Ageing dam infrastructure: More water disruptions expected, says SPAN

NATIONAL Water Services Commission (SPAN) chairman Charles Santiago has warned Malaysians that further piped water supply disruptions are likely due to the country’s outdated dam infrastructure.

Santiago said according to the Dam Water Levels and Dam Water Supplies Risk Assessment Report, there were seven dams in Malaysia that have been identified as high risk.

“These are the Pedu, Muda, Durian Tunggal, Asahan, Mengkuang, Jus, and Linggui dams,” Santiago told a press conference at the SPAN office in Cyberjaya today (Oct 23).

“Overall, a total 16 out of 55 dams in Peninsular Malaysia that are used for water consumption are more than 50 years old.”

According to Santiago, there was a need to reevaluate their design and safety and conduct an assessment of both active and dead storage due to their old age.

“The water level readings at some dams might indicate 20 mil litres per day (mld), but actually, only 15 mld is usable due to “dead storage at the bottom.

“We don’t know how much dead storage, known as silt, is at the bottom of the dams.

“There’s no way to know because those are very old dams and because of poor maintenance and no proper auditing, this is an issue that we should focus on.

“The dams aren’t at a dangerous level, but the water supply at these dams is at high risk,” the former Klang MP said.

Santiago said the respective state governments are aware of the issue and are addressing it.

He also said he will meet Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad next week to discuss the report.

Santiago further noted that it was important for Putrajaya to review the design and safety of the old dams, as well as for regular maintenance and audits to be carried out.

“A study of active and dead storage needs to be made because… there have been significant changes (from many of the original designs).

“There has to be an internal audit by (the respective) agencies (involved). They must start looking into it now,” he said.

Santiago said climate change was also an important factor to take into account, saying that it had caused water carrying capacity in Kedah’s Sungai Muda, for example, to drop sharply.

“We cannot determine clearly how much rainfall we get. Sometimes… there’s no rain in two months and suddenly, it rains too much in one or two days, (causing) floods in certain areas.”

Sungai Muda is the main raw water source for Kedah and Penang.

“We cannot play with (water supply issues) anymore. We must be serious. We cannot wait for another five years to make a change. We must start now,” Santiago stressed. – Oct 23, 2023


Main pic credit: New Straits Times

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