DECEMBER 8 — The Malaysian government needs to invest RM30 billion over the next three years to regulate the water industry as a way of responding to the global climate emergency.
The water and energy nexus are interlinked because significant water resources are crucial to developing new energy resources. For example, you need water to create hydropower.
The key is to ensure adequate water supply, while creating carbon neutrality in both the treatment of drinking water and wastewater utilities.
Disappointingly, there was a lack of focus on the crucial role water management plays in mitigating climate change at the COP28 summit that I am currently attending in Dubai.
We need a two-pronged water decarbonisation strategy: Reducing carbon footprints via treatment of drinking water and wastewater utilities to reduce direct/indirect greenhouse gas emissions related to wastewater treatment and discharge, plus energy efficiency measures.
But in Malaysia, we lack focus on ensuring Net Zero (carbon neutrality) in the water sector. For example, every cubic metre of water consumed generates 10.6kg of emissions.
And non-revenue water is a huge source of wastage. It adds to operating costs and leaks add to thwarting sustainable management of water services.
This means that the government, businesses and citizens must work together to manage water resources, conduct crucial repairs, and use water responsibly to manage climate uncertainty.
We need to recycle and reclaim water from waste water for industrial and construction use, develop more water storage/coastal reservoirs, upgrade water infrastructure, and gazette water catchment areas plus water reserves during droughts.
State water operators must also make a public pledge to realise Net Zero emissions by 2034.
SPAN is working with Malaysia Green Technology and Climate Change Corporation (MGTC) to use Low Carbon Operating Systems to track greenhouse gas emissions in water treatment plants. This is to ensure low energy usage and a decrease in treatment costs.
Evidently, we are facing a climate emergency. Therefore, we need to treat water as part of national security. We need to protect access to water as a national priority given climate uncertainty.
National Water Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM) says Malaysia will face drought between 2030 and 2050. This is alarming as insufficient water supply would affect businesses as they can’t expand or maximise production due to lack of water. And neither can a water decarbonisation plan be put in place.
In short, we need to decarbonise treatment of drinking water/sewerage sectors and at the same time ensure sufficient water supply, given the climate uncertainties.
Postponing climate preparedness would be more costly in the future and importantly, push the country towards a climate catastrophe.
*Charles Santiago is chairman of the National Water Service Commission (SPAN).
**This statement is based on a talk presented at the Malaysian Pavilion at COP28 Dubai on December 6.
***This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.