Saturday, February 20, 2010

Penang water usage

Penangites use an average 285 litres of water each daily in 2008, the highest compared with people in other states, Penang is the NO 1 state for water consumption. The other top water states in 2008 are Johor (207 litres), Selangor (234), Kedah (236), Negeri Sembilan (239) and Malacca (268). The standard fixed by the United Nations (UN) is 165 litres per person daily. Penang consumption exceeded UN standard by 120 litres, the excess is only short by 45 litres from UN standard per person daily. This revealed that some of Penang people have used twice the UN standard, the water consumption for 2 people, twice the required consumption per person. The other 120 litres are all wasted.

If you use simple calculation:

Population 1,578,000( est in 2009)
Consumption per person 285 per litre
Total water consumption daily 449,730,000 litres
UN Standard 165 per litre 260,370,000 litres
Wastage per day 189,360,000 litres

The water we have wasted and can be saved is 189,360,000 litres per day, imagine how much water you can saved per year!......

Penang Chief Miniter, as Chairman of Penang Water Supply Corporation, said although the state did not experience water shortage, Penangites should use water with care due to the hot spell sweeping across the country. "Penang is facing a big problem as there is a lot of water wastage," he said. Will the Penang people be proud to be NO 1 water consumption and wastage in Malaysia?... I am not proud of that record, I rather go for the NO 1 water conservation state in Malaysia.

The lowest water tariff

Lim said the high water usage by Penangites could be due to the tariff of 31 sen per cubic metre, the lowest compared with the other states. Penang's water tariff is also the lowest in the country at 31 sen per cubic metre. Johor, which is currently facing water shortage, has the highest rate at 98 sen for the first 35 cubic metres for domestic supply. Some said our water tariff is one of the lowest in the world.

Penang people should be thankful to the state for providing us the cheap water rate, and not to take opportunity to waste water because the water is cheap. However, if we continue waste our water resources, if the water authority have to raise the water tariff to reduce water wastage, Penang people must not blame the state government, because we did not value the cheap water supplies we have in the state.


Penang water supply has come a long way since 1804, the first water supply was from the waterfall in Botanical Garden. The waterfall is still flowing today, thanks to the rich catchment area surrounding the waterfall. But the water from waterfall now is not sufficient for Penang population. The state sourced the water supply mainly from Kedah, the Sungai Muda. We must not take things for granted, as the clean water in the state was the effort of many who had contributed to state water supply, and today we can enjoy the low water tariff. Let us know some of the history.....

1804- Capt FRANCIS Light commissioned the development of the first simple water supply and distribution system in the Settlement of Penang Island (then known as the Prince of Wales Island). It was the first of its kind in the country and was able to cater for the need of the 10,000 odd population on the Island. Convict labour was to construct an aqueduct of brick to transport clear stream water from the hills to town. Earthen pipes were laid under the streets and water taken from them through tin pipes to homes.

Water was sourced from the waterfall in the Penang Botanic Garden and supplied via a long brick aqueduct to the town. Earthenware pipes were laid through the streets as distribution pipes to the individual houses.

1877 - The bricks in the aqueduct were often dislodged and the aqueduct was eventually replaced with a cast iron main in 1877. This cast iron main is on record as the first water main in Malaysia and traces of it can still be found in the Penang water supply network.

1892 - ALTHOUGH water was abundant and generally of a good quality, there were insufficient pressure and the water in rainy weather was charged with sand and silt. Hence, there was a need to construct a reservoir to store and supply clean water, when the river water by passed after heavy rain. The Waterfall Reservoir- the first reservoir in Settlement of Penang Island was constructed and completed in 1894. Another reservoir in Air Itam was built in 1914 for the same purpose.

1900 - UNIVERSAL Water metering system was introduced in Penang. By early 1900s, water was no longer delivered untreated directly from the source to homes. Water began to be treated before distribution. This came about as a result of an International movement in developed nations that required the treatment of drinking water to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases such as chorela, typhoid, and dysentery. As a British colony, Malaya and the Borneo territories, Malaysia now, benefited from this development in water supply. It paved the way for water treatment engineers to design and construct filtration and water treatment plants. Initially, slow sand filters, which were inexpensive and easy to build, were adopted. They were
later replaced with modern rapid gravity filtration plants.

