As Malaysians, you may or may not be concern about water just yet. While it is in the news every now and then, it is an impending problem for our growing population. Internationally, some experts believe that future wars may be fought over water.
In Malaysia, there an article by the WWF showing the reasons why Malaysia faces water problems although we have so much rain. In large part, it is due to wastage, inefficient use and water management policies here. There is also the minor problem of nature. In the coming years, a study predicted there will be more rainfall in states like Kelantan, Trengganu and Pahang, while for states like Selangor and Johor, a decrease is projected.
So, what will happen or is already noticeable is that, more rain water is available at places that don’t have such high demand and insufficient water available in locations that do require it. This is partly due to urban migration taking place.
What Malaysians pay for water is too low relative to the economic impact. However, the indirect cost is passed on to us when the government build dams, water treatment plants, pipelines etc to supply water to urban areas through taxes. Yes, tax dollars and other subsidies is used to build the infrastructure needed to get water to us. This is money that can be put to other use like better road or schools etc ends up with building more water infrastructure. It is easy to blame the government however each of us is responsible as well. Why?
Fomca, the federation of Malaysian consumers, reported that Malaysians consumes 226 liter of water per person per day. This is way above what Singapore (155 liters) and Thailand (90 liters ) consumers use. We use 45.8% more than Singaporeans and 151% more than the Thais.
All of us play an important part to use water more efficiently and reduce our water consumption. If each of us use what is necessary, then there will be sufficient for all.
Let’s see if you are using too much water?
Calculate how much water you use
From your water bill, check the amount of water your household use in cubic meters, say 15 m3
Multiple this by 1,000 (to convert cubic meter to liters), divide by the number of people in the house, divide by 30 (number of days per month) = the average water use per person per day in liters.
For the example above, if water used is 15 m3 per month and the house have 3 occupants, that means 15 X 1,000 /(3 x 30) = 166.7 liter per person per day. This means you are considered a medium water consumption according to the table below.
Here’s a table if you are lazy to take out your calculator. Just compare it to the figure in your water bill. Using the same example above with 3 occupants in the house, if your water consumption is 165 liters per day per person, then the amount on your water bill is 15 m3. If you are on the high end, then your water bill will show 20 m3
If your family’s consumption is on the high side, then you can do something about it. Consider making some small changes and aim for a lower figure.
Tips To Reduce Water Consumption
Most of us have experienced water cuts in our lifetime. When our water supply is disrupted, we know how to conserve water. Therefore, all of us already know how to use water sparingly. The question then is would you do the same when there is ample supply?
Anyway, here are some ideas to reduce water consumption and reuse water that is relatively clean.
Use water from washing rice, vegetables and food for the garden. Water from washing uncooked food even meat is okay and plants love them. Do not oily soapy water. It will cause bad smells and may kill your plants.
If you don’t have a garden, you can keep this water in a small plastic container to rinse your dishes before you use soap.
Reuse water from the rinse cycle of your washing machine for flushing your toilet, washing bathroom and for the garden. Water from the last rinse is clean enough to put on your body, so it is clean enough for toilets and reuse.
Each washing cycle will have 2 rinse cycle and if an average rinse uses 40 liters of water, that is a lot of water to save. A normal toilet uses between 4 to 6 liters of water per flush., that is equivalent to many flushes of the toilet.
Install low flush system for your toilets or use a small bucket of water to flush urine away.
Don’t keep the shower running when you bathe. Shut it off when you soap yourself.
Don’t water the lawn and choose the right type of grass that can manage without regular watering. It is okay for grass to be less green. You are actually training the grass to grow deeper roots.
There was research done to harvest rainwater in Malaysia. If your house have the space and you can afford the capital cost of such system, then by all means, consider them. In fact, in Petaling Jaya, the town council encourage green living by giving up to RM500 rebates in assessment fee, although I’m not certain if is still on going.
Harvesting rainwater actually solves 2 problems at once. Not only will you require less treated water, you actually reducing the occurrence of flash floods. This type of rainwater harvesting is assuming you pipe it into your house for washing and flushing the toilet.
To collect rainwater, there is an ideal size system based on several factors including the collection area (roof size), your consumption, rainfall and the tank size. Based on the study here done by NAHRIM (National Hydraulics Research Institute of Malaysia), they came up with a figure of RM 2.63/m3 for a 5m3 storage system. This will be sufficient to meet 34% of the needs of a 6 occupant home. The research paper is here if you are interested.
If your tank size it too small, it won’t provide sufficient water to make sense. Too big, you won’t be able to collect sufficient water to ever fill the tank and is a waste of money not to mention space.
A system with storage, piping and pump cost a few thousand ringgit so the cost is significant. The ideas suggested earlier in this article is cheaper and anyone can try them even if you live in a condominium.
If you are harvesting rainwater for the garden, then go for it. You don’t need to worry about the size of containers. Choose some large containers, channel water from the gutters and you are good to go. You can also use rainwater to wash cars and rinse of with pipe water to cut down your usage.
Help the environment, save the government some investment, less building of dams and kilometers of pipeline and save some money too.
Be a part of solving the water problem in Malaysia.
Note – I do hope the government do come up with better ideas to solve the water shortage. One of the options is to have a scheme to help offset the cost of installing rainwater collection system.