HK and Guangdong reach agreement on rates, but formal approval pending Hong Kong and Guangdong have reached a deal that is expected to provide cheaper water and avoid millions of dollars worth of fresh water being dumped into the sea each year. Governor Huang Huahua said the two sides had agreed on a new rate structure for Hong Kong's water supply from the Dongjiang, or East river, which would be implemented as soon as it was approved by the State Council. 'We have already consulted each other on this and reached an agreement. Once the central government has approved it, we can implement it,' Mr Huang said. 'There is no problem. Whether it is the price of water or the quantity, we can discuss it. The important thing is to follow the principles and try and take care of each other. 'If Hong Kong has any problem and needs Guangdong's support, we will give our full support.' Under the existing water pact, which runs until 2008, the amount of water supplied to Hong Kong is fixed. This has led to millions of dollars worth of water being dumped into the sea each year because Hong Kong's annual consumption has risen more slowly than expected, because of the relocation of factories to Guangdong. Mr Huang would not reveal the details of the agreement, saying it had to be approved before being made public. The Dongjiang provides more than 80 per cent of the fresh water Hong Kong consumes. This year it will supply about 810 million cubic metres, enough to fill High Island Reservoir three times. In Hong Kong, an Environment, Transport and Works Bureau spokesman declined to comment on the news, saying only that progress had been made in the talks with Guangdong on water charges. On other cross-border issues, Mr Huang said Guangdong had sought State Council approval to bring forward the date for allowing all Guangdong residents to travel individually to Hong Kong and Macau to January 1. The original plan was to extend the relaxed travel rules to the whole province by May 1. But Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa proposed bringing the date forward when he met Mr Huang two days ago. Mr Huang said he was confident that Guangdong could handle applications from even more solo travellers. Residents from eight approved Guangdong cities have made about 190,000 visits to Hong Kong since the restrictions on individual travel were lifted in July. 'The application process has been smooth in the eight cities. Additional staffing and expenditure were taken care of within a short period of time,' he said. Reporting on other cross-border initiatives, Mr Huang said construction of the Western Corridor linking Shenzhen and Hong Kong was under way and consultations had begun on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and a high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He reiterated support for the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border free-trade zone proposed by Cheung Kong (Holdings) chairman Li Ka-shing, saying the proposal would benefit the co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong and their economic development. 'The provincial government ... will take appropriate measures to support it,' Mr Huang said. 'The key element is that there must be a good plan that makes full use of Cepa [Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement] and the advantages of Shenzhen and Hong Kong.' Hong Kong and Shenzhen experts would have to study how best to develop the area, he added.