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IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE TO WATER SUPPLY

By
1 2 3
Ir. Dr. Hasnul Mohamad Salleh , Lt. Kol. Ir. Hj. Noor Azahari Zainal Abidin , Kohilavaani Skumaran

Keywords: Climate Change, Drought, Flood, Nonpoint Source, Inter-state Raw Water
Transfer, Riverbank Filtration System, River Safe Yield, Saline Intrusion, Sea
Level Rise, Water Demand Management, Water Infrastructures

Abstract

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as,
“a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition
of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable
time periods”. Climate change will have changes to the availability, quantity and quality of our water
resources, which will have impacts on the whole cycle of water supply, i.e. from water demand, water
resources and the water infrastructures. Rising global temperatures will lead to an intensification of the
hydrological cycle, resulting in dryer dry seasons and wetter rainy seasons, and subsequently
heightened risks of more extreme and frequent floods and drought. Due to changing weather pattern,
the safe yield of rivers may decrease and due to decreasing yield, treatment plants could not produce to
their design production. Deterioration of river water quality are due to lower river runoffs during extended
droughts and higher rainfall intensity which causes water overflow the bank more extensively and
erosion of the river bank. Leading cause of water quality impairment is nonpoint source (NPS) pollution.
The excess pollutants may result in impacts such as nutrient enrichment, undesirable algae growth,
higher total dissolved solids, turbidity, lower dissolved oxygen, pH changes, higher temperatures and
increases in pathogenic microorganisms. These conditions negatively affect water supplies by fouling
water systems and increasing treatment requirements such as ultrafiltration/microfiltration and operation
and maintenance costs. Therefore, the management of nonpoint source pollution is an important water
supply planning objective to mitigate climate change impacts. There has to be serious concern from
government and institutional concern to reduce the risks from effects of climate change. Nationally,
there has to be a well strategize plan for an effective water demand management by reducing NRW and
demand consumption. Alternative sources and non-conventional sources have to be identified and
rainwater harvesting has to be encouraged to reduce dependency on potable water. Priority should be
given to the development of inter-state and inter-basin water transfers to address water shortage and
uneven distribution of water resources in the country. Sustainable water management with realistic
pricing is one way to curb wastage. A Tariff Policy, which discourages excessive and inefficient use of
water, should be in-place. Consumers can be the source and also solution to unsustainable
consumption of natural resources. Consumer education cannot be sidelined if we want to achieve
sustainable urban development in an ever-changing environment. The expected changes in the
hyrdologic regime of Malaysia due to the impact of climate changes may require significant planning of
the Malaysia‟s water resources to accomodate aforesaid changes into the future water balances over
the Malaysia.

1
Director General, Water Supply Department, KeTTHA
2
Director, Water Supply Department, KeTTHA
3
Assistant Director, Water Supply Department, KeTTHA
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1.0 Introduction

Climate is a fundamental driver of the water cycle. It determines how much
water is available (supply) and how much water we need (demand) in the
short and long term. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as, “a change of climate which is
attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of
the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability
observed over comparable time periods”. Climate change has impact on
weather and changes in weather patterns determine variability in water supply
and demand on a day-to-day and season-to-season basis – the weather one
year may be drier or wetter than the last. Changes in temperature and
precipitation patterns have effect the water cycle by changing its availability,
quantity and its quality. With raising atmospheric temperature and increase
rate of evapotranspiration the demand for water from human beings and the
agriculture sector will also increase. Without adaptation and mitigation
measures, climate change may threaten the sustainability of water systems,
irrigation systems and farming systems.

2.0 Water Consumption

Based on the study „Review of the National Water Resource Study (2000-
2050), Malaysia‟, the National water demand will be expected to increase at
1.2 % per year reaching 25884 MLD in 2050 from 14069 MLD in 2010. Based
on the study, to ensure adequate water supply in the next 4 decades, an
estimated CAPEX worth RM 4 billion will be expected.

Programme RM Million
Water Resource 1,596
Treatment Plant Capacity,
1,725
Refurbishment & Upgrading
NRW Control 722
Others 13
Total 4,056

Table 1 : Malaysia’s Proposed Water Supply CAPEX from 2011 - 2050

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Table 1 shows the expected capital works program for the next 4 decades,
source works at RM1.6 billion, treatment works and distribution networks at
RM1.7 billion. The above increase in water demand and their corresponding
CAPEX works assume a decreasing trend in the domestic per capita demand,
which will decrease from 200 liters/cap/day to 180 liters/cap/day in 2050.
Figure 1 shows the national average per capita demand from 2002-2010.

