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Hong Kong environmental issues

It is in Hong Kong’s long-term interest to recycle waste water

  • Hong Kong’s daily usage of water is 220 litres per capita, double that of other world cities
  • Recycling waste water for flushing, cleaning streets and watering parks is worth considering for the environment’s sake
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 12:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 8:52am

If you are unaware of a public consultation on recycling waste water for public use, you are not alone. Unlike the recent one on land supply which justifiably stole the media limelight, the paper released earlier this month may seem just a drop in the ocean of consultations launched by the government during the year. But the fact that the proposals do not make a splash in the media does not mean they are unimportant.

It goes without saying that water is a valuable natural resource. But the abundance of water purchased across the border makes recycling a hard sell. Why bother to economise when there is more than enough? In fact, what goes through the sinks and pipes is often of little concern to the people.

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But unless you are still unconvinced by the solid evidence of global warming, there is every reason to take the consultation seriously. That climate change makes fresh water supply increasingly unstable is just a fact. Lacking natural lakes, rivers and underground water sources, Hong Kong stands to suffer if supply from the Dongjiang, or East River, becomes unreliable. The case becomes even stronger considering the city’s water consumption. According to government data in 2014, the level has gone up by 17 per cent over the past two decades. The rise may not seem exceedingly high for a fast developing city with a population of more than 7 million. But with a daily usage of 220 litres per capita – including seawater used for toilet flushing – Hong Kong uses twice as much as others in the world.

Unappealing as it sounds, the idea of recycling waste water for flushing, cleaning streets and watering parks is actually worth considering for the environment’s sake. Not only can it help achieve the government’s target of cutting fresh water consumption by 10 per cent by 2030, it also minimises the impact on the environment by reducing the amount of sewage discharged.

Increasingly, foreign countries have adopted water recycling as part of their water conservation strategy. Urban areas of the United States and Australia have been treating waste water for irrigation of green areas. In Singapore, recycled water is supplied for industrial use. It is in Hong Kong’s long-term interest to explore a more sustainable water management strategy.