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Drinking water quality status in Malaysia: a scoping review of occurrence, human health exposure, and potential needs



Like other countries, surface water degradation in Malaysia is linked with common global issues. Although different aspects of drinking water suitability have been examined, the overall understanding of drinking water quality in Malaysia is poor.


Hence, the present review aims to provide an understanding of drinking water (tap water, groundwater, gravity feed system) quality and its potential implications on policy, human health, and drinking water management law and identification of potential direction of future drinking water research and management needs in Malaysia.


This study utilized a scoping review method. PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews was used for search strategy. Relevant studies were screened using the selected keywords and databases.


A total of 26 drinking water quality studies involving tap water, groundwater, and gravity feed systems have been selected for review. These studies found that the majority of Malaysian Drinking Water and WHO Drinking Water standards have been met. High levels of Cu, Cd, Fe and Pb were attributable to galvanized plumbing and pipe material corrosion. Variation of fluoride in tap water depends on dosage planning and operational processes of the public water supply. Pollutants (nitrate and ammonia) in groundwater and gravity feed system water have been linked to agricultural practices in rural areas. Microbiological quality in tap water is associated with growing biofilms inside the pipelines while in groundwater is caused by shallow surface events. However, only eight studies have reported about the human risks of chemical pollutants in tap water.

Impact statement

The review discusses the state of drinking water quality in Malaysia and its impact on public health. It suggests that policymakers can use this information to improve the quality of drinking water and enforce restrictions, while also raising public awareness about the importance of safe drinking water. The study can guide future research and initiatives in Malaysia, ultimately contributing to efforts to ensure access to clean and dependable drinking water.

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Fig. 1: Surface water as major drinking water supply in Malaysia.
Fig. 2: Scoping review process using PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) flow diagram.
Fig. 3
Fig. 4: Sampling locations involved in drinking water (tap water, groundwater, and gravity feed system) quality studies in Malaysia.
Fig. 5: Chemical pollutant (non-metal) concentrations in drinking water samples from Malaysia.
Fig. 6: Chemical pollutant (metal) concentrations in tap water from Malaysia which linked with drinking water distribution systems corrosion and human activities.
Fig. 7: Chemical pollutant (metal) concentrations in groundwater and gravity feed system (GFS) water samples from Malaysia which have been linked with industrialization and stratification process in groundwater.

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Data availability

All the data has been presented in this manuscript.


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We would like to sincere thanks the reviewers for the constructive comments to improve this manuscript.

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SMP has involved in conceptualization, studies searching, selection, acquisition and interpretation of data and writing the whole manuscript, final approval of the version to be submitted. AZA, ZH and JHH have contributed information on drinking water management legislation and government policy.

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Correspondence to Sarva Mangala Praveena.

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Praveena, S.M., Aris, A.Z., Hashim, Z. et al. Drinking water quality status in Malaysia: a scoping review of occurrence, human health exposure, and potential needs. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 34, 161–174 (2024).

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