Figure 1 : Malaysia’s Projected Water Supply Demand from 2010 - 2050

Just how much water does a person need to survive? In the local context, a
study by the Federation of Malaysian Consumers‟ Association (FOMCA)
found the average consumer needs only 80 litres a day, including three litres
for drinking, to sustain a reasonable quality of life. Its findings on wastage
show almost 50 per cent of households rarely took action to fix leaks while 70
per cent did not have dual-flush systems which could reduce 30 to 60 per cent
of water usage. Over 70 per cent did not use rainwater or recycled water
(from the last rinse of clothes) to flush toilets. Other wasteful practices include
not using controlled shower heads and not collecting rainwater for gardening.

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MALAYSIA - LITRES PER CAPITA PER DAY (LCD)
2002-2010

250

litres per capita per day (lcd)
206 205 202 203
200 187 184 171 172 172

150

100

50

0
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
years

Figure 2 : Malaysia’s Per Capita Demand from 2002 - 2010

Figure 2 shows the 2010 average per capita demand for the whole country.
The details of 2010 show the state of Penang is the highest at 290 l/c/d and
the state of Sabah & Sarawak at 128 l/c/d is the lowest. An average person
consumes 203 litres a day, which is 2.5 times higher than FOMCA‟s study.
Efforts must be continued to manage our ever increasing water demand, not
only because it resulted in high capital intensive projects but also to preserve
our environment for future generation by avoiding uncontrolled exploitation
and excessive degradation.

3.0 The Impacts of Climate Change to Water Supply

What are the impacts of climate to our water supply? Climate change will
have changes to the availability, quantity and quality of our water resources,
which will have impacts on the whole cycle of water supply, i.e. from water
demand, water resources and the water infrastructures.

3.1 Change in Water Demand Pattern

During dry spell, the consumers will tend to consume more water either by
watering the garden or bathing more frequently. To ensure the existing water
infrastructures could cope with the water demand, contingency measures

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such as banning of car washing and watering the garden has to be
implemented during extreme drought, if needed.

3.2 Impact on Water Resources

The climate change will affect water yield from the reservoirs, surface water
and ground water. With the change of rainfall patterns whereby a reservoir
catchment area may receive higher rainfall within a shorter duration but the
reservoir storage capacity was not designed to contain such high rainfall and
the excess water could not be harvested and will be ended up in the ocean.
At the same time, the reservoir catchment area may also experience a dry
season with lower rainfall, higher evaporation rate and extended dry period.
This phenomenon will reduce the capacity of the reservoir to supply reliable
yield to water treatment plant.

Likewise, for raw water intakes rely on rivers extractions will see less runoff
during longer dry season which may cause the raw water intakes to operate
at with under capacity condition more frequently.

As for water supply system extracting ground water, the ground water
dynamics are expected to change due to climate change. During the
extended droughts, recharge of the ground water will be slower and the water
extraction rate may have to be reduced in tandem with lower recharge to
avoid detrimental effect on the ecosystem.

The effects of climate change are already being felt, for example:

Water: Rising global temperatures will lead to an intensification of the
hydrological cycle, resulting in dryer dry seasons and wetter rainy
seasons, and subsequently heightened risks of more extreme and
frequent floods and drought. Changing climate will also have significant
impacts on the availability of water, as well as the quality and quantity
of water that is available and accessible; and

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Coastlines: Melting ice and thermal expansion of oceans are the key
factors driving sea level rise. In addition to exposing coastlines, where
the majority of the human population live, to greater erosion and
flooding pressures, rising sea levels will also lead to salt water
contamination of groundwater supplies, threatening the quality and
quantity of water resources access to large percentages of the
population.

In the NAHRIM 2006 Study entitled „Impact of Climate Change on the
Hydrologic Regime and Water Resources of Peninsular Malaysia, based on
simulations on selected rivers, the maximum monthly flow will increase and
minimum monthly flow will decrease (refer Table 3.1). From the findings,
generally in the future there would be more extreme hydrological conditions.

