To avoid a future crisis, Hong Kong needs to come up with a water plan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong has survived many uncertainties and crises in the 15 years since the handover. However, we are still failing to plan ahead of time and think in a broader perspective. Water is a key issue that has been neglected for some time.

Hong Kong has had a guaranteed supply of water since the Dongguan-Shenzhen Water Project started providing Dongjiang water in 1965. Even in 2009 when severe drought struck Guangdong, we still received our full quota. Guangdong declined Hong Kong's offer to take less water for drought relief so the water purchase agreement would be honoured.

Hong Kong has 21 treatment facilities that take about 10 steps to filter and purify the imported Dongjiang water. After the treatment, the quality meets the European Union drinking water standard, which is more strict than that of the mainland.

It seems that under 'one country, two systems', we are guaranteed this water. But is this really the case?

The Dongjiang Basin was the first to start a water allotment scheme in China in 2008, and has a total usable water cap (10.66 billion cubic metres in a normal year). Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou , Heyuan and Hong Kong are in this scheme.

Up to 2010, the actual water usage of all cities had exceeded or nearly used up the allocated amount, except Hong Kong. By 2020, all of those cities will have even more severe water supply shortages.

Each year Hong Kong uses 60 to 70 per cent of its water entitlement. The surplus goes to the other cities in the scheme. In future, when we need more water, will we be able to get it without having to take from these cities? Water is an issue that has been considered at the highest levels in Beijing. The State Council promulgated the Opinion on Implementing a Strict System for Water Resources in February, which requested all local authorities to 'base their needs on and act according to water availability'.

Many people believe that, no matter what happens, the central government will step in to help Hong Kong.

However, when mainlanders upstream are suffering water shortages and are thirsty, it will not be a matter of economic affordability or political correctness. It will be about doing what is humane and morally correct.

There is an urgent need for Hong Kong to come up with a comprehensive water plan. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying must act swiftly on this issue.

Su Liu, manager, Greater China, Civic Exchange