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Hong Kong water supply

How smart Hong Kong can save water with intelligent meter systems in homes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 10:19pm

In May, Hong Kong was hit by an unusually long heatwave, with the temperature exceeding 33 degrees for nine consecutive days. As pointed out by Mr Lam Chiu-ying, the former Hong Kong Observatory chief, the heatwave should remind the city residents of the drought in 1963 when the government had to ration water.

With more extreme weather due to climate change and more competition from other cities in the “Greater Bay Area”, the supply of Dongjiang water, which accounted for 64 per cent to 89 per cent of water consumption in Hong Kong in the past decade, should not be taken for granted.

To encourage Hong Kong residents to save water, the Water Supplies Department launched its “Let’s Save 10L Water” campaign in 2014. Participants can sign a commitment certificate, pledging to use the precious resource wisely, and request a pair of complimentary flow controllers for saving water. However, by the end of March 2017, only about 5 per cent of households in the city (140,000 households) had been provided with flow controllers.

Watch: Hot spell in Hong Kong causes water shortage at farms

Hong Kong’s heatwave should ring alarm bells

Meanwhile, according to the Legislative Council, the daily fresh water consumption per capita in Hong Kong had increased from 130 cubic meters in 2013 to 135 cubic meters in 2016, suggesting that the campaign had made little difference.

The lack of information about water consumption could be why only a limited number of households joined the campaign. Since water bills are issued every three months, the consumers cannot make efforts to save water based on timely information on water usage. And, without detailed reports on the water consumption of individual appliances, neither can consumers decide where the water-saving efforts should be focused.

Extra effort needed to stop city wasting water

To better inform consumers, the government should consider installing an intelligent water metering system for every household in Hong Kong. With in-home displays of real-time water usage data, the consumers would then be able to track the water consumption of different appliances on a daily basis and adjust their behaviour accordingly, to save this precious resource.

While such a smart metering system would be costly to install, the government should consider its long-term benefits, in terms of saving water and its contribution to building a smart city in Hong Kong.

Jeanie Cheung and Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong