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Questions on the Selangor water crisis

THE Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government continues to battle it out with Syabas and the federal government for control over water resources. What are the key questions that need to be asked about the water issue in Selangor? Refsa maps it out for us.

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24 Responses to “Questions on the Selangor water crisis”

  1. KW Mak says:

    I think there’s one important segment that hasn’t been looked at in this water crisis argument: future water usage by upcoming development projects.

    I’m not entirely convinced by either side of the argument because our development projects do not have water / electricity consumption projections as part of the necessary documentation submitted to the local council for deliberation. How this consumption will impact the delivery of the utility to surrounding areas is also not discussed.

    For all I know, BN may be pushing for it because future development projects need this extra water to function, but the fact is kept hidden because it isn’t a very sexy argument to sell voters because it will lead to questions about whether we need all these development projects in the first place.

    Consequently, the PR government’s argument doesn’t talk about future requirements either. If it can show that all the future development projects it approved can have their water needs met with the current production / delivery, they would win this argument. Where are these figures?

    Simply put, where are the current usage numbers for household, industrial and commercial sectors and what’s the future expected numbers?

    • KT says:

      Future need is more urgent or plugging the leaks? I am horrified to see the horrendous figure of 32% NRW. Water is a precious resource without which life cannot be sustained and yet we have a minister saying that building a new plant is cheaper than plugging the leaks.

      With this kind of mentality we could end up seeing another 32% NRW in the extra MLD of 1130 generated by the new plant? I live in Selangor and I can see the reality of the Selangor government’s argument. I experience numerous water disruptions due to pipe bursts. At some stage it occurs almost three times in a month! Now it has become less frequent not because they have replaced the old pipes with new ones. They very cleverly reduced the pressure of the distribution pumps!

      Result: Irritatingly low water pressure especially during peak demand times. Pumps are selected to operate at certain pressure and delivery volume called the duty point. If operated at the duty point it is most efficient. Drop the pressure and you do not operate at the most efficient point and operation cost goes up.

      • KW Mak says:

        @ KT

        From a property development aspect, the infrastructure is usually prepared by the original developer to provide sufficient resources to the properties that are being built. The calculation may include future use.

        However, such projections are unlikely to take into account development that is 40 to 60 years later. Petaling Jaya, for example, is between 40 to 60 years old in some parts. New buildings are being built in the area without additional infrastructure being built, which puts pressure on existing utilities and can lead to faster wear and tear of the pipes.

        The low-water pressure can be the result of pipes being able to provide for 1,000 households but is being taxed beyond its capacity because of new condominiums or commercial buildings. Pipe bursts could occur as a result as well.

        The 32% NRW is a worrisome figure and should be looked into, but it is also a national figure. What are the specifics for Selangor? Just as the 32% is being quoted with no attribution, other statistics being quoted are attributed to “the state committee tasked to monitor Syabas.” I’m afraid I need more evidence as propaganda is easy to produce with half-truths.

        Still, while I’m not sold, you are. So perhaps there isn’t a need to appease my need for more evidence. Politics, after all, is just about winning enough votes.


        • Pei Ling says:

          Mak, actually the figure is not national. 32% is specific to Selangor and provided by Syabas. The only way to verify it is for Syabas to make public its statistics and measuring methods. Unfortunately, it has ignored repeated requests from pressure groups to do so.

          • KW Mak says:

            @ Pei Ling

            The poster should not have said the 32% figure is for Malaysia. There’s also no attribution that Syabas said so.

            Anyway, we are digressing from the point I wanted to make. I’m certain there’s a water supply problem. What I’m not so certain is whether it is artificially manufactured or a genuine problem.

            In my studies of government reports dating back to 2007, I have come across studies that says Selangor will go through a water shortage problem resulting from uncontrolled development.

            There is no way for any of us to ascertain the truth based on all the information that is being ‘revealed’ by the government and Syabas because the statements aren’t backed up by comprehensive studies and reports that you and I can scrutinise.

            I’d back the Selangor government’s assertion if they would release the information on how they came to their conclusion and everything checks out. Is it wrong for me to be meticulous in such things?


        • KT says:

          As far as I being a consumer is concerned the service is far from satisfactory. Constant pipes bursting and turning down the supply pressure is not the way to solve the problem. You agree that Syabas is responsible, don’t you? If Syabas cannot solve immediate needs why talk about future needs?

          • KW Mak says:

            @ KT

            With the facts being hidden, how can I say whose fault it really is? Is Syabas really guilty of reducing water supply as you claim? Or is it because the infrastructure cannot cope with the demand even though supply is sufficient?

            If the problem is the latter, then the need to talk about future needs is important, because there are a lot more development projects that are due for completion that will further tax the infrastructure to the point where it cannot cope. Parts of Indonesia have severe power outages due to over-development. Are you so certain that you want to get to that stage with our water supply before you talk about it?


        • Dear KW Mak,

          Thanks for your comments. As mentioned at the bottom of the infographic, all the sources of reference can be found on our website, where this infographic was originally posted:

          • KW Mak says:

            @ REFSA

            “There are several reasons for the high level of NRW in the country. These include age of pipe network where it is estimated that about 40% or 50,900km of the pipe network was laid 40 to 60 years ago and longer; poor maintenance of pipe network and lack of funding for asset replacement and poor construction resulted in increased leakage in the system; illegal connections contribute significantly to commercial losses and revenue loss to the utilities; absence of coherent implementation for Active Leakage Control has allowed NRW to hover at its present level of 36% for some time now. All these have now become the focus of regulatory oversight under the new licensing regime and things are expected to improve.”

            This is an excerpt from the SPAN press release that you linked, which states that the NRW for Selangor is 36%, so I will concede this point. But this part of the SPAN press release also talks about the NRW problems related to development, which comes under the purview of the Selangor government.

            It doesn’t give details however, so I’m left to guess and provide the hypothesis that I gave earlier. Again, I will assert that the majority of development projects approved by the local councils DO NOT have water consumption projections and are not required to build new infrastructure when they are built in existing developed areas, and I have a lot of development proposal reports to back up my assertion.

            So again I’m asking: is this one of the reasons that we are having a water supply problem and as such, are both BN and PR not telling the whole truth about the water supply issue?


  2. ellese says:

    Refsa has been bias.

    The fundamental question in water planning is the reserve allocation. All the water treatment plants in Selangor are currently functioning over their capacity. Our current reserve margin is very, very low, less than 5%. God forbid if we have a major plant shutdown which we will eventually as all of them need major repairs for running over capacity. Then, we will be in deep trouble.

    To ensure a sustainable water supply, all the water experts have suggested that we have different supply from different sources of water. Even Khalid acknowledged this as he suggested that Selangor procure previously from Perak and Trengganu.

    Selangor has politicized this issue. Langat has nothing to do with water restructuring but [is to meet] water demand. If I don’t get enough water simply because of inadequate reserves, I personally will kick each of the Selangor Excos’ butts.

    • neptunian says:

      Now I know for sure that ellese is a BN cyber trooper.

      Let me put it in clear and simple questions.

      1. The water crisis – stoppage of water supply to many areas of selangor. It is happening now. How is starting work on Langat 2 going to solve the issue immediately? That’s the rubbish Syabas and the Federal Govt have been spinning.

      2. The water treatment and pumping stations have been working overtime.. – Why is maintenance not done properly. Anyone in engineering maintenance can tell you that pump failures occuring in several pump houses all at once is a near impossibility. That’s what Syabas claimed. Sabotage? Political pressure?

      3. Syabas got their contract to distribute water. One of the conditions is to reduce NRW (non revenue water) to 20+ percent. The NRW is still more than 45%. That is 25% wasted water. That is 25% water that would be the safety buffer in our water supply. The Selangor Govt is trying to take Syabas to task over this, but the Federal Govt is defending Syabas! Why is that?

      The water crisis in Selangor is all politics. The Federal Govt controls (albeit thru proxy) Syabas. It is trying to use the water issue to bring down the PKR Selangor Govt. To do that, together with Syabas, it is manufacturing water shortages and blaming the State Govt for not approving Langat 2. Anyone with any sense can tell that Langat 2, which can only be ready in 3-4 years’ time, will not solve the water supply problems occuring NOW.

      I have never been a big fan of PKR, but this rubbish with the Federal Govt, Syabas and the water issue has pushed me over to their side. You cannot use an essential public service as a political tool.

    • Pei Ling says:

      Is Selangor really short of treated water? Or has Syabas failed to improve its distributive system to deliver water to consumers more efficiently?

      Selangor’s water treatment plants can jointly treat up to 4,807 million litres of water per day (MLD). But Syabas can only distribute up to 4,411 MLD. And out of that, less than 3,000 MLD reaches consumers because Syabas has failed to reduce the rate of non-revenue water (NRW) since it took over water distribution in 2004. World Bank’s recommendation of NRW is less than 25%, Germany’s rate 7%, Singapore’s 5%, Syabas’s current standard? 32%.

      If Syabas cannot manage, why is the federal government reluctant to terminate its contract and give other companies, or the state government, a try? Penang’s water treatment and distribution are being managed by state subsidiary PBA. The state’s water tariffs remain one of the lowest in the country and its NRW is almost half of Selangor’s (18.2%). Why should citizens in Selangor, KL and Putrajaya pay double the rate for water than Penangnites yet receive poorer service? The people deserve better.

  3. ellese says:

    Rubbish, Neptuniun. First and foremost, please stop lying. I’m not a BN cybertrooper. No one in BN knows me. I write views which I believe in.

    I have been in the water industry for a while. I think you have no clue whatsoever about this water industry.

    Since you are ignorant, a good book you can refer to is “The Water Tablet”. Go buy it at bookstores. For your knowledge, the Federal Government was reforming the whole water industry pre 2008. And that includes the taking over of Syabas.

    The water restructuring involves all the water assets to be owned by PAAB who will lease back the operation to water distributor. Why? Coz the water industry has been underinvested resulting in high NRW. PAAB has been purchasing the assets from other states at a standard fair market formula. All other states (save Selangor) agreed to it including Penang. Penang initially objected but LGE knew it was the right way forward where he can clear Penang of debts and future capex.

    But Selangor politicized it. They want to make a billion dollar middle man profit. (See Khalid’s statement at that time. I have personal knowledge of this). How? They want to buy from all water players at dirt cheap price and sell higher to PAAB. He never bothered to follow the much acceptable valuation for concessions. That’s why not only did Syabas not want to sell, Splash (owned by Gamuda) balked at the offer. No right minded shareholder and bond holder can agree to it. Khalid initially bid at a ridiculous amount of 5b. To know how rubbish that was his second offer was at 9b. Then in the meantime he wanted to sell higher to PAAB than what PAAB is buying from other states.

    Isn’t this good for Selangor? Absolutely not. Why? The leasing rental by PAAB to the state would have to be increased to cover the billion dollar middle man profit. So what? Under the restructuring scheme to make the industry sustainable, the tariff would be increased.

    Khalid is crazy. He has no compunction in increasing the water tariff yet proclaims he cares. Worse, in order to gain leverage, he conditioned the restructuring to Langat 2 which has nothing to do with Syabas. Langat 2 is about meeting water demands. And all the while Langat 2 is already under control of Selangor owned companies. He is utterly rubbish.

    For you Neptunian, go and read first. Don’t know then ask before accusing me. I recently saw water companies owned by the state government and they too confirmed all their plants are functioning over capacity. And This mind you, is wholly owned by Selangor government. Rubbish.

    I repeat, Khalid politicized this water issue to the max affecting our demand supply. The low level reserve margin is ridiculous. I will literally kick him in his butt if I suffer this unnecessary water shortage.

    • KT says:

      You seemed well informed on this issue. Please enlighten us:
      1. Why is the water industry under-invested?
      2. Why do you consider building new plant a priority over spending to reduce the NRW which ic way above the 25% UN recommendation?
      3. As a Selangor consumer, I am directly experiencing the problem. Until today my water supply is painfully slow and supply disruption is a regular occurence. What do you think of the service provided by Syabas?

    • Pei Ling says:

      Um, actually some of the treatment plants in Selangor are operating under-capacity while others are over. It is inaccurate that all are functioning over capacity. Many can still be upgraded to increase capacity.

      And out of the three water treatment companies, only Abbas is controlled by the state and Abbas only managed one out of 32 treatment plants in Selangor. Puncak Niaga, which is owned by former Selangor Umno treasurer Rozali Ismail controls the majority – 29 – of the treatment plants. Gamuda subsidiary Splash manages the remaining two.

      Second point, your allegation of Khalid wanting to make billion dollar profit is unfounded. If Selangor does make a billion dollar profit from buying the companies cheap and selling it at a higher price to PAAB, it is the state coffers and the Selangor people who will benefit, not Khalid.

      To further correct your statement, Splash and Abbas accepted the state’s 9bil offer in 2009 but Puncak Niaga and Syabas rejected it. After that, PAAB had actually offer 10.3bil to the four, slashing the prices for Splash and Abbas to raise the bids for Puncak Niaga and Syabas. All four rejected it. Which players are blocking the restructuring here? To whose demise?

