News Feature | May 11, 2016

Malaysia Faces Long-Term Water Crisis

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

The Western United States isn’t the only area facing severe water crisis. Malaysia serves as an example of growing water problems in Southeast Asia that could easily take place in other parts of the world.

Temperatures in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lampur have been almost five degrees higher than normal on many days through March and April, according to The Malaysian government closed more than 250 schools across the country last month to protect 100,000 students from temperatures above 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water levels in reservoirs are falling quickly. The Straits Times reports that the water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir in Johor district, which helps meet half of Singapore's water needs, was just over one-third full, a new historic low.

The continued decrease of water has left several states facing a water crisis, where Perlis and Johor have been forced to implement water rationing, according to Malaysian Digest. Perak has recently been urged by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) to do the same.

Aside from the extensive heat, the weather has caused severe water shortage in Malaysia, in addition to the arrival of El Niño. This situation will not last for long as the Meteorological Department believes that the season will end sometime this month and things will return to normal in June.

However, if different measures are not taken then it is feared that Malaysia will face a possible repeat of the same water shortage when El Niño returns. Currently, the Malaysian government is employing varying methods to manage the water crisis that the nation is facing including water rationing, Malaysian Digest reports.

Dr. Zaki Zainudin, an associate professor in water quality and modeling at the International Islamic University Malaysia, told Malaysian Digest that water rationing is not really an ideal option.

“For me, rationing is only a stop-gap measure, it is not sustainable,” he said. “People tend to overcompensate during rationing by storing more water as backup, which does not make it a very effective measure”

According to ChannelNewsAsia, the root of this crisis stems from Malaysia’s 41 dams and reservoirs, some of which are quickly drying up, especially in Perak, Penang, Kedah, and Perlis.

While El Niño can be blamed for causing the drought, some environmentalists claim that excessive deforestation and mismanagement of the dams also should share the blame for the severe water shortage.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.