View Full Version : Water Woes
January 17th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Hong Kong to be spared the salty tap-water woes of Macau
The two cities draw on different sources for their supplies from the mainland
Agnes Lam and Freda Wan in Macau
17 January 2005
South China Morning Post
Hong Kong would not suffer from the salty tap-water problem affecting Macau as the two cities have different sources of supply, the water supplies chief said yesterday.
Macau's tap water turned salty after a rare drought in Guangxi and Guangdong provinces reduced water levels on the Pearl River's tributaries. The salty minerals of sodium and chloride come from seawater that spills back into the river tributaries because of low freshwater levels.
Hong Kong's water supplies director William Ko Chan-gock said the Dongjiang (East River) was the source of the city's supply and its current was stronger than the Xijiang (West River) where Macau drew its supply. Mr Ko said local reservoirs were 70 per cent full and the supply was enough to last six months.
His comments came as Macau families stocking up on bottled water have become a daily routine since the tap water became salty. Macau's water company has suggested residents use bottled water, or mix bottled water with tap water before consumption.
"We use a lot of drinking water because I have a family of four people and a dog," said Wong Ping, a housewife.
Today, the salinity level is forecast to reach 420 milligrams per litre in Macau. The World Health Organisation standard is 250 mg/l. However, the WHO standard sets comfortable taste as a criteria.
Drinking high-salinity water might affect infants, the elderly, or people with certain illnesses such as kidney problems, but would not affect regular adults, said Oscar Chu Wai-man, deputy general manager of Macau Water. The intake of sodium and chlorides varies from person to person.
"Even drinking water of 2,000mg/l salinity could be just fine for a person's health," Mr Chu said.
Philippe Wind, executive director of Macau Water said: "2004 was one of the driest years in the Guangxi province in the past 50 years. Some districts in Guangxi had almost no rainfall in the past two months."
Zhuhai and Zhongshan also suffer from the salinity problem. A hydro-engineering project will start today in the Guizhou , Guangxi and Guangdong provinces to address the problem. It will redirect an estimated 400 million to 700 million cubic metres of water to the West River and North River tributaries.
June 9th, 2009, 03:59 PM
Rising tide of trash found in HK waters
Amount of waste collected doubles in decade, says Marine Department
8 June 2009
South China Morning Post
Hong Kong has failed to halt the rising tide of trash dumped into the sea, with the amount collected nearly doubling in a decade, the Marine Department says.
More than 12,900 tonnes of trash was cleared from waters around the city last year, a 5 per cent increase over 2007. This compares with 6,750 tonnes in 1998. Yet the latest figure does not include the 15,500 tonnes collected at beaches by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).
Lisa Christensen, director of Coastal Cleanup Challenge, an international event to promote ocean protection, said statistics from cleanup events showed that at least three-quarters of the floating trash was produced locally.
"The extensive data we collected over the years indicates Hong Kong, as a society, suffers from a 'pick up after me' syndrome," she said.
"There is a lack of awareness and responsibility for the masses of waste we generate.
"There is also insufficient government support to the recycling industries, and subsequently we are finding enormous amounts of recyclable waste, especially plastics, along Hong Kong's beaches and in the water."
About a quarter of the trash collected last year, nearly 3,000 tonnes, was from Aberdeen and Tin Wan, where fishing vessels unload their catch on to a wholesale market.
Off Central, where a major reclamation project is under way, the volume of trash removed topped 600 tonnes - a rise of 23 per cent on 2006.
The fastest-growing areas for dumping trash are Chek Lap Kok, the airport island, and the Rambler Channel, near the Kwai Chung container port - with 26.4 and 65.5 tonnes last year, an increase of 7.6 and 2.3 times respectively over 2006.
Clarus Chu Ping-shing, a senior marine conservation officer at WWF Hong Kong, said some trash might have been swept in across the border in bad weather.
"Whenever there are heavy downpours and the water current is right, [a massive amount of] rubbish will drift into the city. Much of it is foam, broken furniture, plastic bags and bottles with labels written in simplified Chinese characters," he said.
Mr Chu blamed the poor system of collecting trash on the mainland but said local fishermen and holidaymakers should be responsible for their waste and not throw things into the sea.
He also pointed the finger at the Hong Kong government for adopting a fragmented approach to the problem, with responsibilities for gazetted beaches, non-gazetted beaches, harbour areas, ecologically sensitive areas and underseas assigned to different departments.
The Marine Department is responsible for trash floating outside beaches, and relies on a contractor operating 70 vessels to collect and transport it. The department said it had implemented a series of measures, including publicity and education, to counter the problem.
It is also offering free trash-collection services to vessels and harbour patrols to enforce the littering law. A spokesman said: "The department will flexibly deploy resources to cope with expected and observed situations having regard to the prevailing weather conditions."
A spokesman for the FEHD said it regularly cleaned up beaches.
