OUT of 5.32 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter pro­duced in the coun­try last year, 2.1 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters be­came Non-Rev­enue Wa­ter (NRW) that trans­lated into an es­ti­mated loss of RM2.6 bil­lion in rev­enue. Ran­hill Wa­ter Ser­vices Sdn Bhd (RWS) chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Khairul Ef­fendy Tusam said many peo­ple are un­aware of the is­sue of NRW which is de­fined as the dif­fer­ence be­tween the vol­ume of pro­duced treated wa­ter and vol­ume of billed wa­ter which con­sists of phys­i­cal and com­mer­cial losses, and un­billed au­tho­rised con­sump­tion (wa­ter pro­duced but not billed).

A sub­sidiary of Ran­hill Hold­ings Bhd, RWS is con­tin­u­ously cre­at­ing aware­ness of NRW. “For the coun­try to re­duce NRW, it is es­ti­mated that around 3,000 man­power is needed. Cur­rently, Malaysia has only about 1,200,” said Khairul.

“We are try­ing to get as much at­ten­tion as pos­si­ble to at­tract young peo­ple to get in­ter­ested in NRW. There are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties for the young gen­er­a­tion to build a ca­reer in this in­dus­try.”

To re­alise this, RWS is in­volved in the In­no­vate Malaysia De­sign Com­pe­ti­tion 2017, a mul­ti­dis­ci­pline en­gi­neer­ing de­sign con­test brought by Ta­len­tCorp and sup­ported by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, which is open to fi­nal-year en­gi­neer­ing and com­puter sci­ence un­der­grad­u­ates in the coun­try.

RWS re­ceived par­tic­i­pa­tion from eight uni­ver­si­ties but short­listed five — Univer­siti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), Univer­siti Teknikal Malaysia Me­laka, (UTeM) Univer­siti Te­knologi MARA, Univer­siti Kuala Lumpur and Univer­siti Tunku Ab­dul Rah­man (UTAR).

In the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), the gov­ern­ment tar­gets to re­duce NRW to 25 per cent by 2020. Es­tab­lished in 2005, RWS fo­cuses on the re­duc­tion and man­age­ment of wa­ter leaks. It spe­cialises in the pro­vi­sion of op­er­a­tional, man­age­ment, con­struc­tion and con­sul­tancy ser­vices.

”In Malaysia, the NRW level is at 36.6 per cent — 21.9 per cent is due to loss from wa­ter pipe­line leak­age, and 14.7 per cent is caused by com­mer­cial loss. With the high level of NRW, wa­ter op­er­a­tors make losses, which will sub­se­quently af­fect wa­ter sup­ply ser­vices and qual­ity.

”It is a chal­lenge to min­imise the loss of treated wa­ter through pipe­line leak­age to re­duce NRW. There­fore, stu­dents have to cre­ate a cost-ef­fec­tive wa­ter pipe burst or leak­age de­tec­tion sys­tem, so the wa­ter op­er­a­tor can be alerted in a timely way to pipe­line leak­age in­ci­dents and re­pairs can take place as soon as pos­si­ble,” added Khairul.

While many of the chal­lenges can be over­come with en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions, RWS wants to look into how it can best adopt the newly de­signed tools and equip­ment from the par­tic­i­pat­ing stu­dents.

”The equip­ment that we have now mostly come from Ja­pan, Canada, Amer­ica and Europe. It’s good if we can have the same equip­ment with the same prin­ci­ple and con­cept but made in Malaysia so that it can be more cost­ef­fec­tive and gives a chance for lo­cal stu­dents to con­trib­ute to the re­duc­tion of NRW.”

RWS held univer­sity road­shows be­tween May and Septem­ber last year to brief stu­dents on the de­sign chal­lenge be­fore eval­u­at­ing their pro­pos­als to qual­ify for the com­pe­ti­tion.

