Malaysia, Singapore grapple with prolonged dry spell
The Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department said it had got more than 7,000 calls about forest and bush fires nationwide since early February, five times more than usual.
Selangor, Malaysia's richest and most industrialized state, began limited water rationing on Tuesday as levels in its dams plunged to critical lows.
"We pledge that every consumer will receive water, but it will be rationed to ensure supply every two days," Bernama quoted state chief minister Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as saying.
"In a week, consumers will receive water for four days."
The state of Negeri Sembilan, near Kuala Lumpur, declared a "state of crisis" over the water shortage last week.
In Singapore, the Public Utilities Board has boosted the supply of recycled water, known as NEWater, and desalinated supplies, to keep up reservoir levels.
Singapore's national security concerns mean it has developed into one of the world leaders in water technology as it tries to cut reliance on imported supplies from Malaysia.
About 55 percent of Singapore's water is now desalinated or recycled, in line with an aim to be self-sufficient by 2061, when a 1962 agreement to buy 250 million gallons per day from Malaysia ends, according to the board.
The deal lets Singapore buy the Malaysian water at 0.03 ringgit ($0.01) per 1,000 gallons, and sell back treated water for 0.50 ringgit per 1,000 gallons.
Some experts say while Singapore is coping well with the dry spell, it needs to diversify its water supplies further.
"The expectation of the large increase of NEWater and desalination water may not be practical due to their much higher cost than imported water and catchment water," said Pat Yeh, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at National University of Singapore.
Johor, the Malaysian state that borders Singapore, has been urging an early re-negotiation of the water deal, saying it is too advantageous to the city-state.
"The talks should begin immediately," Hasni Mohammad, chairman of a public works panel, told Bernama in a recent interview. "We have long been in a losing position."
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