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LCQ3: Drinking water consumption among government departments

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (October 28):


     It was reported that tap water in Hong Kong is of good quality, and a medical practitioner has advised the public that it is safe to drink boiled tap water.  The findings of the tests conducted earlier by the Consumer Council indicate that most of the tested samples of bottled water are not that more hygienic than tap water.  Furthermore, it was also reported that the production, transportation, disposal, recycling and other procedures of bottled distilled water or mineral water are all more energy intensive and environment-unfriendly.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  how prevalent the purchase of bottled water is among various government departments at present; of the total annual expenditure in this respect incurred by various departments; whether the Government has compared the differences between purchasing bottled water and providing drinking water directly from water purifiers in areas in terms of expenditure and water quality, etc; if it has, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b)  given that the residents of Bundanoon, a town in Australia, earlier passed a resolution to ban the sale of bottled water, and that the State of New South Wales also announced the prohibition on the purchase of bottled water by all government institutions on grounds of wastage of money and natural resources, whether the authorities will take the lead in Hong Kong in reducing or even stopping the purchase of bottled distilled water and installing water purifiers in the offices of various government departments, so as to reduce expenditure and energy consumption; if they will not take the lead, of the reasons for that?



(a)  At present, the Government Logistics Department centrally procures for government departments carboy-size bottled distilled water used in water dispensers.  According to the records of the past three years, the average expenditure on this item is some HK$16 million per year.  However, we do not have the records of the expenditure on the small-size bottled distilled and mineral water purchased by individual government departments.

     With regard to water quality, according to the Water Supplies Department (WSD), the quality of water supplied by WSD in Hong Kong is safe for human consumption.  WSD has in place stringent procedures to control the quality of water and to ensure it conforms to the World Health Organisation's Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality.

     In October this year, the Centre for Food Safety conducted a surveillance project to assess the microbiological quality of the bottled water available in the market, and the tests conducted included tests for E. Coli and total coliform bacteria. (Details can be found at The test results were all satisfactory.  Regarding the quality of water that has been processed by water purifiers, it has to depend on the cleanliness and sanitary level of the water purifiers.  Water purifiers which have been contaminated by bacteria may affect the water quality and render the water not suitable for consumption.

     With regard to expenditure, we do not have records of the expenditure on small-size bottled water purchased by individual government departments.  Furthermore, the expenditure on using water purifiers should include the expenses for water purifiers, maintenance and replacement of purifier cartridges.  Therefore, it is difficult to compare the expenditures on these two items.

(b)  The Government is committed to protecting the environment.  In his Policy Address 2009-10, the Chief Executive announced that the Government will expand green procurement, and will further devise such guidelines for government departments in order to promote the policy on environmental protection.  The Environmental Protection Department is actively following up on this matter, and will provide detailed guidelines to remind government departments to, as far as possible, be environmentally friendly in their offices and daily operation.  The guidelines will include reminding government departments to avoid using small-size bottled water, so as to reduce waste and the resources used for handling and delivering them.

Ends/Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Issued at HKT 11:01


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