SHAH ALAM: Development of groundwater resources for water supply must be high on the national agenda, says Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar.Speaking at the National Groundwater conference 2019 here, Xavier cited a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 1982 which showed that Malaysia has groundwater reserves of five trillion cubic metres; of which 2.0 trillion cubic metres are in Peninsular Malaysia, 1.1 trillion cubic metres in Sabah and 1.9 trillion cubic metres in Sarawak.However, he said that due to the abundance of surface water in river systems, groundwater for irrigation use had not been much exploited except in North Kelantan and some parts of Sabah and Sarawak.

“It is estimated that groundwater constitutes less than 3% of the water supply in Malaysia, with the remainder sourced from surfaced water,“ he said.He compared local groundwater utilisation to that of other countries - Denmark has 100% utilisation, Austria 97%, Thailand 80%, China 78%, USA 50%.“Why is this the case for Malaysia? Groundwater resources in Malaysia face many serious problems that relate back to the absence of an adaptive and comprehensive management regime, research and development, manpower, human resources issues, resource data collection, public awareness and stakeholder participation,“said Xavier.He said that it may be necessary to revisit the National Water Resources Policy and the national need to meet future potable and irrigation water demands.“Any new water policy must take into consideration the use of groundwater and its integration into the water supply system,“ he said.