1919 - A WATER Department within the George Town City Council was established, headed by a Municipal Water Engineer, Mr.J. D. Fettes. In the 1920's, a notable achievement by the department was the development of water resources on the north side of the Island, where a 7km pipelines was built inside a tunnel. A 600mm diameter pipelines brought water from the streams of the Batu Ferringi Valley to a service reservoir in Tanjung Bungah, known as Guillemard Reservoir.

1929 - PENANG’S first water treatment plant at Air Itam commenced its operations.

1962 - PENANG'S first dam, the Air Itam Dam, was officially opened by the (then) Governor of Penang, TYT Y.M.Raja Tun Uda Al-Haj bin Raja Muhammad.

1973 - ON JANUARY 1,1973, Pihak Berkuasa Air Pulau Pinang (PBA), a state statutory authority was established. The role of authority was to supply treated water within the State of Penang (both the island and the mainland). Prior to PBA's establishment, water supply on the island was under the jurisdiction of the George Town City Council whilst the Public Works Department (JKR) supplied water on the mainland. THE MUDA River Water Scheme was initiated, with its Phase I consisting of the construction of a barrange at Bumbung Lima, a pumping station at Lahar Tiang, a treatment plant at Sungai Dua and a submarine pipeline to Penang which was completed at the costs of RM42 million. The Scheme was subsequently augmented under Phase 2A with a further expenditure of RM 12 million to increase supply to 2504.57 million litres a day.

1985 - PENANG'S second dam, the Mengkuang Dam was officially opened by the (then) Yang Di Pertua Negeri Pulau Pinang, TYT Tun Datuk Dr Haji Awang bin Hassan on December 14, 1985. Located on the mainland, the dam has a catchment area of 3.9sq km and a gross storage capacity of 23.6 billion litres ( almost 10 times the capacity of the Air Itam Dam).

1999 - PBA WAS CORPORATISED into Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang Sdn Bhd, (PBAPP)a private limited company established under the Companies Act 1965, and wholly owned by the State Government of Pulau Pinang through its investment arm, State Secetary Penang. PBAPP was granted on operating licence pursuant to Section 16 of the Water Supply Enactment 1988 to operate as the water supplier in the State of Penang. Under Section 4 (2) of the Penang Water Authority (successor Company) Enactment 198, selected immovable property including buildings, reservoirs, treatment plants and all superstructures and infrastructure directly related to operations of PBAPP was transferred from PBA to PBAPP. However, immovable property which were deemed strategic in nature and of national interest(including dams, recreation areas, catchment lands, canals and water mains), remained under the purview of the State Government.

2002 - On April 18, 2002 PBA Holdings Bhd made its debut on the Bursa Malaysia Main Board with a 40 sen premium over its initial public offer(IPO) price of RM1.30. PBA Holdings Bhd was the most heavily traded counter for that day.

PENANG'S third dam, the Teluk Bahang Dam, was completed as scheduled at a cost of RM135 million. It was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia,YAB Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi on November 26, 1999. The capacity of the Teluk Bahang Dam, at 19.24 billion litres, is approximately 8 times that of the Air Itam Dam. The key benefits of the latest dam include increasing in-state water storage capacity, providing strategic storage for emergency use (especially during the dry season ) and the creation of a new green recreational area for the people and tourists in Teluk Bahang.


Water Supply

Most of Penang Island water comes from the mainland from Sungai Muda in Kedah. Penang is dependent on other states for water and has no control over development activities in other states – The bulk (About 80 %) of Penang's treated water are obtained from the Muda and Kulim river catchments both of which are located in Kedah. As such, Penang cannot control activities outside its borders, even when such activities can adversely affect water resources. This is not a very comforting and secure situation. Penang needs to ensure the future security of water resources. Currently, it is depending too much on other states and it has no control over activities in neighbouring states. Currently, the State’s water resources are being threatened by indiscriminate development of catchment areas (within and outside Penang State); reduced rainfall amounts in recent years, water pollution, increasing demand, conflicting land uses, and fragmented management(ref:letter to Chief Minister, Water Watch Penang, 2008).

