Adaptation to Water Scarcity
Malaysians are a wasteful lot! Especially when it comes to one of the most precious resources available to people — water! We live in denial when we think that our access to clean and continuous water supply is inexhaustible. This absurd belief keeps us going despite water shortages that have actually become a constant reality in the lives of many urban dwellers. On a rainy day, the only thought of an average urbanite is ‘How bad will the traffic get?’ instead of ‘All this water — wasted. Isn’t there a way to conserve it?’ Malaysians have short-term memories and easily forget critical events that had a huge impact on their lives. For instance, water rationing exercise in 2014 in Selangor that lasted almost two months when the dams ran dry due to severe dry spell. This caused unmentionable hardships for everyone, particularly those who lived in high-rise buildings. Another critical event was the 1998 Klang Valley Water Crisis, which similarly affected millions of people and was conveniently blamed on the El Nino phenomena.
Water scarcity is a major issue that can potentially threaten our lives. It’s time that Malaysians understood the reality of the dangerous times we live in — polluted water resources, destruction of water catchment areas and the reality of climate change. We need to evolve and adapt to water insecurity. Government needs to look at managing our water demand rather than focus on supply management alone by implementing restrictions in order to reduce water consumption and wastage. Firm efforts must be made to reduce domestic water usage from an average of 220 litres to 165 litres of water per person daily as recommended by World Health Organisation. In contrast, Singapore and Thailand only consume 154 litres and 90 litres of water per person daily respectively.
It is pertinent to apply water conservation practices as a daily routine in our lives. Simple measures such as converting low flush toilets at home, closing the tap during brushing our teeth, shortening our shower from 5 to 3 minutes and harvesting rainwater to water our garden contributes significantly in saving water. Yes, it is not rocket science but do we practice these simple measures? Another important measure would be to recycle and reuse water from industrial and residential waste after being properly treated to approved standards. Don’t be surprised to hear wastewater is our next water resource. Though water is important in itself, it also affects food production. Nearly 70% of our water resources are used in agriculture activities such as rice cultivation. Failure to safeguard our water ultimately means failure to secure our food. We jeopardise our food security when we waste water.
Malaysians take water for granted and generally do not appreciate its importance. Fact is water is a finite resource. When looking for life on Mars, the Rover only sought one thing — liquid water. If there was no water, there was no life. We need to understand that it applies to us as well.