective treatment plants for the same period;
  • Meter reading of the outflow of treated water to consumers distribution system (via Syabas)
  • Certified log books & calibrated meters
  • Electricity bills from January 1, 2012- July 15, 2012
  • Chemical usage for the same period
  • PuncakNiaga payment bills to Syabas for water sold for the same period.

Also read here and here for interesting comments on BN politicians’ response on the water crisis

At end of the day, SYABAS may have a strong case and valid concerns and the Selangor State Government may be trying to hide these real concerns in light of the up-coming general elections. We do hear them in the news but we want to see stronger facts and figures from SYABAS before we can agree with them. Selangor State Government’s contention that the claims are not realistic makes sense too – if it is that easy to resolve the so-called water crisis by building a new water treatment plant, then why the strong resistance from the State Government from day 1?

The state government, through the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS), controls the state’s seven dams, and water levels were between 92% and 100% as of July 2. “We only control the raw water in the state and there is more than enough, which means Syabas should be answering why it does not have enough treatment plants to provide clean water to the people, and why there is talk of water rationing today,” he said.

Jayakumar further claimed it was irresponsible of Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin and Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Noh Omar to suggest that the state allow Langat 2 to be built first and discuss water tariff hikes later. “Why waste RM8.65 billion of public funds, and allow a potential water tariff hike of up to 70% when the seven dams in Selangor are full and overflowing,” he said, calling on Syabas to inform the state of the actual situation on the ground.

(Source)

All we ask is for both parties to come to their senses and do things right – we are all ok for rations if situation is indeed critical but have we come to that stage? We may be undergoing some dry spell once in a while in a year but we do live in a country blessed with a good bound of rain. If we have enough raw water, what need to be worked on is on how efficient we can process that raw water to clean fresh water. The fact that almost every household have some kind of water filters in their house speaks a lot of the quality of water we getting these days (just imagine if the filter in my house turns brown on the same day).

SYABAS claims that the demand for treated water exceeds the current supply. If so, we should also relook into how best we can manage the utilisation of water and seek for alternatives – if there is wastage of water, we need to enforce the measures against such wastages. And can the authorities enforce and subsidizes eco-friendly rainwater harvesting system (which can minimise the usage on treated water for non-essential usages like water for the toilets and gardens) for all homes in the State? Are the current entities dealing with water treatment & supply ready to do this? If it is not, they need to be prepared to be taken over by someone else who can provide better and more efficient service and cleaner water. Right to clean water is a basic thing when it comes to the rights of every citizen in this country.

The last we need is for someone to politicize it at the expense of this right and any real water crisis clouded by dirty politics, greed and perhaps mismanagement of resources.