Many countries are increasingly affected by climate change which affects rainfall patterns and water resource availability. Consequently, sourcing for alternative water supply is an important measure to ensure sustainable water supply.
One potentially promising alternative source of water is rainwater. Rainfall harvesting has been well documented in countries like India, Japan, and Australia. However, it is not well developed and not popular in Malaysia despite the country being endowed with abundant rainfall all year round.
This paper examines the main issues and challenges that have impeded the implementation of rainfall harvesting in the country. Methods of study include using secondary data from government, NGOs and conference reports, published papers on the subject, and research results from previous rainfall harvesting studies. Results show that the main stumbling blocks to implementing and adopting rainfall harvesting system in the country are the low water tariffs, wrong public perception of floods and droughts, expensive initial investments, poor awareness and public apathy on water issues, amongst others.
The paper also examined some examples of rainfall harvesting systems that have been implemented in the country. Results indicate that large buildings with dense populations such as apartments, schools, universities, factories, government departments, and others are most suitable for rainfall harvesting.
Results also show that the installation of a rainwater harvesting system together with the installation of water-saving equipment and public awareness campaign can significantly increase the water supply and save water. The rainwater harvesting system most successful as the rainwater harvested was used for gardening, washing common areas and toilets, and for flushing toilets in the common areas.
The water-saving equipment also resulted in substantial monetary savings. Water usage was reduced in the buildings by between 20 to 30 %. There was also substantial monetary savings of between US$300 to US$500 per month. It was also found that partnership between government-private sector-NGO is a workable modality for the implementation of the rainfall harvesting system.
High-density apartments also show great potential as water savings are significant and easily achievable. The rainfall harvesting system showed the most promise given Malaysia’s high monthly rainfall.
This project can be easi1y replicated in other apartments through the country and the government should seriously consider replicating this project nation-wide. rainfall harvesting and water-saving equipment should be made mandatory for all new apartments, hotels, factories, universities and other institutes of higher learning, and all large water consumers.
Other benefits of this project are the improvement of relationships between workers/colleagues, neighbors and government officers, private-sector workers and NGO volunteers.
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