The Drinking Water Supply of Cameron Highlands

5th October 2014

Ever since farms started mushrooming in the Sg Terla water catchment area with their effluent draining directly into the intake point, ever since farm workers toilets were found discharging directly into the streams there with human faeces of different nationalities and all, ever since pesticide containers including banned ones were fished out from the intake pond on a regular basis, we have become increasingly worried about the state of our drinking water supply and their short and long term effects on the consumers.

The demand for treated water for Cameron Highlands with a population of 35,000, is estimated to be 22 MLD (million litres per day). See table below

Table 1.2 : Planning Demand

Year ProjectedPopulation Total(MLD) Losses(MLD) Demand(MLD)
2000 28,050 10.9 3.3 14.2
2005 29,627 14.0 4.0 18.0
2010 31,293 16.4 4.3 20.7
2015 32,889 19.3 4.2 23.6
2020 34,567 22.3 4.0 26.3

Source: Pahang Water Resources Study ( 1999)(abridged)

.  (Please note that the farming sector usually uses water sourced from mountain streams and there is no major manufacturing industry here. Otherwise the water demand would probably be much greater.) 1 gallon (US) is 3.785 L

 

There are 3 water treatment plants in Cameron Highlands namely

1.Sg Terla Water Treatment Plant

It is the newest and the largest water treatment plant and it is located in Kuala Terla. The water catchment area is drained by 2 rivers namely Sungai Icat and Sungai Terla. (Previously the treated water supply of Cameron Highlands came from smaller treatment plants which were located in the respective towns and villages and they included Sg Burung(?oldest), Brinchang(existing), Kea Farm, Tringkap, Kg Raja, Habu (existing),Lubuk Tamang, Ringlet and Bertam Valley. Most of them were semi treatment plants (in the earlier days the raw water was much cleaner and treatment required less). The Sg Terla water catchment area was chosen because it was relatively untouched then and the volume of the rivers were large enough to meet the needs of a growing population. It also lies on the Western border which means it is at a higher elevation then areas in the East making the distribution of water easier. It came into operation in 2006. It currently supplies 17MLD water a day and projected to supply 43 MLD by 2030. It supplies water to Blue Valley, Kg Raja, Kuala Terla, Tringkap, Kea Farm, Brinchang and Tanah Rata.

It is also the water treatment plant that we are most concerned about as the water catchment area is heavily compromised by the presence of farms and settlements with the resulting water at the intake point polluted by farm and human waste.

IMG_2798

2. Habu Water Treatment Plant

The Habu water treatment plant started operations in 1996. Currently it yields 9.46 MLD and will yield 23 MLD by 2035. The water catchment area of this plant is in a better shape but illegal land clearing is beginning at the borders of this water catchment area. This plant supplies water to the towns and villages further south, namely Habu, Ringlet and Bertam Valley. ( Sometime last year, friends from Ringlet informed me that their tap water supply was getting very turbid. A few of them then trekked for hours along the river to find where the source of contamination was. They later discovered that it was from illegal land clearing in the Manson Valley which forms the Northern border of this water catchment area)

IMG-20141005-WA0017

IMG-20141005-WA0007IMG-20141005-WA0002IMG-20141005-WA0018

3. Brinchang Water Treatment Plant

This is a much smaller and older treatment plant. It yields 2.8 MLD of water. The water supplied here is semi treated. It comes in very handy as an emergency source of water for Brinchang which is a tourist hub, otherwise chaos will ensue when the piped water runs dry in the middle of the peak tourist season.

So currently (on paper) we do not have a shortage of treated water.( I am not sure whether residents in the newer housing estates in Kampung Raja,in  apartments on the upper floors in Brinchang and Tanah Rata and in bungalows on hilltops near the Golf Course will agree with me on this as frequent interruption of water supply is the norm.)

IMG_3010IMG_3007

The Management of Drinking Water Supply

The management of the drinking water supply was previously under Jabatan Bekalan Air Pahang but on the 1st February 2012 it was corporatized and PAIP or Pengurusan Air Pahang Berhad was formed to take over its role. PAIP is wholly owned by the State Government of Pahang. PAIP is licensed by the National Water Services Commission ( Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara) as an operator of water supply for the State of Pahang in line with Act 655-Water Services Industry Act (Akta Industri Perkhidmatan Air). The function of PAIP is to supply clean water of satisfactory quality and quantity at an economical rate to the consumer to fulfil the social and economic needs for the State of Pahang. Read more at www.paip.com.my

The Water treatment process

The Sg Terla and Habu plants use the following processes

1.-Flocculation.

