Fears spur study of other water sources
Fears of future shortages have led officials to study importing water from sources other than Guangdong province.
A senior official said the Works Bureau and Water Supplies Department had found it imperative to identify sources of water outside Guangdong before it was too late.
'Experts have anticipated a shortage of water all around the world in 20 to 30 years' time,' he said.
He was referring to a report last month by the World Commission on Water that warned of shortages.
The official feared rapid economic growth in Guangdong would further strain water supplies.
He said the imminent entry of China into the World Trade Organisation would add to that impetus.
The proximity of Guangdong meant that the province and the SAR both suffered during periods of light rainfall.
'In the long-run, we have to look for other sources,' he said.
At present, 83 per cent of the SAR's water supply comes from Dongjiang (East River) under an agreement due to expire in 2008.
Although Guangdong's Xijiang (West River) was also a possible source, it would require huge investment in pipes to bring water the longer distance, the official said.
The Government would continue to look for alternative sites for the building of reservoirs, but the official was quick to warn that choices were limited.
The Director of Audit said in a report this year that the agreement with Guangdong had cost Hong Kong $1.7 billion in wasted supplies - water spilled into the sea with reservoirs full.
The problem is likely to continue over the next few years.
Legislators have urged the Government to build more reservoirs and ask for more flexibility from Guangdong.
The official said: 'As a matter of fact, most of the proposals are exactly what we have done or have been doing. There's a limit to flexibility in the agreement.
'We can negotiate for flexibility in the time of the delivery of water but not the total amount of water.'