Max. Monthly Flow Mean Montly Flow Min. Montly Flow
(cumecs) (cumecs) (cumecs)
Streamflow Station 2025 - 2025 - 2025 -
Name 1984 - 2034 & 1984 - 2034 & 1984 - 2034 &
1993 2041 - 1993 2041 - 1993 2041 -
2050 2050 2050
Sg. Klang @
31.2 45.8 14.4 13.3 2.6 3.5
Jambatan Sulaiman
Sg. Selangor @
107.9 108.5 40.7 37.5 7.1 0.5
Rantau Panjang
Sg. Dungun @
398.4 569.5 93.4 98.3 13.1 10.8
Jambatan Jerangau
Sg. Kelantan @
1535.1 1950.7 535.9 601.7 158.4 125.8
Jambatan Kusial
Sg. Pahang @
1697.4 2176.6 669.6 718.1 156.3 122.7
Temerloh
Sg. Perak @
523.7 578.2 286.4 299.7 183.6 139.2
Jambatan Iskandar
Sg. Muda @
Jambatan Syed 307.4 340.0 105.6 104.0 25.3 5.3
Omar
Sg. Johor @ Rantau
82.7 94.0 32.7 31.8 9.8 6.8
Panjang

Table 2 : Summary of Simulated Flows for the Historical and Future Period (NAHRIM 2006
Study)

3.2.1 Availability & Quantity – Drought and Flood

Malaysian Climate Projection from NAHRIM Study for Peninsular Malaysia for
future annual rainfalls there will be 10% increase for Kelantan, Terengganu

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and Pahang, and 5% decrease for Selangor and Johor. There will be more
droughts i.e. dry years anticipated (2028, 2029, 2034, 2042 and 2044) and
higher maximum and lower minimum rainfall will be observed in the future in
many sub regions.

Climate change could play havoc with our water resources by changing our
weather pattern, expected dry months has change to wet months while
expected dry months has change to wet months. Prolong drought was
experienced in Kluang, Johor from Feb.-March 2010 when the production of
Sembrong Timur Water Treatment Plant almost fell almost zero due to
decrease in river yield. In the 2009 & 2010 droughts in the Federal Territory
Labuan, extensive water rationing exercise was implemented and some
company such as Petronas Methanol had to close some of their operation -
losing millions of economic returns. As for the long term planning, the
government launched a project to extend the water treatment plant in
Beaufort (Phase 2) which will increase the supply of treated water to Labuan
with an additional of 38.8 MLD. The total cost of the project is RM 383 million
and it involves huge CAPEX.

Figure 3 : Sungai Pagar Dam, F.T. Labuan in 2009 Drought

One of the well remembered but localised incidence was the 1991 drought in
Malacca that caused the drying up of Durian Tunggal Dam and resulted in
prolonged water rationing in most parts of the state. The extreme droughts
disrupted supply services especially in urban areas and frequent drought
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problems will further decrease the river flow. Emergency measures were then
followed to transfer raw water from adjacent Muar River as well as hundreds
of water tankers were ferrying around with drinking water to relief the
distressed water shortage problem.

Figure 4 : Durian Tunggal Dam, Malacca in 1991 Drought

The beneficial impacts of increased annual runoff in other areas are likely to
be tempered in some areas by negative effects of increased precipitation
variability and seasonal runoff shifts on water supply, water quality and flood
risks. Extreme flood events had occurred in Kedah, Malacca and Johor. The
state of Johor experience extreme flood event early this year whereby road
communications and water supply to several districts were cut-off. Food,
water, medical, and other humanitarian aids were dispatched from
neighboring states. At the end of 2010, the state of Kedah was hit by flood –
Bukit Pinang Treatment Plant in township of Alor Setar was submerged with
flood water leaving thousands of consumers without water supply. Flooding at
river intake will cause plant shut down because raw water pumps were
submerged by flood water and intake clogged with debris and sand. Water
supply operator has to endure high cost of cleaning, rebuilding damaged
plants and equipments while consumers may have to endure long duration of
water supply disruption due to ongoing maintenance/repair works.

