IWK, KASA spearhead water reclamation initiative

In the event of a drought in the future, it is hoped that the supply of drinking water will not be severely affected

by TMR / pic credit: IWK

MALAYSIA recorded a population of about 32.7 million people in 2020.

The increase in population each year will certainly boost demand for various essential needs, especially for clean water and food resources. This, coupled with the immense challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the challenges of climate change and greenhouse effect, will leave a huge impact on the entire human race.

This situation can be seen when the world’s population continues to be threatened by the ongoing drought season, as reported by the media, which has affected one billion people in the last decade.

World Bank data also reveals that drought has destroyed products that can feed 81 million people every day for a year.

In other words, the reality of climate change in addition to the pandemic is one of the main causes of conflict in the world, as it has resulted in food shortages, threatens human life and can affect the entire population.

To address one of the impacts of climate change, Malaysia is committed, under the Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030, to reusing 33% of the total treated effluent water.

In this regard, the related initiative has been included in the Environment and Water Ministry’s (KASA) direction towards Environmental Sustainability in Malaysia (2020-2030), which aims to produce 1,500 million litres per day (MLD) of reclaimed water from treated effluent. The direction adopted by KASA is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

National sewerage company, Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK), has recorded that the treated wastewater amounts to approximately 5,649 MLD from 7,000 sewage treatment plants under its maintenance, being discharged back into the waters or rivers.

As a company owned by the Minister of Finance Inc, IWK has embarked on a water reclamation initiative whereby wastewater treated from IWK’s sewage treatment plant will undergo further treatment to be reused for non-potable purposes.

This initiative is set to open up opportunities for water operators to obtain alternative water sources for non-potable purposes, which in turn can contribute towards maintaining the country’s clean water resources and reducing pressure on water sources, thus increasing circular economy practices.

IWK CEO Narendran Maniam said as early as 2015, IWK has taken steps to start small-scale projects with the local authorities to reuse treated effluent to water landscape crops.

“In fact, there are several IWK plants that reuse this treated effluent to clean the sewage treatment plants’ equipment and the surrounding area.

“With the cooperation of KASA, National Water Services Commission and water operators, IWK is now pioneering the supply of reclaimed water through renewable processes, suitable for use in manufacturing processes for non-food-based industries.

“The treated effluent produced from waste-water treatment will go through a modern technological process at the water reclamation plant (WRP) which is specially built near IWK’s sewage treatment plant. Reclaimed water that has been processed will be channelled through special pipes directly to the factories in need,” explained Narendran.

Narendran added that this water reclamation project can assist the government to reduce the burden of demand on clean drinking water sources and present itself as the most viable alternative for manufacturers or industries.

“This country is still very dependent on water catchment. There is vulnerability in our water supply as it depends on weather conditions and changes.

“I believe to ensure a more sustainable water supply, it is crucial for us to diversify the country’s water supply portfolio by combining safe water resources and reducing dependence on water supply that depends solely on rainwater,” added Narendran.

As it is still a long way to go for reclamation efforts to be a holistic alternative source of water, all parties need to play their respective roles in achieving this more sustainable economic cycle, says Narendran

Citing an article by a leading water expert Prof Menachem Elimelech from Yale University through his scientific journal, he said the only sustainable ways to increase water supply beyond what is already available from the hydrological cycle are desalination and reuse.

Thus, according to Associate Prof Dr Lau Woei Jye from the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Energy Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, various efforts have been made by several countries to alleviate water supply constraints through improving water catchment systems, water distribution, infrastructure and water conservation, but those measures are just enough to improve the existing method of using water resources.

Compared to the process of desalination of seawater or brackish water which requires higher capital investment and operating costs, Lau explained that wastewater recycling process is more competitive in terms of cost and suitable to be considered in the country.

Recognising this fact, Narendran said IWK will develop the WRP project through the concept of cooperation with water operators in all states that will supply systems and technology for the development of the plant.

He said IWK is in the middle of discussion with one water operator on the first phase to supply 7.5 MLD, while the next phase aims to supply an accumulated 247 MLD that will involve an investment of RM600 million.

“IWK is confident that the WRP project will not only preserve the environment through sustainable water resource management, but further decrease dependency on the nation’s clean water supply that can be used for drinking purposes.

“At the same time, the WRP project can encourage technology transfer, development of high-tech workforce expertise, as well as availability of new job opportunities,” he added.

It is a welcoming news that the water reclamation initiative has begun to attract interest and acceptance of water operators and the state governments in focusing on efforts to plan water supply to the right target groups.

In the event of a drought in the future, it is hoped that the supply of drinking water will not be severely affected as industrial plants begin to turn to reclaimed water as a source of water for their manufacturing operations.

Narendran said as it is still a long way to go for reclamation efforts to be a holistic alternative source of water, all parties need to play their respective roles in achieving this more sustainable economic cycle.

“Consumers must jointly carry out the responsibility of conserving and reducing water wastage.

“Collective efforts from all parties will ensure that our environment continues to be preserved for the survival and needs of future generations,” he concluded.