SYABAS, Why Are There So Many Water Disruptions In Selangor And KL?

We dug up a few shocking realities of water woes that have struck 300,000 Malaysians.

Cover image via Ahmad Yusni/ EPA

A major contamination of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant has left more than 300,000 residents in parts of Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat, Petaling and Sepang area without water for more than five days now

Residents in USJ waiting to collect water for tankers dispatched on 25 September.

Image via Hafiz Sohaimi/ NST

The Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant was shut down on 22 September after authorities detected raw water pollution in the plant. The shutdown disrupted the water supply to multiple households in the Petaling, Hulu Langat, Sepang and Kuala Langat areas, affecting some 337,000 consumers.

The Air Selangor and Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (LUAS) river surveillance team and the Department of Environment has been running investigations and tests to determine the cause of the contamination to best treat the water before resuming supply to affected households.

According to a report by the The Sun Daily on Sunday, 25 September, Selangor state executive councilor for Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Elizabeth Wong said that the pollution affected about 609km² of the Semenyih lower catchment area and five major rivers.

While explaining that the initial test results revealed that there were no hazardous substances in the water, Wong assured that LUAS is yet to find the cause of the contamination that caused the distinct smell in the raw water.

The Sungai Semenyih treatment plant has since been decontaminated and resumed operations at about 2.30pm on Saturday, 24 September

A media statement by SYABAS at about 1pm today, 27 September informed that water supply restoration status for the affected areas are as follows:

Petaling: 89%
Hulu Langat: 93%
Sepang: 99.7%
Kuala Langat: 100%

The statement also explained that SYABAS will be deploying water tanks to areas that have yet to receive their water supply.

The Head of Corporate Communications for Air Selangor Group, Amin Lin said in a statement yesterday, 26 September, that full restoration of water supplies to all affected areas is expected to be by 1am on Wednesday, 28 September.

The unexpected water disruption caused quite the chaos on social media, with countless consumers from the affected areas complaining about SYABAS' lack of efficiency and stressing on the seriousness of the issue

Some even said that SYABAS needs to change its name as the organisation "doesn't deserve" to be called as one

SYABAS stands for Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor and the acronym means 'well done' when directly translated from Bahasa Malaysia to English.

A USJ resident that we spoke to explained how the whole ordeal began on 20 September.

According to Kevin, the water supply was first cut off on the 20th due to a pipe burst incident at Jalan Klang.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via HYPE

"Water supply resumed the next day, on 21 September but it was only about 0.2 bar and on the 22nd the water supply was cut off again without any prior notice. We only found out much later that it was due to the contamination of the Semenyih river."

"No information was given on when the water supply will resume or if water tankers will be dispatched to the affected areas," explained Kevin.

On 23 September, residents were told that the water treatment center has resumed operations but they ended up shutting it down again on 24 September due to more contamination.

Kevin lamented that SYABAS did not specify where the water tankers will be dispatched to, adding that the authorities only mentioned that it'll be sent to "critical areas".

Making matters worse, Kevin said that SYABAS was not very responsive throughout the water disruption period.

"Residents were of course very disappointed in how SYABAS handled the matter, especially the lack of information provided in their updates."

Residents waiting to collect water in the USJ area on 24 September.

Image via Facebook/ Hannah Yeoh

"If we get notice earlier, at least we can store some water for emergency use," added Kevin.

He also mentioned that all efforts to get in touch with the SYABAS' customer service for the past week was to no avail as no one had apparently answered any of the calls he made to the water board.

When asked on the frequency of water problems in his area, Kevin said that there is at least one case of "pipe burst" in his area that leads to water disruption, almost every single month.

How bad is the water disruption situation in Klang Valley?

A young boy waiting for his water bucket to be filled at USJ6 on 25 September.

Image via The Malay Mail Online

After speaking to Kevin, we did a little research and found out that both scheduled and unscheduled water disruptions are very common in certain parts of the state

Based on SYABAS' scheduled water disruption schedule, places in Hulu Langat, Sabak Bernam, and Kuala Langat have water disruptions more often that any other part of the state.

