KOTA TINGGI - A dry spell and worryingly low water levels at two Johor dams, with one plunging almost 2m below critical point, have prompted local officials to urge residents to use water sparingly.
The Sungai Lebam Dam, which normally enjoys an effective capacity of 14m, saw its water level falling under the 12.7m critical mark to a height of 10.9m, the Bernama news agency reported.
The dam currently has enough water to last residents for about 70 days, said Johor International Trade, Investment and Utilities Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse.
"(The Johor government hopes there will be no problems), as there are about 100,000 residents in (Kota Tinggi, including) areas like Pengerang, Teluk Ramunia, Air Tawar and Tanjung Balau," Mr Puah was quoted as saying.
The water level at another major dam called Lok Heng is now just 50cm above the critical level of 1.5m.
"The water supply can only last 21 days," said Mr Puah, adding that 20,000 residents will be affected if the water level continues to ebb.
"But, we have a backup plan - (we) will dig three tube wells in the area near the dam," he said. The wells are expected to supply 0.9 million litres of underground water as a backup for the Lok Heng area.
Mr Puah told the media last week that the Johor state government is working closely with water operator Ranhill SAJ and the Johor Water Regulatory Body to monitor the water supply situation amid a long dry spell.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) issued a Level 1 heatwave alert on Monday (Feb 25) for 10 areas in the country after high temperatures were recorded for three consecutive days.
The states affected are Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Pahang and Johor, and Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has a three-tier colour-coded warning system for heatwaves.
The Level 1 alert is triggered when the mercury climbs to between 35 deg C and 37 deg C for three days in a row.
The Level 2 alert is issued when the temperature rises above 37 deg C for three consecutive days.
Temperatures of 40 deg C and above for the same duration warrant a Level 3 alert and a declaration of a state of emergency by the prime minister.