Kwun Tong hill yields 'mystery' water
Preparing the perfect pot of tea is no walk in the park for 63-year-old Tai Yick-fat.
For him, it involves a daily trudge up a hill to collect "free water" from makeshift spouts in the hillside along Hong Ning Road in Kwun Tong.
"This water has no chemical or bleach taste like the water that comes out of the tap," the jolly Chinese medicine practitioner says as he plugs a 4.5-litre plastic bottle into one spout - an old sawn-off steel pipe.
"It reminds me of the old days in my village in Fujian province when we had to dig and build our own wells to get water."
It takes about 10 minutes to fill each container, he says, and he will use the water to brew his favourite Chinese tea.
Tai is one of many residents in the neighbourhood to take advantage of the water leaking from the mountain.
A visit to the site by South China Morning Post reporters revealed at least six makeshift water spouts protruding from the slope, half of which were disused or dry. Three of the functional ones had metre-long rubber hoses stuck into them.
Safety has clearly not been too big a concern. Boiling the water before consumption appears to have worked for Tai so far.
"It's been almost a year and I've never got sick from drinking this," he said. "I've heard some people have been coming here for more than 10 years."
Hikers stopped by to wash their hands and to wet their towels. No one seemed to know when the spouts had been installed, whether the water was spring, hard, soft, waste, or more importantly, where it actually came from.
"There's a possibility that the water is coming from there," Tai said, craning his neck and pointing to the Kwun Tong High Level Fresh Water Service Reservoir on the top of the hill.
A Water Supplies Department spokesman said the possibility of the water coming from a leak in the reservoir was "very small", but that it would conduct tests to determine its source.
He said even if the water did come from the reservoir, people using it could not be charged with stealing water as it was not tapped directly from the department's pipes.
University of Hong Kong aquatic ecology professor Kenneth Leung Mei-yee said it was common for rainwater in forests to get trapped under the soil and then be released slowly.