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Advisory Council on the Environment

The Impact of Y2K Problem
on Water Supply System

(ACE Paper 19/99)
for information

Purpose

This paper briefs Members on the impact of the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem on water supply system and on the efforts which the Water Supplies Department (WSD) has taken to tackle the problem, in collaboration with other Government departments under the overall steer of the inter-departmental steering committee chaired by the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting.

The Y2K Problem

2.The Y2K problem is caused by storing years in computer systems using the last two digits instead of four digits to save memory space, thus "1999" reads "99". As the century rolls over, some systems may not be able to distinguish 2000 from 1900 and hence produce errors or fail to work. Moreover, some systems may not recognize that the Year 2000 is a leap year. The result is unpredictable.

Impact on Water Supply System

3.The Y2K problem can exist in computer hardware and software as well as equipment that contains embedded microprocessors (embedded systems) such as time recording system, security systems, etc. In WSD, these systems include facilities and equipment related to water treatment and supply, water charge billing and collection, and water quality monitoring and control. Other office automation equipment including telephone or communication systems such as Public Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX), Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), fax machines, etc. which make use of computer or microprocessors are also vulnerable to the Y2K problem. We have compiled an inventory list of all our computer systems, embedded systems or equipment and communication facilities and performed the Y2K compliance check on all mission critical systems. Out of a total of 70 systems, 14 are identified to be Y2K non-compliant. A list of these systems is shown in the Appendix.

WSD's Efforts to Rectify the Problem

4.WSD has been aware of the implication of the Y2K problem since 1996. Apart from inclusion of a Y2K compliance clause in all our new works and procurement contracts, we have also appointed a Y2K Coordinator to assess the impact on WSD's computer systems and coordinate all efforts to formulate our compliance programme. Progress of the rectification work is reported to the Central Government's Steering Committee on Year 2000 Compliance monthly. With the assistance of the Information Technology Services Department (ITSD), Treasury, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the Office of the Telecommunication Authority (OFTA) to test and rectify non-compliant systems, our target of achieving the compliance programme is June 1999. Up to mid-May 1999, we have spent about $4.7 million on the rectification or upgrading works and 69 out of the total 70 mission critical systems are already Y2K compliant, i.e. 98.5% are compliant. Only one SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system which is used in monitoring water supply in one of the operating regions is still undergoing the rectification process and this work is scheduled to be completed by end of June 1999.

5.Our Y2K compliance programme and the rectification work on embedded systems has been reviewed by an external consultant WSP Asia Ltd. employed by the Works Bureau. The review was carried out from January to April 1999. It concluded that our Y2K compliance work had been progressing satisfactorily.

6.We have already obtained written confirmation from the Guangdong Water Authority that their system to supply water to Hong Kong will not be affected by the Y2K problem. Notwithstanding this, the Y2K problem will be kept in the agenda of our regular meetings with the officials of the Guangdong Water Authority this year.

7.We have also exchanged letters with all our major suppliers, consultants and contractors. We are glad to have obtained their assurance that their supply chains as well as their service systems will not fail by the Year 2000.

Contingency Plans

8.While we have great confidence to complete all the Y2K rectification work by end of June, we are now formulating contingency plans to ensure that our business will be least affected by the Y2K impact that may arise due to unforeseen circumstances.

9.In the most unlikely event that the rectification work for the SCADA system mentioned in para. 4 above is not completed in time, we will initiate the contingency plans and reset the 1999 system clock back to 1995 so as to enable the system clock to proceed to 2000 as 1996, which is also a leap year. Then we shall have more time to solve the problem.

10.In case no water is supplied to Hong Kong from Guangdong during the roll-over, we shall use the water in our impounding reservoirs to maintain 24-hour uninterrupted water supply which we anticipate can last for at least three months. During this period, we will liaise with the Guangdong Water Authority to resolve the problem.

11.To minimise the risk of disruption of chemical supply which is essential to water treatment, we will ensure that there is adequate storage of chemicals in our treatment works. We will also keep in touch with the power and telecommunication companies and exchange information with them with regards to each other's Y2K compliance programme and contingency plans.

12.Notwithstanding that, we will conduct a series of roll-over tests for all critical systems before the arrival of the Year 2000. We will set up an emergency command centre and will arrange adequate staff on standby on the critical dates so as to operate the water supply systems manually should the automatic systems fail to work due to Y2K problem or other unforeseeable circumstances.

Publicity

13.WSD's Y2K compliance programme is made transparent to the public who can see the up-to-date details of our progress via the World Wide Web, at http://www.info.gov.hk/wsd/y2k/. Our customers will also be informed that WSD is totally Y2K compliant soon after we have completed our rectification work. They will receive our Y2K compliance statement with the water bills later this year.

14.Members are requested to note the content of this paper.


Water Supplies Department
May 1999

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

Inventory of WSD's Mission Critical Systems
which are Y2K Non-compliant
System Description Progress of Rectification Work and Target Completion Date Consequences if cannot be Rectified in time and Fallback Options
Mainland Northeast/ Mainland Northwest Regional SCADA System

completed

N/A

Hong Kong & Island Regional SCADA System

completed

N/A

Mainland Southwest Regional SCADA System Contract for rectification work awarded, to be completed by end June 1999 Unable to log information correctly, manually reset clock to 1995
Pak Kong Treatment Works SCADA System

completed

N/A

Au Tau Treatment Works Distributed Control System

completed

N/A

Shum Tseng/Yau Kom Tau Treatment Works Distributed Control System

completed

N/A

Ma On Shan Treatment Works Distributed Control System

completed

N/A

Siu Ho Wan Treatment Works Distributed Control System

completed

N/A

Idec Izumi Programmable Logic Controller

completed

N/A

Fisher & Porter DCI System 6 Programmable Logic Controller

completed

N/A

GE Fanuc Series 5 Programmable Logic Controller

completed

N/A

GEM 80 Programmable Logic Controller

completed

N/A

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph

completed

N/A

Electronic Meter Reading System

completed

N/A

 

 

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