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ neptunian

      I don´t know if you really mean it, but I have to agree with Ellese A that she´s not a BN cybertrooper. She´s been active with her points of view for a few years already (here on TNG and on other websites). In any case, even if she is a BN cybertrooper, she´s quite an honest one (regarding her opinions), regardless of how most of us generally think that her views are narrow in scope.

      A BN cybertrooper would be someone who is just obviously fake — for example, a certain [commenter on TNG], who was actually also hiding behind another name called “Addin” before he was exposed. Only Allah knows how many other names he is hiding behind here on TNG, and on other websites. If only TNG would use IP addresses instead of names in the comments section.

    • neptunian says:

      Kind of hard to argue logically with someone who was/is involved in the water industry well before PKR became the state govt in March 08.

      The water problems did not arise after March 08
      The traffic problems did not arise after March 08
      The public transport problems did not arise after march 08
      BTW.. the OSA on concession agreements still applies.. such important public interest / essential service provision in OSA? Hiding something?

      Still haven’t answered the question about water distribution efficiency except for “under invest”. How is that going to be fixed with Langat II?

  4. Jason Loh says:


    [These are] lies *and* nonsense about MB Khalid. Your rant and *illogical* waffle shows it all.

    Go and read about the Selangor State Government’s plan to take over the water distribution services from Syabas on the SSG’s website. The whole point – as part of Merakyatkan Ekonomi Selangor (MES) – is to ensure that the SSG can continue to provide free water up to 20 cubic per metre for all (residential) households.

    Under UMNO/Syabas’ plan, water tariff would be hiked by as much as 37 per cent in 2009. In 2012, it would have gone up by 25 per cent and in 2015, it was supposed to go up by 20 per cent.

  5. ellese says:

    My reply earlier is still not published by nut graph for unknown reasons. I will not repeat yet.

    But I need to comment a few things.

    In relation to PL comment, please note the RM5.7b was rejected by all. The second offer was accepted by Splash as correctly stated by PL. Abas is inconsequential as they are owned by [the] State.

    I believe PL is not familiar with the restructuring. PAAB is not meant to be taken advantage of. It’s a financing purpose. It’s viability is in the lease rental. What ever billion dollar middle [person] profit made will be translated into a higher lease rental. And you know what that means? It’s a definite higher water tariff under the new scheme. It is ridiculous for Khalid to complain on a meagre increase [by] Syabas when he is causing a much higher tariff to the Selangorians by this middle [people]. If we add up based on the original offer it’s as much as in excess of 10b. This part of spin is ridiculous by Khalid. It doesn’t make sense.

    To Jason, I defend my integrity. Which part [did] I lie? Prove it. Otherwise [it’s] rubbish. I don’t take kindly [to] those who make false accusations. […]

    P.s Jason I’ve already addressed your issue in the write [up] which is currently upheld by nut graph for god knows [what] reason. I’ll await publication.

    Editor’s note: Kindly note that posts and comments that are lengthy and require heavy editing for grammatical and comprehensive purposes will necessarily take longer to edit, especially as The Nut Graph has limited resources.

  6. ellese says:

    I’m not sure why you’ve censored my earlier write. I’m republishing it with a slightly watered down version.

    Dear KT,
    We had a major problem prior to restructuring and it’s systemic. To [put it simply] there was no money. Previously water services was under state jurisdiction. States have been incurring debts after debts to develop water infrastructure. In fact almost all state debts are due to loans from federal government for water infrastructure. Why didn’t the state have money? Because all the states’ water tariffs are too bloody low. It’s not sustainable. What happened was that it led to an unsustainable scenario that in some states the NRW went as high as 50%. I have not touched on sewerage which is worse off. The model cannot work and it’s systemic.

    There is however an exception i.e Kelantan which has little debt. But because of that pipe water is delivered to a small segment of Kelantanese unlike other states and water quality is bad. Most people in Kelantan use ground water which they dig themselves. Kelantan’s government recognized this and they were all for the restructuring.

    Our problem has been politics. Our water is dirt cheap to the extent we waste so much. It was never a question of affordability. For example let’s take the Selangor rate […]. The price for usage of rm0.57/m cube for usage below 20 m cube. That means we’re paying 57 sen for 1000 liters. Selangorians are paying RM1 for 1 liter of mineral water bottle. Even if we increase 100% [it] is still dirt cheap. […] that’s how ridiculous this tariff rebate is. That’s why PR’s policy on free water is simply rubbish and more idiotic cos most in low income don’t get the benefit of free water.

