HUMANS can live for more than three weeks without food but they cannot live for more than three days without water.
This goes to show how crucial water is to us — which is why areas of early human civilisation were always found to have flourished near water sources, especially rivers.
Efficient management of water use is, therefore, one of the most important things managers of society should practise.
Although there are many rivers and abundant rainfalls in Malaysia, water still has to be collected, cleaned, stored and distributed to as many people and as cheaply as possible.
That, of course, is no easy task. It needs money and expertise to manage water to meet the increasing demand of growing populations.
thesundaypost recently talked to Kenth Hvid Nielsen, general manager of Grundfos Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, on the evolution of water use in Malaysia.
He said Grundfos has been selling water solutions in the market since the mid-60s and also experiencing working closely with both the public and private sectors in Malaysia over the past 60 years, putting it in a unique position to witness and contribute to the tremendous of growth the country.
“Water has played a big role in Malaysia’s socio-economic development — from supporting population growth and urbanisation to driving industrialisation and expansion of irrigated agriculture.”
He said while leveraging water to support its development, Malaysia had also evolved in its approach to manage this critical resource as evinced by how the country achieved access to an improved water source for 100 per cent of the population as well as improved sanitation for 96 per cent of the population by 2008 — a considerable improvement from 88 per cent and 84 per cent respectively back in 1990.
The constantly growing demand for water has also meant water management and infrastructure have to become increasingly comprehensive to meet new challenges.
With an ever-evolving water situation, Malaysia has, over the years, been working to meet future water needs while ensuring sustainable water use as the pressure on existing water resources continues to rise amid economic development and population growth.
Too much water
Nielson pointed out that Malaysia also faced the issue of having too much water – in the form of flooding.
According to him, flooding has caused over US$1.4 billion in damages over the last two decades, and beyond the annual monsoon season, the country also faces regular flash floods.
Whether urban, coastal or river flooding, tackling the problem requires differing approaches, and over the years, they have worked with the government in many states on close to 40-50 projects to reduce flooding issues in Malaysia.
With the growth of the water sector in Malaysia, Nielsen said they had been able to establish their presence right in Glenmarie Industrial Park, Shah Alam, operate a service centre, equipped with testing facilities and work with their strategic dealers network in peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.
He revealed their most recent introductions were the pre-fabricated pumping station (PPS), launched in 2018, the distributed pumping solution in 2019 and Grundfos iSOLUTIONS.
With PPS, they aimed to introduce an innovative and intelligent solution that could be adapted to address the unique issues faced by Malaysia in terms of flood control, operating reliability and energy efficiency.
Nielson observed that Malaysia seemed to face a range of urban, coastal or river flooding problems that required specific approaches to tackle.
“For example, waters from muddy and sometimes polluted confluences will require pump capabilities different to those operating in seawater barrages or freshwater lakes. Thus, PPS is to customise to suit the needs of projects and, therefore, can provide a tailored solution for every installation.”
Nielson said PPS also played a role in sustainable wastewater management, adding that this was one of Malaysia’s key focus areas for effective water governance.
“Pumping stations are designed to collect and transport wastewater, and PPS ensures minimal disruption to any water system. Also, unlike traditional pumping stations made of concrete cast on-site, PPS has a compact design and only requires a short construction timeframe, ensuring minimal disruption to people and infrastructure in a rapidly urbanising country.”
Distributed Pumping System
Another key solution the distributed pumping system (DPS) they launched in Malaysia in Sept last year – a first in the country – aimed at helping air-conditioning systems consume up to 50 per cent less energy than current conventional methods.
With water playing a crucial role in cooling buildings, industries and cities, DPS is designed to intuitively regulate the water flow based on environmental temperature through the use of sensors, ensuring that buildings are intelligently controlling energy consumption at all times.
Nielsen said DPS is part of their efforts to meet the sustainable cooling needs of Malaysia, adding that what they found was urbanisation and hot climatic conditions had intensified demand for air conditioning in Malaysia, reaching one million units in 2018 — an almost 10 per cent increase since 2013.