Water from the intake point is aerated ‘to break the water’ and flocculated. Flocculation refers to the processes that combine or coagulate small particles into larger particles which settle out of the water as sediment. Alum salts are used in both these plants. Sadly as the raw water is usually filthy in the Sg Terla plant, more alum has to be used and alum has been found to be consistently high in the treated water from this plant.

2. Sedimentation

This occur in the sedimentation tank as flocculated particles settle out of the water

3.Filtration:

Rapid sand filters are used to remove particles from the water which includes clays and silts, natural organic matter, precipitates from other treatment processes, iron, manganese and microorganisms.

4. Disinfection

In both these plants, chlorine is used to disinfect the water removing harmful organisms. This is especially important considering the fact that faecal matter from the farms and settlement drains into the raw water intake area and waterborne diseases will occur if water is not properly disinfected.

 

National Standard for Drinking Water Supply NSDWQ

All treated water must comply with the standard stipulated in National Standard for Drinking Water Quality issued by the Ministry of Health MOH which adheres to the World Health Organisation WHO guidelines There are 131 parameters that are being imposed in the standard.  See table below

Drinking water quality standard

Parameter

Parameter

Short Name

Group

MALAYSIA STANDARD (mg/l (unless otherwise stated))

Raw Water

Treated Water

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Total Coliform TC 1

0

5000 MPN / 100 ml

0 in 100 ml

0

E.coli E.coli 1

0

5000 MPN / 100 m

0 in 100 ml

0

Turbidity NTU 1

0

1000 NTU

0

5 NTU

Color TCU 1

0

300 TCU

0

15 TCU

PH PH 1

5.50000

9.00000

6.50000

9.00000

Free Residual Chlorine BCl₂ 1

-

-

0.20000

5.00000

Temperature °C 1

-

-

-

-

Clostridium perfringens (including spores) Clostridium perfringens (including spores) 1