"The number of workers and the cleansing frequency vary, depending on the actual situation of the individual ungazetted beach and the amount of waste to be cleared. It could be as many as 40 workers and as frequently as twice a week."
December 11th, 2009, 07:11 PM
Study urges HK rethink on water amid climate change
5 December 2009
Hong Kong should devise a water policy that goes beyond cross-border negotiations over supply and pricing in light of rising climate change threats and competition for the precious resource, a local think tank says.
Hong Kong and Macau should be involved with the Pearl River Water Resources Commission and work with other delta cities to avoid future conflicts and carry out research into adapting to climate change, it says.
The think-tank also suggests a task force be set up to review water policy issues. But it says increasing water tariffs is not politically feasible now but is desirable in the longer term once the public recognises the importance of water security.
The Civic Exchange study, "Liquid Assets: Water Security and Management in the Pearl River Basin and Hong Kong", was released yesterday.
The study says as the PRD basin is one of a few relatively healthy river systems on the mainland, regional water resources management and co-operation should be stepped up to tackle pollution and climate change threats.
But the think tank warns that Hong Kong faces at least two challenges towards this goal. One is the lack of a genuine water policy and the other is its detachment from its Guangdong counterparts in regional collaboration.
"The government does not have a water policy. The only policy is the negotiation of price and quantity. It is not involved in the long-term management of water resources," Christine Loh Kung-wai, chief executive officer of Civic Exchange, said.
She said the "supply-led attitude" of officials in water resources planning meant the policy only focused on the "contract, piping and cleansing" of imported Dongjiang water, a guarantee given by Beijing since the 1960s. Loh is also concerned about the intensifying competition for water along the Dongjiang watershed.
A scramble for water could evolve into conflicts between cities, especially in times of drought or the increasing demands of economic development.
Loh said it did no good to the region as a whole if the cities held a competitive attitude rather than co-operating to manage water demand and supply in the long term.
A Development Bureau spokesman said the total water management strategy promulgated in 2007 also addressed the water supply issues relating to climate change and low rainfall.
"The strategy puts emphasis on containing the growth of water demand through conservation while water supply management will also be strengthened," he said.
The spokesman said a study was being done to identify how to adapt the use of water resources to climate change.
As to regional co-operation, he said Hong Kong had good relations with Guangdong authorities, including the Pearl River Water Resources Commission.
February 13th, 2011, 03:20 PM
Dirtier harbour defies logic with treatment in place, expert says
12 February 2011
Few people in Hong Kong know more about waste water treatment than Professor Joseph Lee Hun-wei. Yet the respected expert confessed yesterday that he was as baffled by the sudden surge in bacteria levels at the centre of Victoria Harbour as the public - particularly given the city opened a new disinfection centre just last year that reduced the amount of sewage released into the harbour.
Lee, an award-winning environmental hydraulic expert and now vice-president for research and graduate studies at the University of Science and Technology, admitted being frustrated at being unable to solve the mystery behind the growth of Escherichia coli bacteria in the harbour - just as the water quality seemed to be improving steadily.
"Obviously, something has happened. But I am not sure if this is a one-off thing or a chronic process," said Lee, who advised the government on the HK$19 billion Harbour Area Treatment Scheme.
He suspected the cause could be damage to an undersea sewage pipe or malfunction of the city's newest and largest sewage treatment works on Stonecutters Island, although neither case could be proven as yet.
Lee, who received a top innovation prize from the State Council last year for developing a computer model for waste water disposal or flood prevention, said the harbour findings were very alarming.
He said the E coli level at a bathing beach should not exceed 180 units per 100 millilitres of water. The annual average reading at the harbour opposite Wan Chai was found to surpass 8,000 units. The high reading upsets the trend in declining E coli levels over the past decade and throws into doubt the revival of the historic cross-harbour swim. "The reading is astronomical and unacceptably high even before the disinfection facility at the Stonecutters treatment works came into service last year," Lee said.
That facility, as part of the centralised treatment works, started operation early last year to suppress bacteria levels in the treated effluent being discharged into the harbour. It handles daily about 1.4 million tonnes of sewage collected from Kowloon and eastern Hong Kong Island, or about 75 per cent of the total waste water generated in urban areas.
The remaining 25 per cent of sewage, amounting to 450,000 tonnes and mostly generated in the northern and western shores of Hong Kong Island, is pumped into the harbour after simple screening.
The polluting practice is expected to continue for four more years until a deep tunnel network channelling waste water from the two areas to Stonecutters is built. The bacteria-laden effluent has been drifting westwards, causing the closure of seven Tsuen Wan beaches since 2003.
Lee said the disinfection, through a process of chlorination and dechlorination, was so powerful that it could remove bacteria by up to 99 per cent, making the rise even more puzzling. "The disinfection should have made the water quality better. There is no reason why the level has even gone up higher than before the facility was in place," he said.
