MANCO 20th : Climate change adaptation for the water sector in Malaysia

Azuhan Mohamed

Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Malaysia

ABSTRACT

Sustainable utilisation of groundwater is the solution for the adaptation of climate change in Malaysia for two reasons. Firstly, groundwater systems are comparatively resilient to short-term, seasonal and even longer-term shortage of rainfall. Global water statistics show that at least 100 times more water is stored in aquifers than in rivers and lakes combined (Shiklomanov and Rodda, 2003). The annual groundwater recharge in Malaysia is estimated at 63 billion cubic metres (Review of the National Water Resources Study (2000 – 2050) and Formulation of National Water Resources Policy, 2011). Secondly, utilisation of groundwater in Malaysia is relatively low. For public water supply services, groundwater account for less than 2 per cent of the raw water (Malaysia Water Industry Guide, 2013) consequent to the fact that the annual average rainfall for Malaysia is nearly 3,000 mm (Review of the National Water Resources Study (2000 – 2050) and Formulation of National Water Resources Policy, 2011).

The way forward for climate change adaptation for the water sector in Malaysia is conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater as well as the application of riverbank filtration (RBF) systems as intakes for water abstractions. Climate change is likely to increase both the number and magnitude of hydrological extremes, namely floods and droughts. During periods of excess rainfall, surface water resources are to be utilised and managed aquifer recharge initiatives are to be undertaken. On the other hand, during periods of less rainfall or droughts, groundwater resources are to be utilised. Conjunctive water use needs to be complemented by improving efficiency in the supply of water to all users and wise use of water by all including water recycling and water reuse or reclamation.

Effective adaptation of the water sector to climate change requires leadership and support by political decision-makers as well as new approaches to be undertaken by all the water industry players. Technical opportunities should be combined with institutional changes to adapt to climate change. Climate change is a global problem but the solutions required for adaptation in Malaysia are mostly local.