Penang sounds water supply warning as ‘Super El Nino’ hits country

Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa says for now, the effective capacities of the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang dams are still healthy. ― File pic
Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa says for now, the effective capacities of the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang dams are still healthy. ― File pic

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GEORGE TOWN, Jan 13 ― Penang has activated its water supply alert status in preparation of drier and hotter days ahead as climatologists here warn of the “super El Nino” phenomenon.

Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the last time the state recorded rainfall in its two key dams in Air Itam and Teluk Bahang, was on December 29 last year.

“For now, the effective capacities of the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang dams are still healthy and we are continuing to draw water as normal from Sungai Muda,” he told a press conference today.

He said the Air Itam Dam's latest recorded capacity was 87.6 per cent while it was 83.2 per cent at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

“The water level at both dams will be able to sustain Penang usage until the end of March if there are no rainfall for these three months,” he said.

Penang has a larger dam ― the Mengkuang Dam on the mainland ― but it is currently not operating in full capacity as its expansion project is still in progress.

Jaseni said the water level at Sungai Muda is 2.53 metres today and that PBAPP is monitoring the dams and the river on a daily basis.

“We will brief the state government and inform the public on Penang's water supply status regularly,” he said.

Jaseni also warned that the state may experience a recurrence of the extended dry spell in 2014 where no rainfall was recorded for several months.

“If necessary, PBAPP is prepared to implement the water supply and water demand management initiatives to avoid water rationing like what we did in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present at the press conference, said the water supply level in the state is under control for now.

However, he urged Penangites to try to save water in anticipation of the dry spell ahead.

Jaseni said the daily water consumption in Penang is about one billion litres and during dry spells, this typically increases by about 10 per cent.

He similarly urged Penangites to reduce their daily water consumption and reminded them of the water rationing exercises in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor and even Taipin in 2014 and 2015.

“We are faced with a double threat of very little rainfall and daily temperatures soaring to 40 degrees so we can expect lower water levels at Sungai Muda and higher rates of evaporation at Penang's dams,” he said.

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