    [The] federal government recognized this. Tun Lim Keng Yaik was instrumental. Our constitution was amended to share power on water services. PAAB was created to get cheap financing. It’ll be in the books of federal government. [The] state is to focus on operational efficiency. Since [the] government is financing, all operators will be regulated. They have to make the cost transparent and open to scrutiny. No more concessions allowed. Everything was going to plan until selangor wanted to make a billion dollar middle [person] profit. There’s much to write. I recommend you to read the water tablet by Dr chin.

    On your question two, its a valid question. The pipes we’re replacing are from [the] British colonial era and we don’t know the exact locations of all [those pipes], what more to know where is the leakage. In any event I think for Selangor a target of 20++% is already a good target. For a feel on NRW, UK and France NRW rates are around 26%. (05). (Of course there are others lower below 10% like Spore). I don’t have the math, but there will be [a] point of saturation i.e cost just doesn’t justify the improvement on NRW.

    Now having said that for Selangor, for proper planning of water supply there is also a limit on the supply side. The source of water is insufficient to meet our demand growth. If my recollection is right southern selangor is already receiving supply from other states. There’s a consensus including [from] Khalid with his various statements that we need other [sources of] supply to ensure sustainability. The Pahang job makes sense because Sungai Pahang has [an] abundance of raw water. The Japanese [are] constructing the tunnel with cheap loans. However whether cost is fair I’ve not done my Maths.

    In short, we must proceed with [the] Pahang water transfer. No other source is sustainable. Ground water is risky unless we can severely regulate our intake. The […] whammy on selangorians [is] that [the] Selangor government is not willing to pay for NRW capex cos of politics.

    So this comes to your third question. My understanding is that all facilities are at [maximum] capacity. You will face continuous problems unless we proceed with improving NRW and obtain a new [source of] water supply. [The] way forward [is] we need to do both rather than one [or] the other. […]

    Editor’s note: The earlier post was not censored but delayed due to the length of the post and the need for editing for grammar and comprehension.

  7. ellese says:

    Huh KT? Of course syabas is responsible. Under the concession and the law it is the responsibility of syabas to do it. It’s part of the capex expenditure. However the capex payment is the responsibility of the Selangor government. If Selangor plays politics not to pay, don’t you think any reasonable person on [the Clapham] bus [would think that Syabas] has the right to stop providing service. Even in UK, the default to pay entitles a person not to continue service.

    That’s why Selangor can’t take this matter to court on kpi. They are at fault lah.

  8. John Tang says:

    Mr Mak conjectured about future needs. Mr ellese offers his own personal observation as facts. Mr KT puts it correctly: why not reduce NRW instead of building a new plant that can only be commissioned in three years time.

    And it is well known that apart from Penang, the national NRW is high. I am surprised to read it is 25% above UN recommendation.

    After 45 years and more of neglect, all our water pipe/reticulation are showing signs of neglect and mismanagement.

    Another fact is that less and less centralised and district reservoirs are being built. Water authorities unload them on housing developers who oblige by building small and numerous elevated water tanks for their own little development.

    Why elevated water tanks when one or two centralised reservoirs sitting on high ground will suffice, as they did in the past, to serve two or three developments or even a district? Why are water tanks made of steel or fibre panels bolted together with screws which can rust and do rust, still permitted when concrete has proven its worth and durability?

    If we do not have good practices in the distribution of water to households, what shall we do with a big mega water treatment plant with treated water? Dump it back to the river!

    And coincidentally, it has been the same BN in power all these long years of neglect.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ John Tang

      People are fond of simplifying the cause and effect to the point where it is the fault of this or that political party and that the removal of the opposing political party from power would somehow miraculously solve the problems we face.

      All I did was provide a different perspective to the issue. It is non-partisan and simply calls for more evidence to be revealed.


  9. K-17 says:

    Consider this:
    Every pure drop of rain that falls has a mission. It is a sacrifice of Life, that life begets life. It is the contribution of a note in the grand orchestra of Creation. Yet too often, in the hands of the human conductor, the note becomes soured and the miracle cycle of life is cut short and dumped into the cesspool of a putrid subterranean sewer, depolarized, demagnetized from the true north of purpose.

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