In the first stage, RWS pre­sented chal­lenges and prob­lem state­ments for stu­dents to sub­mit project pro­pos­als for Wa­ter Pipe­line Leak­age De­tec­tion.

Only five uni­ver­si­ties were short­listed for the next round, which is to im­ple­ment their project pro­pos­als into pro­to­types.

RWS sup­ports the univer­sity teams in terms of ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties, men­tor­ship, field trip vis­its, pro­to­typ­ing as­sis­tance and fund­ing, among oth­ers.

Each team has to sub­mit its fi­nal project pa­per next month and has un­til May to im­ple­ment their pro­to­type. The grand fi­nale will be in July. Win­ning projects may qual­ify for re­search fund­ing or com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion as­sis­tance to fur­ther de­velop the so­lu­tion.

“From our early ob­ser­va­tion, they are on track. They know what we are look­ing for and un­der­stand the cri­te­ria for leak de­tec­tion equip­ment.

“It was im­por­tant for them to see for them­selves what the com­pany al­ready has and how it does things. That’s why we brought them to the sites so that they could fine-tune their de­sign.

Dur­ing the two-day visit to Jo­hor Baru, stu­dents also pre­sented their ideas and their progress in im­ple­ment­ing their projects. They were given feed­back on how to im­prove and fine-tune their work.

Law Zi Jian from UTAR hopes to learn more than just tech­ni­cal skills in this field as he also wants to brush up on his pre­sen­ta­tion tech­niques and gain ex­po­sure to in­dus­try ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I have learnt so much at univer­sity and now it’s time to trans­fer the­o­ries into prac­tice. This is a real-life sit­u­a­tion. I am ex­cited to im­ple­ment RWS chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer this project as I am not con­fined to the lab but also get the chance to be on-site and do field work,” said Law, who works with eight team mem­bers.

The team is try­ing to set up an op­ti­cal fi­bre laser sys­tem to mon­i­tor dy­namic be­hav­iour caused by acoustic vi­bra­tions on a wa­ter pipe­line. The laser sys­tem will an­a­lyse res­o­nant fre­quen­cies of the wa­ter pipe­line and iden­tify the acoustic fre­quen­cies gen­er­ated by mi­cro leaks or breaks.

“We chose an op­ti­cal fi­bre sen­sor as it is flex­i­ble and easy to de­sign and in­stall un­der­ground, and it is also cheap,” added Law.

He said many are not aware of NRW and that it­self poses a chal­lenge. “Phys­i­cal dam­age to un­der­ground pipe­lines is the big­gest source of NRW and an ac­cu­rate and real-time pipe­line mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem is cru­cial.”

Nur Aniqah Mohd Yu­sof from UniMAP, said: “I hope to gain more ex­pe­ri­ence of the work­place through this con­test while pur­su­ing my pas­sion for en­gi­neer­ing,” said the 24-year-old elec­tri­cal sys­tem en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent.

Her project, ti­tled

Stu­dents have to cre­ate a cost­ef­fec­tive wa­ter pipe burst or leak­age de­tec­tion sys­tem, so the wa­ter op­er­a­tor can be alerted in a timely way to pipe­line leak­age in­ci­dents and re­pairs can take place as soon as pos­si­ble.”


al­most 60 per cent com­pleted.

“I have col­lected soil sam­ples in the lo­cal area and their di­elec­tric prop­er­ties have been mea­sured in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. The mea­sured re­sults are plot­ted in a graph,” said Nur Aniqah.

UTeM Bach­e­lor of Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing (Con­trol, In­stru­men­ta­tion and Au­to­ma­tion) stu­dent Gowdie Palmer Derai, 23, hopes to push him­self to the limit for the com­pe­ti­tion and gain more knowl­edge and ex­po­sure to the en­gi­neer­ing field.

He will be sub­mit­ting his project ti­tled

Stu­dents take part in a field test at a Ground Mic (a tool to de­tect leaks in wa­ter pipes) demon­stra­tion in

Jo­hor Baru re­cently.

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