By Kurniawati Kamarudin
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Bottled ‘skyjuice’ or rainwater anyone? You may be able to buy them off the shelf next year, according to the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM) which is involved in ongoing studies on diversifying the use of rainwater. Its research includes treating rainwater for drinking purposes and its efforts to produce bottled rainwater have proven successful. In 2018, NAHRIM secured the green light from the Ministry of Health to commercialise the product, research on which started in 2016.
According to senior researcher at the Water Resources Unit at NAHRIM’s Centre for Water Resources and Climate Change Studies Marini Mohamad Ideris, the institute is currently seeking strategic partners and working out a business plan for the mass production of its bottled water which will be marketed under two brands, CloudRain and Raindrop. “Our product will hopefully be available in the market next year,” she told Bernama. RESEARCH ON RAINWATER POTENTIAL Marini said the idea for the potable rainwater project came from former NAHRIM director-general Datuk Ahmad Jamalludin Shaaban several years ago.
He wanted the institute to conduct studies on the potential for rainwater to be processed into drinking water that can be bottled and commercialised. Marini said NAHRIM has two locations to “harvest” rainwater, one deep inside a forest reserve in Kuala Tahan, Jerantut, Pahang, and the other at NAHRIM’s headquarters in Seri Kembangan, Selangor. “We wanted to see the difference in the water quality of the rainfall in the jungle and in the city and sure enough, there is a difference. Kuala Tahan’s rainwater quality is much better with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0.
The rainwater harvested at NAHRIM, on the other hand, is more acidic with a pH of between 4.4 and 5.6,” she revealed. NAHRIM researchers, meanwhile, have set up an incubator at the institute to treat and bottle the harvested rainwater, which has to go through specific filtration processes to ensure the water quality attains the desired standards. RAINWATER HARVEST PROCESS To harvest rainwater in Kuala Tahan, a catchment facility has been erected featuring a specially designed umbrella-shaped canvas roof with a surface area of 36 square metres.
The harvested rainwater goes through a first flush filter before it is channelled into a collection tank, where it undergoes the ‘micro-nano carb’ filtration process after which the water is pumped into mobile storage tanks to be transported in trucks to NAHRIM, Marini explained. NAHRIM's own rainwater catchment and harvesting facility is located next to the surau on its premises.
The roof, made of canvas, has a surface area of 168 square metres. Marini said the rainwater harvested from the roof is channelled into two collection tanks, each with a capacity of 2,000 litres. “The rainwater will go through the first flush filter before undergoing the micro-nano carb filtration process. The filtered water is then channelled to storage tanks in the incubator,” she added. FILTRATION PROCESS IN THE INCUBATOR In the incubator itself, the rainwater has to go through various filtration processes before it can be bottled to ensure the water quality meets the standards set by the Ministry of Health.
Marini said the rainwater has to go through the micro- and ultra-filtration processes to eliminate fine suspended particles, microbes and viruses, the sizes of which range from 0.1 to 10 microns (suspended particles), 0.2 to 2.0 microns (bacteria) and 0.02 to 0.3 microns (viruses). The water also has to go through the carbon-filtration process to reduce its acidity and remove impurities by means of absorption. It also gets rid of chlorine, chloramine, volatile organic compounds and contaminants that can affect the colour, smell and taste of rainwater. “This is to ensure that the rainwater’s pH doesn’t exceed the level set by the Health Ministry which is in the range of 6.5 to 8.5,” said Marini.
Last comes ultraviolet purification to remove dangerous micro-organisms such as E.coli and other bacteria and viruses that may still be present in the rainwater. Only after the completion of the filtration and purification process is the rainwater bottled and labelled. The Raindrop brand is for the rainwater sourced from Kuala Tahan while the CloudRain brand is reserved for rainwater sourced from NAHRIM. “We don’t use any chemical substance to treat the rainwater.
Only natural filtration methods are used in accordance with the standards set by our Health Ministry to ensure that the water is safe to drink,” she said. Potable rainwater, she said, has the edge over other types of drinking water as it comes from a natural source, has an almost neutral pH and is free of by-products, salt, minerals and natural and man-made pollutants. Once NAHRIM’s potable rainwater is available in the market and the demand for the product grows, they will have to make more extensive plans to source for rainwater as rainfall does not occur every day, said Marini, adding that NAHRIM’s potable rainwater is currently served and consumed during its official functions.
Translated by Rema Nambiar