Water is precious

The haze did it. We have been having El Nino for a couple of months now. Not many of us in Brunei realised it because we have been blessed with rains occasionally falling on us. But over the past few days, the haze has been getting visible or rather has made things not so visible that we now realised, aha, we have dry weather.

We visited all the water dams yesterday to see for ourselves for their conditions and water levels. Brunei has three dams. One is the Mengkubau Dam in Mentiri, the Tasek Dam in Bandar and the Benutan Dam in Tutong. Currently under construction is the Kagu Dam in Labi. We still have two more dams in the pipelines, one in Ulu Tutong and the other in Ulu Belait. There is in fact a fourth dam which is in operation which is in Imang. However this one is used for water supply for agriculture in Wasan and the surrounding areas.

All the dams' water level despite the lack of rain recently were okay. The Mengkubau Dam showed the most decline of about 0.8 meter but the water people estimated that Mengkubau can last for another 5 to 6 months even if not a single drop of rain was to fall on its catchment. The Tasek Dam is kept more as a backup. The Benutan Dam is currently Brunei's biggest dam. The Benutan Dam does not currently supply water but what it does is that if the Tutong River was to dry up or the saline water starts coming in, water will be released from Benutan Dam. The majority of our water in Brunei/Muara and Tutong, other than some supplies from Mengkubau and Tasek are derived from the Tutong River. For Belait, the supply is from Belait River at Badas and for Temburong from the Temburong River.

[That brown stain shows how much the water level has dropped in Mengkubau Dam]

Benutan is the main supply lifeline should something happen to Tutong River. In the meantime, barrages have also been built in Tutong River. With the barrage in place, saline water can be kept out, so Tutong River can trap all the fresh water. That means we need the water from Benutan Dam even less. The last time we relied heavily on Benutan was during the El Nino in 1999. Even then we only rely on about 3 out of the 9 months of drought.

[Tutong Barrage]

However, this does not mean that we can waste our water. We may have ample and secure supplies, but with our growing population and increasing needs, there is growing cost for any additional drop that everyone waste. We are already destroying thousands of acres with our existing dams and many thousand acres of forests to come to ensure water supplies for our future generations. We must save water.


Greenlover said…
Ask anyone on the street is water precious, most will answer yes. But try asking them why and how they think water is precious, and how they will save water and what have they done to save water, I don't think there are many who can give honest and sensible answers.

You see, if water is so precious to some people, why are we seeing so many new and not so new cars which are shiny and immaculately cleaned on the road everyday everywhere? If water is so precious to those people, why do we see their maids or Indon drivers flashing away thousand of liters of tap water everyday to maintain the many huge beautiful and well- manicured gardens.

These are treated water they used everyday to wash their cars and water the garden, not to mention to clean the driveways and patio.

Water treatment are expensive. Our Government spent millions to bring tap water to nearly every citizens and residents. We have one of the highest quality and quantities compare to other countries in Asia. Even our bottled water is costlier than diesel although bottled water are not tap water.

I feel sadden to see so much water are wasted down the drain every second in Brunei. We are awfully lucky to have abundant of high quality water at such a low price, compare to other countries, notably country down under. Australia for years has been facing water scarcity which pose the biggest threat to their agricultural exporting economy.

Spend a week or so at a homestay in Australia,especially during the summer, one will have an experience you can never forget. The locals collect their water from washing vege and rice or potatoes, they collect the water from 2nd rinse from the water machines to water their gardens. Gardens are kept small with mostly bigger trees with deep penetrating roots into deep ground. Aussie don't wash their cars for weeks or months, and if they are seen watering plants with garden tap during period of rationing, they will be fined by the council or municipal dept.

It's never too late to start to save water, individually and collectively.
View from NY said…
Thank you for your very informative post. I, for one, has always been interested in Brunei's infrastructure. Much of those are, like the dams you just highlighted, are the result of very conscientious investment by HM's Government and serve the welfare of Bruneians every day although most people not conscious of them in our everyday life. I remember back in 1987-86 when Brunei was affected by a particular serious drought / El Nino, sea water reached well into the major rivers such as the Tutong and Belait thereby threatening the water supply both for the population as well as the economy (the BLNG intake at Badas). Thankfully disaster was averted when eventually the rain arrived. I am pleased to see that those lessons have been taken on-board with the construction of the Benutan Dam and the Tutong River Barrage.

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