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DROUGHT resulting from the El Nino effect will ease in June; that is the good news. The bad news is, it will be followed by the annual hot season brought on by the southwest monsoon, which will last until September. The heatwave that is affecting even chickens is not going to let up, and it will not be just chicken eggs that will be in short supply. Water shortage, too, will be inevitable. In fact, in Kedah, the padi-planting season is delayed. The sum total is this discomfort to humans. But while food can be imported, already a fact of life anyway, water cannot. And so the country is warned about an impending supply shortage in traditionally affected areas.

Of course, the authorities will take action to minimise the impact, like cloud seeding over catchment areas to ensure sustainable levels, but as is the case with the hot season, cumulonimbus clouds, the water-laden rain clouds, are usually not where they are most needed. If they were, then there would never ever be water shortages. As a result, consumers must be prudent with their usage. Wastage at times like these is nothing short of sinful, meaning that where water can be used over, it must not be thrown away. Given the frequently occurring problem, homes in affected areas should have built-in water conservation systems, like waste water from washing machines, which is usually quite a sizeable volume, feeding straight into storage tanks for use to clean floors, cars and, if old wives tales are to be believed, it is good for plants. In short, water recycling should become normal practice.

The last time Selangor was hit bad some couple of years ago, radio and television did not tire of reminding the public not to leave taps on unnecessarily and when rain comes to collect the water. Homes, for example, can be built with gutters with drainage pipes leading to large water containers. In the old days, every home had one, the kolah air, at the entrance to the house for washing feet and watering plants. Breeding fish in them keeps the water free of mosquitoes. The same principle applies in mosques where rain is collected in large specially-built receptacles for ablution purposes. These simple conservation methods are long forgotten. Should it not be reintroduced when pressure on water supply caused by population density has become acute?

Naturally, Malaysians expect the water authorities to solve the problem and this is ongoing. The Selangor water controversy is proof that Putrajaya is not negligent despite supply of piped water being the purview of state governments. But that is on the macro level. At the micro level, the households, developers must build water-conservation systems into their designs. Green office buildings, for instance, are fitted with rain-catching equipment. Why can’t the same be done for houses? Why not make eco-friendly houses, replete with water conservation capability and solar panels, mandatory?

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