TRADITIONALLY, water engineers around the world, including Malaysia, build dams or water reservoirs on mountains or in highlands to store rainwater trickling down the hills.
However, global warming has drastically changed weather and rainfall patterns all around the world. Rainfall has become heavy, sparse, sporadic, scattered and unpredictable.
Towards that end, Negri Sembilan is taking steps to address the situation by literally shifting the water bucket and placing it directly under the gathering clouds to collect rainwater.
The state will be the first in the country to explore the system of reservoirs and water storage in downstream areas, especially at the river mouth.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the effort would be done through the construction of low dams and fortified water storage reservoirs, which was agreed upon by the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry. He said collecting water in downstream areas had to be done due to climate change.
“Based on research by the state government, we found that mountains and highland areas are no longer receiving enough rainfall like in the past, which had helped increase the water level in the dams.
“The current situation has forced us to think outside the box and cast aside the common conventional thinking — that it is only possible to collect water from dams in the upstream areas.
“What we are facing is a situation where frequent rain only occurs at the downstream or low land areas; hence, we need to work around the situation.”
Replying to a question by Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohd Redza (BN-Linggi) at the state legislative assembly meeting last week, Mohamad said the new dams and water storage reservoirs would also be equipped with a fortified water treatment plant (WTP) at the confluence of Sungai Linggi, besides Sungai Rembau and Sungai Gemas.
The WTP would be able to treat around 500 million litres of water per day, supplying water for three to six months in the event water supply in the dam decreased.
The construction of the water storage reservoir is a long-term plan between the state government and Syarikat Air Negeri Sembilan (SAINS) to ensure adequate water supply for the state, especially with Malaysia’s Vision Valley (MVV) project approaching.
MVV, which started last year, is a new growth corridor announced under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) that will extend development of the Klang Valley, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur to the state, covering up to 108,000ha, extending from Nilai to Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan.
This revolutionary thinking is apt at a time when some states in Malaysia are grappling with water shortage due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.
As a result, some states have to impose scheduled water rationing to ensure water supply in the country is adequate for consumption by the residents, as well as factories.
This is yet another feather in the cap for Negri Sembilan, which has long been at the forefront of water conservation via its myriad underground tunnels linking one dam or river to another, and is believed to be the first of its kind in Malaysia.
The state has in place contingency plans to address low water levels at two of its major dams that supply water to Seremban.
As an example, if water levels at the Sungai Terip and Sungai Kelinchi dams continue to drop, the state has the option to source water from nearby rivers, such as Sungai Triang and Sungai Ngoi Ngoi, as the dams are connected to each other.
This is a commendable effort by the state as it complements the Federal Government’s efforts to beef up water efficiency.
At the World Water Day 2017 national-level celebrations in Port Dickson earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government would intensify efforts to better manage the country’s water industry.
These include balancing supply and demand, plugging wastage, and sourcing the vast and largely untapped underground water resources.
Zahid said it was unacceptable for a country like Malaysia, which is blessed with a total of 907 billion cubic metres of rainfall a year, but, yet, some states were facing water shortage during certain periods of the year.
“This shows that there is something wrong somewhere in the supply and demand equation, and in the middle of it, there is also something wrong in the water management aspect.”
He also said the government would look at ways to extract and boost use of the vast underground water resources which are largely untapped.
Perhaps, Negri Sembilan would rise to Zahid’s challenge and explore ways to extract and boost use of the vast underground water resources.
There are three trillion cubic metres of underground water in the country, of which only 1.5 per cent is utilised and if extracted, it can further meet the demand of domestic, commercial and industrial users.
Malaysia needs to tap into underground water resources as the country depends too much on rivers and dams, which will eventually dry up, especially when there are long droughts.
Zaidi Isham Ismail, a former assistant news editor at BT, is NST’s Negri Sembilan bureau chief.