A spokesman for the Drainage Services Department, which is responsible for running the treatment works, said the disinfection facility had been operating smoothly and the E coli level in the discharged effluent was within normal standards.
He said the department was trying to see whether sewage outfalls in the harbour area had been damaged.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department, which is in charge of sewage disposal policy, said E coli levels in the western harbour area were reduced by up to 57 per cent last year.
August 10th, 2011, 03:50 AM
Water-use survey in pipeline
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Water "inspectors" will be checking on 1,000 households from today, to find out how they use water - the first such exercise of its kind. Families will be selected randomly.
Although the government has launched a series of campaigns calling on people to use less water, Hongkongers are still known to waste the precious resource.
For example, the Water Supplies Department some years ago started a labeling scheme that points to the water efficiency of equipment such as washing machines and shower heads.
However, the department said the average Hongkonger still uses 220 liters of water a day - way above the international average of 170 liters.
While insisting the Domestic Water Consumption Study is to prepare the SAR for uncertainties, such as low rainfall and climate change, department assistant director Bobby Ng Mang-tung admitted that people here use a lot more water when compared with other places.
But he said there has been no obvious increase in the use of water over the past three to five years.
Under the study, 30 inspectors will conduct face-to-face interviews with selected households on their water consumption behavior and knowledge until the end of the year.
They will also record the initial reading of the water meter and other information such as the size of the bathtub.
Each household will get a log book to record their water consumption for a week. They will need, for instance, to record the length of their showers. The inspector will return in a week's time to collect the log book and take a second reading of the water meter.
Families selected for the study will be informed of the interview two weeks in advance.
Ng said there are no plans to increase water charges, which have remained frozen at 1995 levels.
"We have done research that says the effect of a price increase will only last for a short time. Water is a necessity. At this stage we have no plans to increase the charge."
October 19th, 2011, 05:28 PM
Desalination plant to boost water supply
Thursday, October 13, 2011
A new seawater desalination plant will be built at Tseung Kwan O to meet the ever-increasing water needs of the SAR, Donald Tsang said.
To be built on a 10-hectare site, it will supply 5percent of the territory's water needs when construction is completed within the next decade.
"We are conducting a detailed study and doing field surveys to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of building a medium-sized desalination plant," Tsang said.
A thousand households will take part in surveys of water-use habits, a government source said.
It will take two years for the study and seven years to build the plant.
Meanwhile, the government is negotiating a new agreement with the Guangdong authorities for the supply of Dongjiang water for the next three years, he added.
The source said the cost of importing drinking water from Dongjiang is HK$9 per cubic meter and that of desalination is HK$12. The cost is bound to drop as desalination technology matures.
But Greenpeace said the new plan does not tackle the root cause of the water shortage.
"There is intense demand for water in the Pearl River Delta between industrial users and households in Guangdong and Hong Kong. It is necessary to stabilize the water supply by exploring new avenues," campaign manager Gloria Chang Wan-ki said.
Meanwhile, Tsang is allotting HK$330 million in subsidies for bus and taxi operators to make their vehicles greener.
This includes HK$180 million for franchised bus companies to buy 36 electric vehicles for trial runs, and HK$150 million will be given as a one-off subsidy for owners of LPG taxis and light buses to replace catalytic converters.
The target routes for electric buses will be Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Nathan Road and Central.
Kowloon Motor Bus spokeswoman Susanne Sin said: "Our first super capacitor bus was tested last June. It was a left-hand drive vehicle from the mainland so new electric buses will be made suitable for Hong Kong drivers."
But To Sum-tong, director of the taxi driver branch of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, said: "When the temperature falls under 12 degrees, these converters in the taxis may not function."
April 23rd, 2012, 02:22 PM
April 23rd, 2012, 02:24 PM
July 10th, 2012, 06:09 AM
Raw Sewage Dumped in China’s Pearl River Delta, Daily Says
By Bloomberg News
Jul 10, 2012 9:57 AM GMT+0800
China’s southern Guangdong province discharged billions of tons of raw sewage last year into the Pearl River Delta that supplies Hong Kong and Macau, the China Daily newspaper reported today.
About 9.5 billion tons of raw sewage, or three-fourths of Guangdong’s output, flowed untreated into local rivers, the newspaper said, citing findings published by the province’s Department of Water Resources. More than half of that amount went into the Pearl River Delta, it said.
The report said that 30 percent of rivers in eastern Guangdong are polluted, threatening the health of people who live along their banks. Guangdong, with a population of 104 million people, has China’s largest economy and is one of the world’s biggest manufacturing centers.
Environmental contamination has fueled social unrest in China as three decades of growth transformed the nation into the world’s second-biggest economy and its largest polluter. President Hu Jintao and other senior officials have repeatedly pledged to reduce pollution.