Buckets of frustrations
Delay in repairs on a leaking pipeline at Medan Pantai Jerejak causes a host of problems for folk in the southern part of Penang island as unexpected water cuts disrupt their daily activities.
Users left high and dry as rain delays repair works on leaking pipeline
MORE than 80,00 people from Bukit Dumbar to the southern areas of Penang island were fuming over the delay in the return of water supply.
A reader called The Star claiming that he could not get through to the Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd (PBAPP) hotline for an explanation after the water supply to his condominium was cut off on Monday morning.
Peter Lee, 58, a manager, said his friends in Batu Uban faced a similar problem.
Housewife K.L. Lim, 63, from Sungai Nibong said her family ran out of drinking water and had to buy water from shops.
“We did not stock up on water since we did not know about the matter. There is still water for showers but not enough for drinking,” she said.
At SJK (C) Kwang Hwa in Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Sungai Nibong, the water disruption resulted in the school using water from fire hydrants in the school premises.
A representative from the school said the water cut began on Monday afternoon and only resumed at 1pm yesterday.
“We needed water for the toilets and canteen.
“We had to use pails to collect water from the three fire hydrants in the school to deal with the disruption until the water supply resumed,” said the representative.
During a press conference that was also attended by state Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng, PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa apologised for the water disruption.
He said PBAPP detected a leak on a 900mm diameter pipeline at 9am on Monday at a river crossing at Medan Pantai Jerejak, near Sungai Besar.
The pipeline was then shut down for repair work, and a cofferdam built quickly to isolate the repair site.
Jaseni said they were ready to proceed with the repairs on the pipe at 9.45pm on Monday and had expected work to be completed by about 6am on Tuesday but “work was held up by 10 hours due to the heavy rain, high river water and high tides”.
“The welding work to reseal the leaking section of the pipeline could only commence after the site was finally drained at 7.45am on Tuesday.
“The challenge was to gain access to the leaking section of the pipeline overnight. We managed to meet the standard requirement by finishing the work in about 29 hours, as we are allowed up to 48 hours for repairs to pipes that are more than 600mm in diameter.
“It would have taken us only 19 hours without the delay, and we apologise to consumers. On-site work has been finalised and water supply should resume from 2pm,” he said at Komtar yesterday.
Jaseni said four water tankers were deployed to provide water to residents living on higher grounds.
He said PBAPP optimised the pumping of water from Bukit Dumbar via the two other key pipelines to all the southern areas of the island, including the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone and the Penang International Airport during the shutdown period.
It was reported that a new RM11.9mil water station at Bukit Dumbar could pump up to 270 million litres of water per day (MLD) to serve 315,000 people living in the southern parts of the island.
Its service areas cover Gelugor, Batu Uban, Sungai Nibong, Bayan Baru, Relau, Sungai Ara, Batu Maung, Bayan Lepas, Permatang Damar Laut, Teluk Kumbar, Gertak Sanggul, Genting and Balik Pulau.
By CHONG KAH YUAN and N. TRISHA firstname.lastname@example.org
Billion litres water waste via leaky pipes
PETALING JAYA: More than 4.27 billion litres of treated water – enough to fill more than 1,700 Olympic-sized swimming pools or keep Perlis going for 53 days – are leaking out of the country’s ageing pipe system every day.
Experts warn that more will be wasted unless drastic measures are taken.
If saved, that amount of water could ease stressed water supplies in the Klang Valley, as fears of a shortage and rationing loom dangerously.
According to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), non-revenue water (NRW) accounted for 36.6% of all water pumped out of treatment plants in 2013, or about 5.69 billion litres a day.
This was higher than 2012, which saw a 36.4% NRW.
Of this amount, at least 75% was due to problems like leaky asbestos-cement pipes and other infrastructure problems.
Association of Water and Energy Research (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said that unless the pipes were fixed, more water would be lost even with state governments rushing to build treatment plants to meet a growing local demand.
“When the Langat 2 plant is completed (in 2017), it will pump 1,130 million litres a day (mld). If things don’t change, 300mld will be just lost in the system,” he told The Star.
While a number of states have seen their NRW levels fall in 2013, others such as Selangor saw more water lost.
Malaysian Water Association (MWA) president Syed Mohamad Adnan Alhabshi said more than RM20bil had to be spent to replace the country’s 43,890km-long asbestos-cement pipes.
“You need to spend RM500,000 to change 1km of these pipes,” he said, adding that state governments did not have the money.
He said water operators were unable to invest in stopping NRW as tariffs were low, giving them low revenue.
This was also reflected in SPAN’s statistics – a deficit of RM429mil was incurred by all states combined last year.
MWA council member Hairi Basri said it was not easy to stop NRW as many of the problem pipes were underground.
MWA further estimated that if the country were to keep to SPAN’s NRW target of 25% today, the potential revenue operators could have made in 2013 was RM809.4mil.
SPAN executive director Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said combating NRW was more than just fixing or replacing leaky pipes.
Measures, he said, included mapping pipe networks, setting up district metering zones and a constant pressure management and maintenance of the system.
“It is not a one-off effort and the entire exercise requires huge investment,” he told The Star.
He said state governments were hampered by low water tariffs and could not invest in NRW reduction measures, adding that human capital in this was also a challenge.
Mohd Ridhuan said many states had migrated their assets over to the Water Asset Management Com-pany (PAAB) to ensure their interests were protected.
He said states that had done so had managed to reduce their NRW substantially.
“SPAN believes that the remaining non-migrated states will be able to improve on their NRW once migrated,” he said.
By Patrick Lee The Star 4 September 2014