Here's the scheduled water disruption details or Klang Valley for four months, from June till September:

June's scheduled water disruption

Image via SYABAS

July's scheduled water disruption

Image via SYABAS

August's scheduled water disruption

Image via SYABAS

September's scheduled water disruption

Image via SYABAS

The reasons given for the scheduled water disruptions are usually for 'air scouring' which is basically the process of cleaning the water by removing sediment, thus improving water quality

Image via SYABAS

As for unscheduled water disruption, the reason is almost always related to "pipe burst" incidents

Although the pipe burst incidents happen in different areas, a quick glance at SYABAS' Twitter timeline would tell you that pipes burst in Sabak Bernam, Hulu Langat and Kuala Langat more often that at any other parts of the state.

So, why do pipes burst so often in these places?

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Azman Ghani via KL Coconuts

We got in touch with SYABAS through their official Facebook account, PUSPEL to seek further clarification on this problem that causes a great deal of inconvenience for local households.

When asked on why pipe burst occurrences have become so common in Klang Valley and what are some of the steps taken by SYABAS to ensure that this does not happen all the time, SYABAS responded by saying:

Efforts to contact SYABAS's customer service for answers regarding this matter failed too.

What can be done to prevent water disruption from happening so often? How can it be handled better in the event that the disruptions can't be avoided?

YB Hannah Yeoh helping the residents affected by water cuts in the USJ area on 25 September.

Image via Facebook/ Hannah Yeoh

Earlier this month, on 2 September, Speaker of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly, Hannah Yeoh wrote an article which was published on Malaysiakini about six things that SYABAS can do to improve their overall service.

According to Yeoh, here's what SYABAS should do to better address the ongoing water disruption problems:

1) "Have a more effective PR team to manage complaints. Many residents face difficulty in getting through to PUSPEL Contact Centre. Unattended calls resulted in frustration, uncertainty and water tankers not being dispatched."

2) "Social media channel for PUSPEL such as Twitter should be unlocked to promote greater dissemination of information. Tweets on water disruption are not allowed to be retweeted."

3) "The current mode of disseminating information via SMS should be done for all affected SYABAS customers and not just selected residents’ representatives. After all, SYABAS should be in possession of their customers’ contact details and this will also reach the non-online users."

4) "A more accurate recovery time to be given in each status update."

5) "Clarity of schedule for water tankers making it convenient for residents to draw water."

6) "A detailed investigation and post-mortem to be conducted for each major water disruption and such findings should be made public with concrete action plan to avoid the same situation from recurring."

Meanwhile, state assemblyperson of Damansara Utama, Yeo Bee Yin released a statement highlighting the efforts of the Selangor government to improve the local water infrastructure:

1) Projek Mitagasi 2
- Total cost: RM 215 million
- Completed recently and increased Selangor water supply to Petaling district by 235 MLD.

2) Projek Mitigasi 3
- Total Cost: RM 43 million
- To upgrade Langat WTP to increase water supply to Hulu Langat district
- Project started and estimated completion in early 2017.

3) Construction of Semenyih 2 WTP
- Allocated Budget: RM 150 million
- Started construction and estimated completion in 2018.

4) Construction of Labohan Dagang WTP
- Allocated Budget: RM 500 million
- Started construction and estimated completion in 2018.

5) Pipe replacement for 23 pipe burst hotspots
- Allocated Budget: RM133 million.
- In tendering process and estimated completion of all the 23 hotspots in 2018.

Do you think SYABAS handles water disruption situations well? Let us know what you think in the comment section below?

Living without water for even a day is really troublesome. However, these Malaysians living in rural parts of the country have spent most of their lives without running water supply:

The last time Klang Valley had to go through prolonged water woes was back in February 2014, when the government had to implement water rationing due to low levels of water reserves:

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