As Klang Valley taps run dry again, residents demand lasting solution to recurrent water woes

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, OCT 11 — The latest major water supply disruption in the Klang Valley has left residents desperate for a lasting solution to what has become a frustratingly regular phenomenon for them.

They questioned how Malaysia’s most economically developed region could be so susceptible to major outages that leave millions of residents without water supply.

In the latest for the year, Air Selangor announced a scheduled interruption from October 10 to 12, this time for upgrades and maintenance to the Sungai Langat Water Treatment Plant.

The situation was exacerbated when the utility firm also temporarily shut down the Sungai Selangor Phase 1 (SSP1), Sungai Selangor Phase 2 (SSP2), Sungai Selangor Phase 3 (SSP3) and Rantau Panjang water treatment plants on Tuesday due to an odour pollution incident.

Every available container is used to store water in anticipation of the water cut in several areas throughout the Klang Valley in Selangor, October 10, 2023. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Every available container is used to store water in anticipation of the water cut in several areas throughout the Klang Valley in Selangor, October 10, 2023. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Every available container is used to store water in anticipation of the water cut in several areas throughout the Klang Valley in Selangor, October 10, 2023. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Speaking to Malay Mail, Shamsulhairi, a 42-year-old self-employed resident living in Kuchai along Old Klang Road, said he has lost count of how many major water outages he has had to live through.

“I’ve always wondered why other states’ water supply is okay while ours is so bad. These water cuts keep happening, and the way the information is disseminated is poor,” he lamented.

“The hardest part is not having water to wash yourself after you’ve used the toilet.”

Shamsulhairi is not alone in his frustration. Housewife Mizaha Yasin, a resident of Puchong, was just as exasperated when she complained about being confused by the information provided by the utility about the disruption.

“Sometimes, there’s no warning at all, and at other times, the water flows freely despite impending cuts. It’s a perplexing puzzle. Dealing with water disruptions becomes particularly challenging when you have young children,” as Mizaha pointed out.

“The rising prices of water drums during shortages add another layer of difficulty. I already have several drums to store water at my home in Puchong that I bought for RM50 way back when because this keeps happening, but we needed more. Upon checking I noticed vendors had jacked the prices up where now the small ones are RM50 the large ones are anyone’s guess. It’s too much,” she said, with apparent resentment.

Mizaha said the disruptions could be mitigated if the authorities made emergency supply trucks more readily available during such incidents.

Among others, she said her solution could help prevent residents from falling prey for profiteers or being left completely waterless when stores were sold out.

“What the government should do is supply one truck per taman when such things happen. If we make a fixed place in each taman that has regular water disruption, then everyone in that area will know where to go in case of an emergency instead of panicking.

“Not to mention in the past people from different areas came to ours for water and a fight ensued when the residents didn’t want to share so I hope this kind of drama will not happen again when they step up their water distribution efforts,” she added.

According to Air Selangor’s announcement on September 26, the scheduled disruption primarily affected parts of Kuala Lumpur and Hulu Langat as well as sections of Petaling.

Yati Sulhan, 54, a shop owner selling nasi lemak and kuih along Old Klang Road, theorised that the rapid development and population growth in the Klang Valley meant that demand has outpaced the capacity and condition of the pipes supplying water to the region.

“Since it’s kind of the capital city, it’s growing so fast, and I think the water pipes can’t handle it,” she said when sharing her frustration with the inconsistent information provided during water disruptions.

“So many people all using water at the same time, no new water sources, constant pollution and so on, hence shouldn’t we pay more attention to fixing the problem? Instead, we see more high rises being built. I know for sure this problem won’t go away soon unless we take drastic measures and fix the entire setup.”

Shankeran Romanshan, who operates an Airbnb in Taman Titiwangsa, said he was painfully aware of the impact of water cuts on businesses. He said he has had to cancel all bookings for the weekend due to the disruptions.

“It’s a bit embarrassing when you’re running a hospitality business and no one can do their business in peace,” he sighed.

“I hate breaking the news to my customers, especially those with kids. It kind of puts a bad memory for the tourists of our place. Not to mention the cancellations. Some may have planned to visit Malaysia for months but with the water cuts happening we had to be cautious and hold all future bookings.

“It would be good to put a huge allocation for fixing water pipes in the state in the upcoming budget. I hope it happens or not we keep going round and round again,” he said.

For Raja Lingam Raja Gopal, a roti canai stall owner in Cheras, being without water supply has become a way of life in Malaysia. However, he refuses to compromise on the quality of water he serves.

“It must be clean and boiled,” he said. For businesses like his, water disruptions make things harder.

“It’s just an extra strain on us and it is easier to just not open for the duration. I’d like us to find a solution once and for all for these problems as I noticed some of the places affected this time had many schools and health facilities in them.

“That and schools are going to be the worst hit especially since the haze is here. It’s so hot sometimes. We’re lucky yesterday and the day before there was rain so the haze was not so bad but it’s going to get worse so there must be some will to make sure the city’s water supply is not constantly disrupted,” he told Malay Mail when met.

As residents grapple with the recurring issue of water cuts, they hope for a lasting solution. Many believe that investing in infrastructure upgrades and improving the water supply system is the key to quenching the thirst of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

They hope their pleas would be heard and that water cuts will become a thing of the past. Until then, the residents said they would have to remain resilient, stockpiling water and navigating the ever-uncertain waters of water disruptions.

Air Selangor said that the works are expected to be completed by 7pm on October 10 but still advised affected consumers to “keep adequate water supply and use water prudently”.

Supply is expected to fully recover by noon of October 12. Air Selangor said it will distribute water supply to consumers in stages after the works are completed and when the system has stabilised.

Water tankers will also be mobilised to affected areas, but priority will be given to hospitals, dialysis centres and funeral homes.

Commercial consumers may purchase water supplies at Air Selangor’s customer service counters or utilise Air Selangor’s local water filling stations that will be opened in Sunway Batu Caves and Selayang Mutiara.