WATER is the essence of life

Financial Daily, 24 December 2010
Written By Sam Tan

Green Matters
WATER is the essence of life. Without it, nothing can grow and in time to come, wars may be fought and lives may be lost in the pursuit of this life-giving force. Scientific evidence suggests that one day potable water will be scarce due to water pollution and contamination, available only to the monied few who are able to afford access to it. Art imitates life and Kevin Costner’s water-world could well be a reality in future.

Indeed, many of us are aware of the impasse among water concessionaires and the state and federal governments over the management of water in Selangor. And as anyone who has tried to fathom their developments can attest, these talks are convoluted and utterly complex

But one thing can be sure: more expensive water bills in future. We, in Malaysia, are often irresponsible in our management and cultivation of water. Our problem is we take our rainfall for granted simply because we have more than sufficient rainfall. The problem is we do not have sufficient infrastructure to deal with it. We also experience floods such as those that ravaged the northern state recently. However, we can change things and more than any other profession, property developers are in a position to proactively mitigate these circumstances.

As home-builders, we can change people’s lives for the better. What if all developers build homes that allow dwellers have free water to use.

Don’t forget, in a forest, natural precipitation means water goes back to the system through natural earth seepage. But when concrete replaces the forest floor, it severs this natural process.

On a typical development, rain falls on roofs, flows into the gutter, runs into drains which overflows during a heavy storm.

But this need not happen. Rainwater harvesting is easy to implement, is reasonably economical to set up and quite simple in its operation. And if every single home in every new housing development were to equipped with one, the positive impact on our country and our earth would be immense.

Sustainable development and living need not be rocket science. It can be simple domestic water management such as dual-flush WCs, or water-efficient fittings where flow rates are controlled.

It could even amount to the simple installation of sub-meters to monitor water usage in different parts of the house. Most homes only have one main meter that measures the entire house. But with sub-meters then you know how much is used, whether it is for the purpose of irrigation or refilling the swimming pool.

Indeed, one can also have efficient irrigation systems which self-irrigate on a timer versus someone watering the plants.

The harvested water can be used for watering the plants, or washing cars. Certainly, neither cars no plants need potable or filtered water. In so doing, people save money, drainage system are less burdened, and we will alleviate the stain on the supply of threated potable water.

Indeed, harvested rainwater can be used in a number of ways. Did you know that it can be used to cool our houses down? Water is a wonderfully flexible element that has for centuries been used for cooling.

The humble but very effective mist-fan at the local mamak restaurant comes to mind. It is a simple but effective process. The cooling effect occurs when heat from the immediate surroundings is used as the energy needed to vaporise the extremely minute water particles in the fan. The result: heat is dissipated at the cost of a ceiling fan. There are countless other examples of this very simple process such as homes which contain water features, or houses internationally located near large bodies of water such as lake.

In short, sustainable living can involve simple yet effective steps to save a precious resource, which can then be on-used to improve human comfort without burdening the environment. It just needs a little thought and a will to do so.

Sam Tan is executive director of Ken Holdings, the developer of an award-winning green certified project Ken Bangsar.