-

-

0

Absent

Coliform bacteria Coliform bacteria 1

-

-

-

-

Colony count 22° Colony count 22° 1

-

-

-

-

Conductivity Conductivity 1

-

-

-

-

Enterococci Enterococci 1

-

-

-

-

Odour Odour 1

-

-

-

-

Taste Taste 1

-

-

-

-

Oxidisability Oxidisability 1

-

-

-

-

Total Dissolved Solids TDS 2

0.00000

1500.00000

0.00000

1000.00000

Chloride Cl 2

0.00000

250.00000

0.00000

250.00000

Ammonia NH3-N 2

0.00000

1.50000

0.00000

1.50000

Nitrat NO3-N 2

0.00000

10.00000

0.00000

10.00000

Ferum/Iron Fe 2

0.00000

1.00000

0.00000

0.30000

Fluoride Fl 2

0.00000

1.50000

0.40000

0.60000

Hardness Keliatan 2

0.00000

500.00000

0.00000

500.00000

Aluminium Al 2

-

-

0.00000

0.20000

Manganese Mn 2

0.00000

0.20000

0.00000

0.10000

Chemical Oxygen Demand COD 2

0.00000

10.00000

-

-

Anionic Detergent MBAS MBAS 2

0.00000

1.00000

0.00000

1.00000

Biological Oxygen Demand BOD 2

0.00000

6.00000

-

-

Nitrite NO2 2

-

-

-

-

Total organic carbon (TOC) TOC 2

-

-

-

-

Mercury Hg 3

0.00000

0.00100

0.00000

0.00100

Cadmium Cd 3

0.00000

0.00300

0.00000

0.00300

Arsenic As 3

0.00000

0.01000

0.00000

0.01000

Cyanide Cn 3

0.00000

0.07000

0.00000

0.07000

Plumbum/Lead Pb 3

0.00000

0.05000

0.00000

0.01000

Chromium Cr 3

0.00000

0.05000

0.00000

0.05000

Cuprum/Copper Cu 3

0.00000

1.00000

0.00000

1.00000

Zinc Zn 3

0.00000

3.00000

0.00000

3.00000

Natrium/Sodium Na 3

0.00000

200.00000

0.00000

200.00000

Sulphate SO4 3

0.00000

250.00000

0.00000

250.00000

Selenium Se 3

0.00000

0.01000

0.00000

0.01000

Argentum Ag 3

0.00000

0.05000

0.00000

0.05000

Magnesium Mg 3

0.00000

150.00000

0.00000

150.00000

Mineral Oil MykMin 3

0.00000

0.30000

0.00000

0.30000

Chloroform CHCl3 3

-

-

0.00000

0.20000

Bromoform CHBR3 3

-

-

0.00000

0.10000

Dibromoklorometana CHBr2Cl 3

-

-

0.00000

0.10000

Bromodiklorometana CHCl2Br 3

-

-

0.00000

0.06000

Fenol/Phenol Fenol 3

0.00000

0.00200

0.00000

0.00200

Antimony Sb 3

-

-

0

0.005

Nickel Ni 3

-

-

0

0.02

Dibromoacetonitrile C₂HBr₂N 3

-

-

0

0.1

Dichloroacetic acid C2H2CI202 3

-

-

0

0.05

Dichloroacetonitrile Cl₂CHCN 3

-

-

0

0.09

Trichloroacetic acid CCl₃COOH 3

-

-

0

0.1

Trichloroacetonitrile C₂Cl₃N 3

-

-

0

0.001

Trihalomethanes – Total TTHM 3

-

-

-

-

Aldrin / Dealdrin Aldrin / Dealdrin 4

0.00000

0.00003

0.00000

0.00003

DDT DDT 4

0.00000

0.00200

0.00000

0.00200

Heptachlor & Heptachlor Epoxide H & HE 4

0.00000

0.00003

0.00000

0.00003

Methoxychlor Methoxychlor 4

0.00000

0.02000

0.00000

0.02000

Lindane Lindane 4

0.00000

0.00200

0.00000

0.00200

Chlordane Chlordane 4

0.00000

0.00020

0.00000

0.00020

Endosulfan Endosulfan 4

0.00000

0.03000

0.00000

0.03000

Hexachlorobenzena Hexachlorobenzena 4

0.00000

0.00100

0.00000

0.00100

1,2-dichloroethane C2H4Cl2 4

-

-

0.00000

0.03000

2,4,5-T C8H6Cl2O3 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00900

2,4,6-trichlorophenol C₆H₂Cl₃OH/C₆H₃Cl₃O 4

-

-

0.00000

0.20000

2,4-D C8H6Cl2O3 4

0.00000

0.03000

0.00000

0.03000

2,4-DB C8H6Cl2O3 4

-

-

0.00000

0.09000

2,4-dichlorophenol C6H4Cl2O 4

-

-

0.00000

0.09000

Acrylamide C3H5NO 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00050

Alachlor C14H20ClNO2 4

-

-

0.00000

0.02000

Aldicarb Aldicarb 4

-

-

0.00000

0.01000

Benzene Benzene 4

-

-

0.00000

0.01000

Carbofuran C12H15NO3 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00700

MCPA C₉H₉ClO₃ 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00200

Pendimethalin C13H19N3O4 4

-

-

0.00000

0.02000

Pentachlorophenol C6Cl5OH 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00900

Permethrin Permethrin 4

-

-

0.00000

0.02000

Pesticides Pesticides 4

-

-

-

-

Pesticides – Total Pesticides – Total 4

-

-

-

-

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 4

-

-

-

-

Propanil C3H8O 4

-

-

0.00000

0.02000

Tetrachloroethene and Trichloroethene C₂HCl₃ 4

-

-

-

-

Vinyl chloride CH₂:CHCl 4

-

-

0.00000

0.00500

Gross alpha (α) Gross alpha (α) 5

0.00000

0.1Bq/l

0.00000

0.1Bq/l

Gross beta (β) Gross beta (β) 5

0.00000

1.0 Bq/l

0.00000

1.0 Bq/l

Tritium Tritium 5

-

-

-

-

Total indicative dose Total indicative dose 5

-

-

-

-

Please click on this link if the above table is not clear http://kmam.moh.gov.my/public-user/drinking-water-quality-standard.html

There should be no E.Coli (a harmful faecal bacteria), heavy metals and pesticides in our treated water. All the standard parameters are monitored via PAIP in-house and MOH external water quality monitoring programmes respectively. The main key parameters include. E.Coli ,pH ,turbidity, aluminium and residual chlorine). Samples are taken from the  treatment plants, service reservoirs and also in the distribution system. In addition, the frequency of sampling carried out are based on the frequency that is stipulated in the NSDWQ. Many of the samples from Cameron Highlands are sent to the Chemistry Department in Perak and Kuala Lumpur.

 

Distribution

There are holding tanks in each town/village which serves as a buffer should there be a sudden disruption in water supply . The water pipes from the Sg Terla  plant are all new whereas  the pipes from the earlier treatment plants are replaced whenever they spring leaks.

IMG_2972IMG_2984IMG_2991IMG_2962IMG_4761IMG_4747

 

So how clean is our drinking water actually?

The photo below is a picture taken of the aeration section at the Sg Terla treatment pond after a downpour with the classical ‘teh tarik’  water that Cameron Highlands is so famous for. When it was shown to me for the first time it reminded me of “The fountain of anything but youth!”

IMG-20141001-WA0000

References

1.www.paip.com.my

2. www.syabas.com.my

3.www.epa.gov

4. http://kmam.moh.gov.my/public-user/drinking-water-quality-standard.html