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.