Water leaks will cost us RM15bil over 10 years, says Santiago

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago says Malaysia must invest heavily in crumbling infrastructure to avoid a supply crisis.

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago said Perlis loses more than 63% of drinking water before it reaches the tap.

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

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

Poor water infrastructure and management cost the country RM8 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.

“The problem needs to be addressed because (Malaysia) will have a RM15 billion waste over a 10-year period. The worse the leaks get, the more we lose.

“The government must provide the funds or allow the private sector to move in to try to support it. Reducing NRW should be made a priority,” he told FMT.

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

The national NRW average is at 37%, 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 billion. It is a huge cost, but we need to do this to avert a potential water supply crisis,” he said.



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