Dams in Penang

Penang state have 3 main dams, Air Itam, Mengkuang, Teluk Pahang.

1.Air Itam Dam
Air Itam Dam was the first dam built in Penang. It is located 700 feet above sea level in the water catchment area surrounded by Penang Hill and Paya Terubong, at Air Itam just behind Kek Lok Si temple. The Ayer Itam Dam was the first major engineering project to be undertaken by the City Council of George Town after the independence of Malaya. It cost M$15 million, and construction took place between 1958 and 1962. It could hold 2.6 billion litres of water. The dam was officially opened by the former Governor, Raja Tun Uda Al-Haj bin Raja Muhamad on 8 December 1962.

2. Mengkuang Dam
Mengkuang Dam is only dam in Province Wellesley, Penang state, and open in 1985. It is located outside Bukit Mertajam town on the way to Penanti. The dam is located in the Mengkuang Valley north of Bukit Mertajam on the mainland. It was officially opened by the former Governor, Dr. Tun Awang Hassan in 1985. The gross storage capacity of 23.639 billion litres ( almost 10 times the capacity of the Air Itam Dam)

3. Teluk Pahang Dam

Teluk Bahang Dam is the largest dam on Penang Island. It was built to provide an alternative source of water supply to the Ayer Itam Dam and the Botanic Gardens Waterfall. It is located on the southern part of Teluk Bahang. The Teluk Bahang Dam was completed in 1999. The Teluk Bahang Dam is often used as the venue for international dragon boat races. The capacity of the Teluk Bahang Dam, at 19.24 billion litres, is approximately 8 times that of the Air Itam Dam.

The other smaller dams are Bukit Panchor Dam( situated in Nibong Tebal, Seberang Perai Selatan.), Berapit Dam(situated near Berapit, Bukit Mertajam), Cherok Tok Kun Dam (situated in Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai Tengah it is less than 23 km from Butterworth town).

On water level at three dams in the state, he said Air Itam Dam was at 84 percent capacity and capable of supplying water for 100 days.

Mengkuang Dam was at 95 percent capacity capable of supplying water for 166 days and Teluk Bahang at 86 percent capacity capable of supplying water for 276 days.

However, the water supply from Muda River and Penang's three dams namely the Air Itam, Teluk Bahang and Mengkuang were enough to last from 100 to 276 days, even without a rainfall over the next few months.

The Chief Minister, Lim GE said "Penangites need not worry as water supply in the state is still adequate to meet daily needs,".

Penang Reservoirs

1. The Guillemard Reservoir, also known as the Penang Reservoir

Guillemard Reservoir is a reservoir built on a hillside in Vale of Tempe, Penang, 246 feet above sea level. Now officially known as Kolam Air Guillemard, it was named after Sir Laurence Guillemard, who was the Governor of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements from 1920 to 1927. The reservoir comprises two equal size ponds with two cupolas. Due to its shape like a pair of spectacles, the Guillemard Reservoir became known in Hokkien as "Bak Knia Tee", meaning Spectacle Pond. They were designed in the Art Deco style, and constructed in 1929. The waterworks engineer heading the project was J.D. Fettes, whose name is immortalised in Fettes Park. The Guillemard Reservoir (both South and North) has a storage capacity of 34,452 cu.m.

2. Bukit Dumbar Reservoir

Bukit Dumbar is a man-made hill built over an underground reservoir. It is located in Jelutong, or rather, at the border of Jelutong and Gelugor. Since the 1960's, Bukit Dumbar also doubles as a recreational park. The Bukit Dumbar Reservoir comprises three separate
reservoirs, each with a capacity ranging from more than 36,000 cu.m. to more than 45,000 cu.m. It caters for the population within the South area of Penang Island.

3. Waterfall Reservoir

Waterfall Reservoir is Penang's first reservoir. The oval-shaped reservoir of the Penang Waterfall was constructed in the gardens in 1892 by British engineer James MacRitchie, who was also responsible for the MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore, built in 1894. The Penang reservoir was reconstructed in 1950. Today, only a small proportion of the Penang water supply comes from the waterfall reservoir — approximately 10–15% of the population obtain their water from here, while most of the island's water supply comes from Sungai Muda, on the border of Penang and Kedah.

