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22 Water & Wastewater Asia March/April 2008

Assessi ng wat er
qual i t y i n Mal aysi a
nfoWorks RS has been employed to develop a water
quality model for the Juru River in Malaysia. The aim of
the study was to define pollution levels in the river system
and also to assess the impact of tides on pollution levels.
Malaysia lies below Thailand in South East Asia, and
the study area is in the state of Penang, a small catchment
some 60 km
in area. The river has many names in its
upper reaches it is called the Permatang Rawa, the middle
reaches are the Rambai and downstream it is the Juru.
The three major tributaries are the Ara, Kilang Ubi and
Pasir. The total population of the basin is around 362,400,
and the area is mainly home to industrial, residential and
commercial activities.
The Juru River system is categorised as one of the
most polluted in the country, with its reaches falling within
categories four and five of the Malaysian Department
of Environments water quality index which looks at the
traditional parameters of ammoniacal nitrogen, BOD, COD,
dissolved oxygen (DO), total suspended solids (TSS) and
pH. The river is extremely polluted in colour it is either
black from pollutants such as heavy metals (actually it is
from untreated industrial and domestic waste), or green
a sign of eutrophication caused by untreated wastewater
works discharges. Located downstream are vulnerable
shell fisheries.
The first part of the project involved data collection
including water quality samples to be input to the model
for calibration. The three stages of the project were the
calibration of the hydrodynamic and water quality elements
of the model (with river level and pollution data respectively)
and the subsequent analysis of the results which is still in
its early stages. At the sampling locations, samples were
taken every three hours for three days, with 28 further
samples taken at various locations to represent the overall
catchment contribution.
InfoWorks RS v7.5 was the solution chosen for the
analysis. Into this was input the river cross-section data,
the inflows from tributaries and also tidal data provided by
the countrys navy. The model covers some 20 km and two
main tributaries.
A comparison was made of the observed and simulated
water levels at the most downstream sampling point, which
showed that this stretch was heavily influenced by the tide.
The simulation results correlate well in many areas with the
observed tidal levels.
Calibration is the most challenging part of this project,
Water & Wastewater Asia March/April 2008 23
and the water quality element is still under way. There is
a great deal of tidal influence, particularly on DO levels,
which is complex to represent. As suggested, the oxygen
levels are probably related to the cycle of eutrophication,
and the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia
(NAHRIM) is still working on how to represent this in the
At a second location, DO, BOD, ammoniacal nitrogen
and COD levels were acquired and calibrated. Once the
organisation was satisfied with the calibration, it examined
various scenarios. The first involved looking at the results
of improving the river to Class 1 at that point, the second
and third involved ensuring clean inputs at various points.
These improvements were selected to test the impact of
improving the standard of effluent treatment at differing
location throughout the catchment. The results were then
observed at four locations.
In scenario one, when the water quality parameters were
improved to Class 1 in the Permatang Rawa section of the
river, there was an improvement immediately downstream
of the input point, but at the point furthest downstream there
was little change to the DO levels or BOD, ammoniacal
nitrogen and nitrate levels.
In scenario two, in which the Ara tributary was improved,
there was a difference to the flows but little impact on the
downstream part of the river system.
In scenario three, the input from the Kilang Ubi tributary
was i mproved. Here, there was some i mprovement
upstream of the confluence. It was also observed that during
low tide, pollution would push further downstream and at
high tide it would return upstream of the confluence and
into the river system. This element has to be looked at in
future in more detail.
Mr Hassan said: To date, the modelling has proved
the value of using the InfoWorks RS model to study the
behaviour of pollution in tidal areas. With this information
it will now be possible to move on to finding a strategic
method for solving the pollution problem in the Juru River.
Enquiry No: 003
This case study is written by:
Mr Norbaya Hashim, a researcher at the National Hydraulic
Research Institute Malaysia.