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LCQ1: Provision of drinking fountains in public places
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     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 6):

Question:

     Some members of the public have relayed to me that the provision of drinking fountains in public places not only brings convenience to members of the public but also helps reduce plastic waste generated from beverage bottles. While drinking fountains for public use are currently provided in some of the government buildings, sports venues and parks, they may not necessarily supply both hot and cold water to cater for the needs of some members of the public. On the other hand, shopping malls in which drinking fountains are provided are rare in number, and no drinking fountain is provided in any MTR station. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of drinking fountains currently provided for public use in various types of venues under the Government and public organisations (including hospitals and clinics under the Hospital Authority, MTR stations, universities, secondary schools, primary schools, and teaching and learning facilities of the Vocational Training Council) as well as the respective percentages of such numbers in the total number of drinking fountains and, among these drinking fountains, the respective numbers of those which supply both hot and cold water; whether the Government has compiled statistics on the total number of drinking fountains currently provided for public use in various shopping malls as well as the number of those which supply both hot and cold water; of the public expenditure incurred on the provision of drinking fountains and their recurrent costs in the past five years;

(2) in the past five years, of the number of waste plastic beverage bottles across the territory, the carbon emissions from the manufacturing process of plastic beverage bottles, and the economic loss incurred as a result of the environmental pollution caused by the manufacture and dumping of plastic beverage bottles; whether it has gauged the number of waste plastic beverage bottles and carbon emissions that can be reduced per year respectively with the provision of drinking fountains in the premises mentioned in (1); and

(3) whether, in the past five years, the authorities regularly took water samples from the drinking fountains in various government facilities and shopping malls for conducting laboratory tests to see if the quality of the drinking water supplied by such drinking fountains conformed to the Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality of the World Health Organization; if they did, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that, and the measures the authorities have in place to ensure that the quality of such drinking water conforms to the aforesaid guidelines?

Reply:

President,

     Water dispensers provided by the Government for public places are mainly installed in active recreational facilities managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), such as sports centres, sports grounds and swimming pools, etc. The LCSD provides these water dispensers for the convenience of the public and to promote environmental protection. There are two main types of water dispensers, namely fountain and non-fountain type. For fountain type water dispensers, water is drawn from the water mains of the Water Supplies Department and sterilised by ultra-violet light (UV) before use. Most of these water dispensers are not equipped with heating systems and cannot provide hot water. They are designed for use at both indoor and outdoor venues. As there is no need to change water bottles, they are suitable for use at venues with high water usage. Most of the non-fountain type water dispensers dispense water from bottled water. A small portion of these dispensers dispense water from potable water after treatment by a filter system. Generally, they can provide both hot and cold water and designed for use at indoor venues only.

     The following is our reply, after consultation with all bureaux and their departments, to the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki's question:

(1) According to our rough statistics, about 1 263 fountain type water dispensers and 114 non-fountain type water dispensers are installed in government facilities for use of the general public. Most of the fountain type water dispensers (98 per cent per cent) are provided by the LCSD while the majority of the non-fountain type water dispensers (71 per cent) are installed in the premises of the Social Welfare Department (SWD). Of the water dispensers installed in government facilities, 89 per cent provide cold water or room temperature water while 11 per cent provide both hot and cold water. Among the public organisations, 69 fountain type water dispensers and 19 non-fountain type water dispensers are provided by the Airport Authority, whereas 304 non-fountain type water dispensers are installed in the premises of the Hospital Authority. About 24 per cent of the water dispensers installed by the public organisations (including the Airport Authority and the Hospital Authority) provide cold or room temperature water and 76 per cent provide both hot and cold water. Please refer to Table (1) and (2) of the Annex for details.

     The expenditures in relation to these water dispensers vary due to factors such as the venue environment, types of water dispenser, usage rate, etc. The compilation of such data requires lots of time and resources, and the data so compiled may not be suitable for reference purpose. As such, the Government cannot provide the data at present.

     As regards the MTR stations, the MTR Corporation Limited advised that it had decided against any plan to provide water dispensers at its stations for the time being after due consideration of the relevant factors (including the passenger flow at the stations and hygiene issues). MTR staff will provide assistance in case passengers need to drink water because of sickness or other reasons. The water dispensers installed at various universities, secondary schools, primary schools and training facilities of Vocation Training Council are mainly deployed for internal use and not for the general public. We do not have any statistics on these installations.

     As for the water dispensers installed at private shopping malls for use of the general public, the Government does not have any relevant statistics on hand.

(2) The Environment Bureau advised that around 58 000 to 79 000 tonnes of waste plastic bottles were disposed of at landfills each year from 2010 to 2014. As all types of plastic bottles are lumped together for the purpose of waste composition survey, there is no breakdown for the respective quantities of plastic water bottles, plastic beverage and non-beverage bottles. Please refer to Table (3) of the Annex for details.

     Regarding the carbon emissions from the manufacturing process of plastic water bottles and the economic loss incurred as a result of the environmental pollution caused by the manufacture and dumping of plastic water bottles, the Government does not have relevant information as most of the plastic water bottles used locally are not produced in Hong Kong. The Government has not undertaken any projection exercise on the number of waste plastic water bottles that can be reduced per year with the provision of water dispensers in various venues. As such, no estimates on the number of plastic beverage bottles and volume of carbon emissions are available.

(3) The Government in general does not conduct regular tests for water samples taken from the water dispensers in government facilities and shopping malls. Fountain type water dispensers in government facilities are generally equipped with filter cartridges/UV sterilisers to ensure that the water is hygienic. The departments concerned also undertake regular maintenance for their water dispensers in accordance with the manufacturers' guidelines. Moreover, users play a critical role in keeping the fountain type water dispensers clean. According to the recommendations of the Department of Health, users should adopt certain hygiene practices in using fountain type water dispensers, such as avoiding contact with the mouthpiece and protective guard, and refraining from spitting into or washing hands at the dispensers to prevent contamination. As regards bottled water for non-fountain type water dispensers, the government departments procure bottled water under the bulk purchase contract arranged by the Government Logistics Department. The contract has stipulated that the bottled water must comply with all the applicable legislation and standards in Hong Kong and that the supplier must conduct regular water sample tests to ensure safety. User departments such as the LCSD and the SWD also arrange regular maintenance for the non-fountain type water dispensers by their manufacturers.

Ends/Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:02

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