Water Leaks will Cost RM15bil over 10 Years, Says SPAN Chairman

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago said Malaysia must invest heavily in crumbling infrastructure to avoid a supply crisis, according to FMT.

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago said Perlis loses more than 63 per cent of drinking water before it reaches the tap (Photo: FMT)

Charles Santiago has called on Malaysia to look at water as a “matter of national security”, saying the country stands to lose RM15 (USD3.18) billion worth of drinking water over the next 10 years through neglect.

The national water services commission (SPAN) chairman said the country must make upgrading the nation’s water infrastructure a priority.

Poor water infrastructure and management cost the country RM8 (USD1.69) billion in non-revenue water (NRW) between 2018 and 2022, said Santiago.

He said more must be done to preserve treated water given the erratic weather patterns.

Presently, Perlis is losing 63.3 per cent of its water to NRW, followed by Kedah (58 per cent) and Kelantan (52.6 per cent). Meanwhile, Penang’s loss – at 23.6 per cent – is the lowest, followed by Johor (25 per cent) and Selangor, (27.5 per cent).

The national NRW average is at 37 per cent, he said, with pipes of between 30 to 50 years old needing replacement.

Only RM1.9 billion was set aside for NRW-related matters by the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), which Santiago said was insufficient.

He said the advent of internet-linked devices to monitor water leaks, similar to tech used in China, can help reduce waste more efficiently.

Santiago also called on the country to move quickly towards water reclamation. Water reclamation is the process of converting for reuse industrial and municipal wastewater (sewage).

“If this can be fast-tracked, we will be able to carry out urgent fixes in the next three years at a cost of RM30 (USD6.35) billion. It is a huge cost, but we need to do this to avert a potential water supply crisis,” he said.