Press Release HKSAR Government Information Centre



Speech by Chief Secretary for Administration


The following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Anson Chan, at the Cocktail Reception Celebrating 150 Years of Water Supply in Hong Kong today (March 20):

S.S, Hughes, Colleagues of the Water Supplies Department, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you this evening to celebrate 150 years of Water Supply in Hong Kong.

It may sound too much like a cliche to describe water as the lifeblood of human beings. But in the case of Hong Kong, it certainly is no exaggeration to say that an effective, reliable and safe water supply has been the lifeblood of our legendary evolution over the past century - from a small fishing village on a piece of barren rock into today's bustling cosmopolitan city.

In the early days of Hong Kong's development, public water supply depended entirely on rainwater. I am sure you can imagine how erratic it could be. Although time flies and it's nearly forty years from now, I can still remember vividly how tough life was at the time when water ran out from the tap for only four hours every fourth days. At the time I was the hapless secretary to the Tanker Chartering Committee which met everyday to charter tankers to bring water from the Pearl River. For those who belong to my generation, I suspect that could well be one of the least fond memories that we all share of good old Hong Kong!

Over the past decades, many attempts have been made to release the pressure on demand for fresh water. In 1960, we concluded the first water purchase agreement with the Guangdong Authority. This provided us with an external source of fresh water supply. Shortly afterwards, we installed a separate seawater supply system to save fresh water for more essential daily use. The system now provides 80% of our population with seawater for flushing. In the 1960's, we constructed the Plover Cove Reservoir, the world's first ever sea-reclaimed reservoir, establishing another milestone in the history of water supply in Hong Kong.

Today, the threat of fresh water shortage is almost behind us. And I can proudly say that the quality, reliability and efficiency of our water supply service compares favourably with practically any other major city in the world. Just to give you an idea, the average amount of fresh water now supplied to each person in Hong Kong is about 16 times the amount that could be made available during the early years of Hong Kong's development. These impressive facts and figures must not be taken for granted. They bear testimony to the remarkable achievements of all those who have made it their every day concern to ensure the steady supply of clean water. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all colleagues of the Water Supplies Department, past and present, for your hard work and unswerving commitment to serving the community. I congratulate you on a job very well done!

It is a challenge common to all responsible governments to meet the ever rising expectation of the community they serve. Water Supplies Department, as an integral part of our Government, must continue to adopt a proactive approach in enhancing the quality of customer service. And that of course includes a commitment to ensuring the quality of water supplied to the public. I understand that the Department is working closely with both the Guangdong Authority and other government departments to improve the quality of water supply at source and ensure proper treatment of contaminated water before disposal. I have every confidence in the professionalism and dedication of colleagues in the Department, as well as the support and assistance of our business partners and advisors in providing the Hong Kong community with quality water supply service in the years to come.

It is a great pleasure for me to share this joyous moment with you. Have a wonderful evening! Thank you.

End/Tuesday, March 20, 2001