Living a regimental life during water rationing

Stern orders like these are put up at some residential apartments in Kuala Lumpur to remind residents to save water, as the country suffers a prolonged dry spell. -- PHOTO: CAROLYN HONG  
Stern orders like these are put up at some residential apartments in Kuala Lumpur to remind residents to save water, as the country suffers a prolonged dry spell. -- PHOTO: CAROLYN HONG  

'WASH YOUR CLOTHES TODAY'. This stern order put up on my condominium's noticeboard on Wednesday sent everyone scrambling to obey.

At least I did.

My condo management is becoming bossy. But it's for a good reason.

Water rationing in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur has finally reached my area this week. I'm now among the 2.5 million people affected by water rationing in Malaysia as the rivers and dams continue to run low due to a prolonged drought.

The worst-hit areas in south Selangor have already been without water for over a month already. Now, we get 41 hours of water supply from the tap, followed by 55 hours without. This will go on indefinitely, or until the rain fall.

Yet, for those of us who live in condos, the shortage of water is not immediately noticeable. Our water supply comes from a central tank that can hold two to three days' supply.

When water did not flow into the tank, we did not know. It was only when the level fell perilously low, the condo management became draconian.

Washing cars and cleaning homes were immediately banned. The condo's landscaping grew somewhat dusty as the plants could not be watered. And washing of clothes had to be done on schedule.

No one is enforcing these rules but seeing that the condo water usage has reduced, it appears that the residents are cooperating. It does indicate that people will be cooperative when they are given the facts, and a clear idea of what to do.

Up to now, it's not clear how far this water shortage is due to the messy management of water supply in Malaysia's most populated state.

Water in Selangor had fallen victim to so much politicking that no one can be sure if there is a real shortage in Selangor, or if it's caused by a political game.

The long-drawn quarrel was over the control of the water assets in Selangor. The Pakatan Rakyat state government wanted to take over control from the private water concessionaires linked to the Barisan Nasional (BN). At the same time, the BN federal government wanted to build a new treatment plant in Selangor but the state refused due to thecost.

The quarrel has dragged for over five years.

Hopefully, the politicking will end with the water deal signed between the federal and state governments last week. The state will take control of the plants for treating and distributing water, and in return, it will allow the federal government to build a new water treatment plant.

In the meantime, the Meteorological Services Department has forecast an end to this tinder-dry spell by middle to end March. Hopefully, the crisis will end soon.

But my spare bathroom will continue to be a storage space for pails of water.

You never know, do you?

carolynh@sph.com.sg