IWK committedly treats wastewater, ensures environmental sustainability

The country’s sewerage tariff charge needs to be carefully reviewed to cover operating costs and the addition of IWK’s assets

PEOPLE have been spending more time at home since the Movement Control Order (MCO) began last year, and this has become a norm ever since the Covid-19 pandemic grappled the world.

This also means that activities from the use of bathrooms, washing machines and kitchen sinks have increased, bringing domestic wastewater production from 5,887.4 million litres daily in 2019 to 6,205.53 million litres a day in 2021.

As an essential service, national sewerage company Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) continues to treat wastewater round-the-clock. Despite the pandemic and challenging environment, the sewage treatment plants (STPs) maintained by IWK have been operating non-stop.

Many may not know that Malaysia’s sewerage system has undergone various stages of improvement since our country gained independence in 1957. The humble beginnings of Malaysia’s sewerage system from traditional toilet systems such as latrines and pour flush, before advancing to more modernised sewerage systems like septic tanks and systems connected directly to large-scale STPs.

Today, most of the large and high-tech STPs were built primarily for the purpose of rationalisation, as well as replacing small plants with regional plants, which are operated using high-powered electrical equipment.

There are over 7,000 public STPs under IWK’s operation and maintenance.

IWK CEO Narendran Maniam said among the operation and maintenance costs that constitute the highest expenditure are electricity charges.

Each year, these costs will increase with the addition of public STPs taken over by IWK.

For example, the cost of electricity in 2000 was RM22.52 million and last year, it was RM256.3 million. This shows that the cost of electricity has increased by tenfold in 20 years.

“The increase in old and ageing sewerage assets also contributes to the increase in operating costs. This is because these assets require maintenance and repair work to ensure that the treated wastewater discharged into the waters complies with the standards stipulated.

“Until June 2021, IWK’s compliance with the Environmental Quality Regulations (Sewage) is more than 95% despite the addition to the plants that IWK takes over every year,” said Narendran.

He added that the financial burden borne by the company has to be considered, although it is not a sustainable solution.

However, sewerage service charges for domestic customers have not changed since 1997. Be it connected services or septic tank desludging services, the charges paid by consumers are much lower than the average operating costs borne by IWK.

To that end, Environment and Water Minister Dato’ Sri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man recently mentioned that the country’s sewerage tariff charge needs to be carefully reviewed to cover operating costs and the addition of IWK’s assets.

For that, Narendran explained, the average cost of maintaining the sewerage system for each connected premises is about RM17 monthly, compared to the current charges paid by domestic consumers, which is between RM2 and RM8.

“We have submitted several suggestions to the government based on studies to ensure that the review of sewerage service tariffs will not only balance the cost, but also does not burden consumers, especially the B40 (bottom 40%) group,” said Narendan.

Nevertheless, he said IWK is committed and continues to strive to implement its mandate to operate and maintain the public sewerage system efficiently in any situation.

This article is by IWK.