4. Air Itam Reservoir

Near the round about leading to Penang Hill, at the hill off Air Itam Road. The first water treatment plant in 1929.

Water Saving Tips

Please follow these 33 tips to save money, protect our environment and use a critical resource responsibly, now and in the future.
1. Avoid using a hose as far as possible.
2. Wash your car or motorcycle less often. Wipe dirt off with a damp cloth instead.
3. When you need to wash your car or motorcycle with water, try using a bucket and a piece of cloth or sponge.
4. When you cannot avoid using a hose, install a turn-off nozzle on the end of the hose to adjust the water flow and turn the water off and on.
5. Replace all hoses which are leaking immediately.
6. Water your plants with a watering can.
7. Water from your fish tank and water which is used to clean food can be re-cycled to water plants.
8. Water your plants at the roots, not the leaves or flowers.
9. Water your plants in the morning or evening, when there is less evaporation.
10. Clean your porch and driveway with a broom and dust pan.
11. When cleaning your home, mop the floor instead of splashing water.
12. Never leave the tap running.
13. Turn the tap off when soaping, brushing your teeth or shaving. Only turn it on when rinsing your hands or face.
14. When bathing, turn off the tap when soaping your body or applying shampoo. Better still, take shorter showers.
15. When bathing your children or pets, only fill the tub with as much water as needed.
16. Make sure all taps are shut properly after use.
17. Teach your children to shut taps properly.
18. Fill your sink to wash and rinse food.
19. Fill your sink to wash your dishes and cutleries.
20. Use a microwave oven to defrost frozen food instead of running water. You can also de-frost food “naturally” by leaving it outside the refrigerator for awhile.
21. Do not leave the water running when washing clothes by hand. Fill buckets for washing and rinsing.
22. If you can afford it, a new energy-efficient washing machine can save water, and cut down on your water and electricity bills.
23. When using a washing machine, try to wash only when there is a full load.
24. If you have to use your washing machine with a smaller load, set a lower water level as required.
25. Pre-soak dirty clothes with stubborn stains before washing to avoid repeated washings.
26. If your clothes are not so dirty, set a shorter washing cycle.
27. The latest “dual flush” toilet systems can save up to 10 litres per flush compared to older systems. Usually a half flush (3-4 litres) will do the job.
28. Don’t use the toilet to flush tissues or rubbish. Put it in the rubbish bin.
29. Check your toilet system for leaks. Pour some food dye into the tank and leave it for 15 minutes. If the water in the bowl is coloured, repair or replace the flush system.
30. Install aerators on all your faucets to reduce water flow.
31. Check all your taps and pipes for leaks regularly.
32. Repair all leaks immediately. If a tap is leaking at one drop per second, it will leak 10,218 litres per year.
33. Please call 04-509 6 509 to report leaks at roadside mains or pipes.


Even Penang do not need to worry of water shortage. Penang people, being the NO 1 consumption of water, need to take the tips from Penang Water Supply Corporation, and Water Watch Penang, to save water commencing from today. Penang may be the NO1 consumption of water, but did Penang become the NO 1 productive consumption of water. We hope that the Penang Water Supply Corporation, do not need to implement a forced rationing of piped water supply in Penang, or increase the water tariffs, to compel Penangites to reduce excessive water consumption.

We, Penang people should take our responsibility and initiative , to start saving water, to ensure that there will not be any water shortage and wastage in Penang.

This is one of the ways to love Penang. Be thankful for what we have today, cheap rate and abundant supply of water.

We start from TODAY. Penang boleh.....

Related articles/websites:

1. Water Watch Penang (WWP) ,
2. Penang Water Supply Corporation,
4. Penang considering water rationing to reduce water consumption(2010), by Regina William , The Edge, Thursday, 18 February 2010;
5. Botanical Garden Waterfall,
6. Help save the dams(2008),
7. Water & Environment in Penang;

1 comment:

  1. Hi Raymond, I shared your article in PBAPP Facebook page. I hope you don't mind me bringing in traffic to your blog. Thanks.