This demand is expected to further increase over the coming decades as climate change drives temperatures up.
With Malaysia’s Paris Agreement pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity of GDP by 45 per cent by 2030 and cut 32 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2020, he said the demand for distributed pumping systems was forecast to increase in the coming years as a result of greater demand for energy-efficient solutions.
According to Nielson, Malaysian government agencies and enterprises are embracing digitalisation to tackle issues across sectors from the rollout of National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan and establishment of the Digital Free Trade Zone to the recent Industry4WRD policy.
Digitalisation can also have a profound impact on the water sector. To complement these efforts, they introduced iSOLUTIONS which is a range of products focused on connectivity, intelligent monitoring and adjustment features to optimise water efficiency across the entire system.
The development of DPS is in line with the continuous pursuit of digitalisation where intelligence is incorporated into their products to make them more intuitive, connected and performance-efficient.
Nielsen said they were now looking at how to better integrate digital, connectivity and cloud-based solutions to create intelligent products and solutions to better meet the needs of customers.
And to support Malaysia’s water story, improving water supply and management through their water solutions has a positive impact on economic growth which touches the lives of everyday Malaysians, he added.
Nielsen believes the solutions they have chosen to introduce in the market – such as PPS and DPS – address Malaysia’s unique water challenges in the time of rapid urbanisation and growing demand while taking into consideration the national context.
He said beyond that, their solutions were able to make an impact on supporting businesses in Malaysia, ensuring every ringgit invested in innovative water solutions goes right back to them in the form of energy and water savings as well as minimising of unnecessary maintenance costs.
He noted that they could achieve this through their iSOLUTIONS which enables them to control and monitor the operation of their solutions and optimise the total cost of ownership in the operation.
“This has helped us gain great confidence in the market, especially in helping global businesses looking to establish themselves in Malaysia with their operations. They include a leading global electronics manufacturer and a global hygiene product manufacturer who are using our solutions in their manufacturing plant.
“Their continued long-term operations mean greater contribution to the Malaysian economy. We hope to continue serving Malaysians and meeting their water supply needs effectively and efficiently,” he assured.
Nielsen pointed out that the recent water disruption affecting about 1.2 million consumers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur demonstrated that water treatment is a key issue in Malaysia.
“Thus, improving the infrastructure for water and wastewater treatment will not only ensure a safe supply of water for all, but also allow the tapping of water for reuse as an alternative water source, and reduce unnecessary freshwater consumption.”
According to him, the region is facing threats to its water security.
The water demand is soaring alongside population growth and economic development while challenges such as increasing droughts experienced in Asia and failing water infrastructure leading to water loss within the system, mean the region is losing more of the precious resource.
Nielson foresees greater focus on water treatment solutions along with water reuse, not only for municipalities but also industries which can look at treating and reusing wastewater, instead of simply taking in new water, to help save water for the community.
These macro-environmental and demographic challenges would shape the way the water sector think about and create new solutions for evolving needs, he said.
On the possibility of converting ocean water for human use, Nielsen opined there were opportunities in looking to natural water resources and converting them into sustainable water supplies through desalination technology.
“However, it’s worth noting the process of desalination consumes high levels of energy which inadvertently impacts our carbon footprint and contributes to climate change. This can be mitigated by lowering our water consumption and maximising opportunities for water reuse to ensure we fully leverage the water we are using.
“In the face of depleting natural resources, the key is not just to identify alternative water resources but also sustainably use our existing resources. This is because water and energy are intrinsically linked, and the increased demand for one can significantly affect the security of the other as demonstrated by the desalination example.
“To ensure the sustainability of our resources, we must recognise that addressing each resource in silos is not a long-term solution. Cities need to become smarter in their approach to water to effectively meet growing demand.”
Nielsen said harnessing digital technology, big data, and intelligent products and networks could help cities distribute resources efficiently and solve large-scale environmental challenges.
At Grundfos, they are committed to developing innovative and intelligent solutions to meet these urgent, evolving water needs in a sustainable, energy-efficient manner, he added.