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Figure 5 : Flooding of Bt. Pinang Treatment Plant, Kedah in 2010

3.2.2 Change in River Yield

Due to changing weather pattern, the safe yield of rivers may decrease and
due to decreasing yield, treatment plants could not produce to their design
production. As an adaptation and mitigation measures, river intake has to be
relocated further downstream where yield is higher or a barrage/weir has to
be constructed across river to increase water depth. To ensure there are
enough raw water for plants to operate, dams and off-river-storages have to
be constructed to supplement this reduction. In the recently reviewed
Malaysia National Water Resources Study, RM 1.7 billion worth of source
works will be expected to be developed in the next 4 decades.

3.3 Impact on Raw Water Quality

With higher water temperature, algae blooms in the storage reservoir could be
expected to increase and additional cost will have to be spent to remove it
from the system.

Lower river runoffs during extended droughts are normally associated with a
decreased dilution capacity of the river on the pollutants, resulting in higher
concentrations of contaminants in the raw water. Higher rainfall intensity will
cause water overflow the bank more extensively and erosion of the river bank
will occur in the process, this situation has led to an increase in water

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turbidity. It is often to find that the existing water treatment plant may not be
equipped with the facilities to deal with these deteriorated raw water quality.

Raw water intakes or wells located near the coastal area will face the threat of
saline intrusion due to rising sea level compounded by lower surface runoff or
lower ground water recharge rate, limiting the use of these facilities for water
supply. More capital may have to be invested for building engineering
structure such as barrage to prevent saline intrusion into river intake.

The Initial National Communication (INC) prepared under the stewardship of
the National Steering Committee chaired by the Ministry of Science,
Technology and the Environment (MOSTI) states that based on observations
since 1968-2002 show that the average temperature of the Malaysia surface
temperature has increased around 0.49 –0.91°C. Malaysia sea level has risen
at an average rate of 1.25 mm per year over 1986 to 2006. Water resources
close to sea face threat from saline intrusion e.g. Relocation of Peramu
T/Plant intake (due to saline intrusion). In the Ninth Malaysia Development
Plan, the state of Terengganu constructed Kemaman Barrage to raise river
level and stop intrusion of saline water into intake of Bukit Sah Water
Treatment Plant.

Climate change causes prolong drought and with the reduced riverflow,
deterioration of river water quality due to pollution enhances. In the past this
had lead to closing down of treatment plants such as Cheras and Labu
treatment plants. As the consequences, the affected river sources is either be
abandoned or the water treatment plant be upgraded by adding the advanced
treatment such as membrane technology which requires high capital outlay
and would definitely increase the financial burden of the water operators. In
addition, the water operators also found that operating cost of the water
treatment plant is higher in tandem with the higher chemical dosage to treat
the highly polluted water sources. The situation is further compounded by
higher residual produced and cost of disposal the residual as the
consequences of higher chemical dosage.

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3.4 Impact on Raw Water Infrastructures

The climate change will bring about increase in extreme weather conditions
such as extreme rainfall and flood. The dam spillway and its associated
structure may have to be re-examined on its capacity to handle this extreme
weather.

The existing water infrastructures located in the river bank and low lying area
will expose to the danger of potential inundation which will disrupt the water
supply system.

Due to scarcity of the available water source during prolonged droughts, other
non-conventional water sources such as brackish water, reuse of water,
stromwater harvesting and seawater may have to be developed to diverse
water resources options to cater for potable water demand.

4.0 Challenges to Water Supply

More than 80 % of future world water stress is due to ever-increasing
population and development. Malaysia is experiencing rapid urbanization and
population growth. Among the key infrastructures to support, a thriving and
economically vibrant urban human settlement is the water and sewerage
sector. More often than not government policies for water and sewerage
provision are outpaced by rapid urbanization and unplanned urbanization
which contributes to water resource pollution. The challenges are more
dealing with socio–economics such as poor understanding of the river basin
and its eco-systems, population and development pressures, lack of
appropriate governance instruments and lack of financing.

Climate change is a slow process but will gain momentum and will cause
havoc to our supply if left unattended. With climatic change that will affect the
availability, quantity and quality of our water resources, there is a need for us
to manage our ever-increasing water demand. We need to change our life
styles i.e. to be more prudent on how we use water. Changes in weather will
increase challenges to develop an efficient utilities infrastructure in Malaysia
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i.e. to be in operation and sustainable even in extreme drought and flooding
conditions.

