Water Is Life, Use It Wisely, Don’t Waste It
Malaysia is a country rich in water resources. In 2016, Malaysia received 907 million cubic meters (m3) of annual rainfall. The average annual rainfall of the country is high, ranging from 2,000 mm to 4,000 mm a year. The abundant quantity of water resources allows Malaysia to sell water to its neighbouring country, Singapore.
From the point of providing water to consumers, Malaysia has successfully supplied water to 95 per cent of its population and consumers have the privilege to enjoy the water supply for 24 hours. The water tariffs in the country are also among the lowest in the world. At the same time, there is no limit on the use of water in Malaysia.
With the wealth of water resources, it is impossible for Malaysia to face water shortage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Malaysia has been having a series of water crises that cause difficulties and tensions among society. These crises were recorded in 1977 and 1978 in the Northwest of Peninsular Malaysia, 1982 and 1991 in Kedah and Perlis (Pedu and Muda Dam), 1998 in Kedah, Penang and Kuala Lumpur (as an impact of the El Nino) and 2002 in Perlis (drought).
The water crises have led to water rationing and affected the life and wellbeing of many users. In 2014, when the country faced a dry season, the water rationing lasted for months. In 2016, 85,000 people in Johor faced water rations due to low water levels in water treatment plants.
On the other hand, Malaysia also faces the high Non-Revenue Water (NRW) issue. The issue is one of the main causes of water scarcity problems in Malaysia. In 2016, the NRW ratio was at 35.2 per cent. The state of Perlis recorded the highest NRW ratio of 60.7 per cent while the other states which recorded more than 40 per cent of NRW ratio were Sabah (52 per cent), Kelantan (49.4 per cent), Pahang (47.9 per cent) and Kedah (46.7 per cent). The rate was extremely high compared to Japan (3 per cent) or Singapore (5 per cent). The loss of water may occur as a result of leakage of pipes as well as water theft problem.
While the problem of NRW is out of user control, users can and should play an active role by reporting the problem to the authorities. Water leakage or pipe burst problem could be overcome sooner if users carried out their responsibility. Unfortunately, are consumers in Malaysia aware of their roles? Do they make any report immediately when pipe leakages or burst occur? Do they know how to make the report?
Consumers also have a direct impact on water problems in Malaysia. Excessive water use contributes to water crises in Malaysia. In Malaysia, water use is divided into domestic consumption (17 per cent), industry (including commercial) (21 per cent) and agriculture (62 per cent). In this case, two-thirds of the treated water are used by the domestic sector as other sectors use water (untreated) directly from its source (rivers and so on). The water treatment process is very costly because of the complicated process, hence the need to build related infrastructure and the requirement of a thorough study before building the water treatment plan.
Based on the Malaysia Water Industry Guide (2015), the average water consumption per person (water consumption per capita) in Malaysia in 2014, is 211 litres per day. The water consumption varies by state with the highest per capita water consumption of 293 litres per capita per day (Penang) and the lowest of 114 litres per capita per day (Sabah). This water consumption is clearly above the WHO suggested rate of 165 litres per capita per day.
The information suggests that water consumption among consumers in Malaysia is high. Why is this happening? Do Malaysians have no appreciation towards the water resources? Is this problem related to the low price of water in Malaysia? It should be noted that the price of water in Malaysia is among the lowest in the world. Therefore, consumers do not feel bad for using water at will.
In addition to the above problems, water resources in the country are also faced with water pollution problems which affect the quality and quantity of our water resources. If this condition is left unattended, the state of water resources cannot be maintained and the sustainability of the resource will be jeopardised.
The inability to make complaints when water problems occur, excessive use and water pollution are among the things that need to be addressed to ensure the availability and sustainability of water resources. All the problems contradict to the basic principle of the Malaysia National Water Resources Policy which is to guarantee the sustainability of water resources. In fact, the situations are not in line with the sixth goal of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 which is “to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
In fact, disparaging the efforts of water conservation is also against the six principles of environmental conservation in Islam which are to understand the Oneness of Allah and His Creations (tawhid), to witness the signs of Allah everywhere (ayat), human beings as representing Allah on earth (khalifah), to respect and carry out the promise we have with Allah (amanah), fair in carrying out responsibilities (adil) and living in balance (mizan). These six basic principles have been agreed by many Muslim environmentalists (and scholars). One of them is Ibrahim Abdul Matin, who wrote the famous book entitled, “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting The Planet”
In the context of water conservation, the six principles can be translated into the understanding that Allah created everything in this world which includes water. We agreed that water is vital to all form of life. In that case, destructing water resources would mean harming their life too. This also indicates that their right to live on earth has been violated. Thus, in order to protect the life of other creatures, water must be conserved (the principle of tawhid). The responsibility of guarding the earth is placed on man (the principle of khalifah) because man has the mind and ability to carry out the task. All creations of Allah is a sign of His Power and by looking and observing the sign, man will better understand his responsibilities (the principle of ayat). Humans must also carry out their duties fairly by giving the right to live peacefully to all creatures (the principle of adil). Finally, in every action, humans must understand that everything in this world has been created and operated in a balanced manner and thereby they must avoid disturbing the balance (the principle of mizan).
Thus, in simple word, if we believe that water is an essential element in maintaining life and needed for the survival of all Allah’s creation, then we must make stern efforts to conserve it.