Shenzhen rations water, but supplies to HK not affected

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2004, 12:00am

The border city says the cuts could get worse if last year's drought continues


Water supplies to Hong Kong from Guangdong have yet to be affected by a drought which has brought water rationing to parts of Shenzhen.


With the level of the Dongjiang, or East river - from which Hong Kong's water is drawn - near its record low, the taps have run dry for part of each day for residents of Baoan and Longgang in Shenzhen.


A spokesman for the Shenzhen water authority said the Dongjiang's flow was the lowest in years, threatening the water supply to the city bordering Hong Kong.


'The flow fluctuates seasonally. But [the drop] is more acute this winter,' he said, without saying how far the water table had dropped.


'So far, there is little impact on water supply but [that might change] if there isn't any rain in the next two months,' he said.


The spokesman said the water level in the Shenzhen reservoir was normal and supplies to Hong Kong would not be affected. The reservoir stores the water tapped and transferred from the middle reaches of the Dongjiang for use by Hong Kong consumers.


Guangdong's Department of Water Resources has cut water supplies to Shenzhen amid the crisis, which has been triggered by an exceptionally dry year.


According to the Hong Kong Observatory, rainfall in Hong Kong was 12 per cent below average last year.


December was the second-driest month on record in Hong Kong.


Shenzhen has contingency plans to ensure that domestic and industrial users of water will have priority if they have to limit consumption, with shops and offices bearing the brunt of cuts.


A spokesman for the Water Supplies Department said Hong Kong's water supply was guaranteed under a deal sealed with Guangdong in 1989.


'So far, we are unaffected both in terms of quantity and quality of the water imported,' he said, adding that Hong Kong continued to take in about two million cubic metres each day.


About 75 per cent of water used by Hong Kong is imported.


In 2002, Hong Kong paid about $24 billion for 740 million cubic metres of water imported from Guangdong - a cost of $3.08 per cubic metre.


Currently, city reservoirs are 75.2 per cent full, holding 440 million cubic metres of water - about 5 per cent more than in February last year.


Open University professor Ho Kin-chung, an expert on the Dongjiang, said the seasonal fluctuation in water flow was not a big worry.


'There is the huge Xinfengjiang reservoir, with billions of cubic metres of water, in the upper reaches of the Dongjiang which regulates water flow in a dry season,' he said.