Leading cause of water quality impairment is nonpoint source (NPS) pollution.
Pollution from nonpoint, or diffuse, sources is more difficult to control than
pollution from point sources, which are discharges through pipes or channels
from a distinct source. NPS pollution occurs wherever water flowing across
the land or underground picks up nutrients, salts, metals, organic material,
soil, or chemicals and delivers the accumulated pollutants to streams, lakes,
wetlands or ground water aquifers in amounts greater than natural
background levels. The excess pollutants may result in impacts such as
nutrient enrichment, undesirable algae growth, higher total dissolved solids,
turbidity, lower dissolved oxygen, pH changes, higher temperatures and
increases in pathogenic microorganisms. These conditions negatively affect
water supplies by fouling water systems and increasing treatment
requirements such as ultrafiltration/microfiltration and operation and
maintenance costs. Therefore, the management of nonpoint source pollution
is an important water supply planning objective to mitigate climate change
impacts.

5.0 Strategies

What will be the adaptations and mitigations measures adopted in addressing
challenges from climate change? There has to be serious concern from
government and institutional concern to reduce the risks from effects of
climate change. Nationally, there has to be a well strategize plan for an
effective water demand management by reducing NRW and demand
consumption. Alternative sources and non-conventional sources have to be
identified and rainwater harvesting has to be encouraged to reduce
dependency on potable water.

Climate change is a slow process, taking years before its impact felt, and its
effects are localized unless water resources are shared across states or
National boundaries. According to the 9MP, priority would be given to the
development of inter-state and inter-basin water transfers to address water
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shortage and uneven distribution of water resources in the country.

One major project is the inter-state raw water transfer project from Pahang to
Selangor (Pahang-Selangor ISRWT).These uncertainties need to be identified
and reduced to economically manageable problem. Agencies concern need to
identify in the future, which part of their infrastructures will be worst affected.
Adaptive measures with regard to robust design and safety installation need
to be adopted. Other adaptive measures are:

need „Total Water‟ approach, holistic view;
integration of climate change considered into planning activities of
localized areas affected by climate change;
protection from saline intrusion;
proper location of new source infrastructure with regard to climate
change;
have major network connectivity during crisis. How to divert pipe flow
from unaffected area to affected area e.g. flow from neighboring areas,
district and states;
efficient emergency response plan during drought and flood;
upgrading existing water treatment plants and using advanced water
treatment process to increase water quality;
riverbank filtration system as an cost-effective alternative treatment
technology to remove many suspended solids, pathogens from
deteriorating river quality while making river intake in operation during
and after flooding;
effective water demand management;
setting up power units/pumps at higher ground to avoid being
submerged by flood water; and
increase reserve margin to 20% (NWRS 2010) to ensure adequate
water source and supply for states which are prone to droughts and
flooding.

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6.0 Conclusion

The impact of climate change will increase over the years, it will gain
momentum and if unattended, will cause havoc to our life. For millions of
years human beings have been able to survive in this planet because they are
able to adapt and mitigate changes that surround them. With the change in
climate, we have to respond to it by changing our lifestyle, not to stress the
environment, be more protective and not to pollute it, going for technologies,
industries and crops that are water efficient.

There is a need to improve our understanding of long-term climate variability
and change. Where and which part of the water supply infrastructure are
affected by climate change. Are the effects localized or across state
boundaries, a better understanding will facilitate in policy response, going for
appropriate water resource options, planning, designing robust water supply
systems or in short what are the adaptation and mitigation measures to be
implemented.

To achieve efficient water demand management may take years and need
resources but it is an option we have to take. Sustainable water management
with realistic pricing is one way to curb wastage. A Tariff Policy, which
discourages excessive and inefficient use of water, should be in-place.

Consumers can be the source and also solution to unsustainable
consumption of natural resources. Consumer education cannot be sidelined if
we want to achieve sustainable urban development in an ever-changing
environment.

The expected changes in the hyrdologic regime of Malaysia due to the impact
of climate changes may require significant planning of the Malaysia‟s water
resources to accomodate aforesaid changes into the future water balances
over the Malaysia.

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could be made via http://www.jba.gov.my. ALL COPY RIGHT IS PROTECTED. Content of this paper
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