LCQ5: Seawater supply network for flushing

     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):

     Some residents living in villages in the New Territories (NT) have relayed to me that while the Government is committed to improving the seawater supply system for flushing in urban areas to provide the majority of members of the public in Hong Kong with free seawater as flushing water, it has not extended the seawater supply network for flushing to cover rural areas across the territory. As a result, some households living in villages can only use fresh water for flushing and are thus required to pay high water charges, giving rise to the perception of unfair distribution of resources. Moreover, if the premises of such households are connected to communal drains, they have to pay sewage charges calculated based on the volume of water consumed under the Sewage Services Ordinance at the same time. They have queried that the arrangement concerned is double charging. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the following information on the villages in NT which are currently not supplied with seawater for flushing purpose: (i) the name of the villages, (ii) the number of village houses and squatter structures, (iii) the number of residents, and (iv) the reasons for not being supplied with seawater for flushing purpose;

(2) whether it will subsidise households living in villages in NT to lay salt water mains to connect the Government's seawater supply network for flushing, or otherwise exempt such households from double charging; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) how it supports villages in NT to further reduce the demand for using fresh water for flushing, and raises the coverage of the seawater supply network for flushing?



     Seawater has been used for flushing in Hong Kong since the 1950s. Over the years, the Water Supplies Department (WSD) has been progressively extending the seawater supply network to conserve precious fresh water, i.e., potable water resources. In general, the WSD only approves the use of fresh water for flushing in individual areas without seawater supply. Once the seawater supply network is in place in those areas, the WSD would require those areas to convert to use seawater for flushing pursuant to the Waterworks Regulations.

     In 2015, the WSD completed the extension of seawater supply network to Northwest New Territories (including Tuen Mun East, Hung Shui Kiu, Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long Town Centre etc.) and Pok Fu Lam on Hong Kong Island, making the seawater supply network covered up to 85 per cent of the population. The consumption of fresh water for flushing has therefore been reduced by 20 per cent since 2016.  

     My reply to the question raised by Hon Kenneth Lau is as follows:

(1) In investigation of the extension of seawater for flushing, the WSD takes into account the actual situation of the areas, including the proximity to the seafront, terrain, population distribution, cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility, etc., in considering whether the project should be taken forward. These factors are evenly applicable regardless of urban or rural areas to ensure the proper use of public funds. Currently, the areas without seawater supply network include Fanling, Sheung Shui, the Peak on Hong Kong Island and some areas in the Southern District. Some of these areas are remote villages which are generally scattered, with low density and distant from the seafront, etc. To supply seawater for flushing there, it is necessary to construct water mains of long distance and pumping stations, which do not constitute the most cost-effective and energy-efficient solution.  

     According to WSD's record, there are 61 villages in the New Territories being supplied with seawater for flushing while other 516 villages in the New Territories where seawater is not available (please refer to the Annex for the names of these villages) have been approved by the WSD for using fresh water for flushing. The WSD has no readily available relevant information on the number of village houses and the number of residents in these villages.  

(2) In general, no matter the land is located in villages or not, when the Government's seawater supply network is extended to the private lot boundary, the WSD will notify the consumers of the requirement to extend their inside services from within the private lot to the Government's seawater supply network. The WSD will carry out the connection works upon receipt of the connection fee paid by the consumers. To encourage consumers to convert to seawater for flushing when the seawater supply network is in place, the WSD will waive the connection fee in accordance with the established conditions, and provide technical advice to consumers when necessary.

     As for the concern on double levy, it should be noted that water and sewage charges are different levies. Pursuant to the Waterworks Regulations, the consumption of the first 30 cubic metres of fresh water for flushing is free of charge while the subsequent consumption is payable to the relevant water charges in order to safeguard proper use of the precious fresh water resources. According to the Sewage Services Ordinance, the Government will not impose sewage charges for water supplied specifically for flushing purposes. Therefore, the sewage charges will not take into account the consumption of fresh water for flushing as measured by the dedicated water meters. In other words,  double charging will not happen in respect of the fresh water used for flushing purposes.

(3) With a view to using public resources properly as well as saving fresh water resources, the WSD will, from time to time, review the technical feasibility of the extension of seawater supply network and continue to enhance the related network wherever it is cost-effective. Currently, the Government is constructing seawater supply systems with anticipated commissioning as early as in end 2023 for the existing Tung Chung New Town and the Tung Chung New Town Extension which is being constructed so that the systems could supply seawater to these areas including the nearby villages for flushing by phases. Moreover, the Government is striving for supply reclaimed water by phases for flushing in New Development Areas (NDAs) and those areas still using fresh water for flushing. The reclaimed water supply network being proposed or constructed in NDAs such as Kwu Tung North and Fanling North, Yuen Long South, Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen and the existing towns such as Sheung Shui and Fanling areas will cover the consumers residing in about 40 villages. Upon the completion of development in other NDAs, we anticipated that the reclaimed water supply network would cover more villages located in the NDAs, thereby further reducing the fresh water demand for flushing. 

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:08