This section provides detailed information on water quality and how water pollution is controlled in Hong Kong. An overview is given below for the quick reference of the audience. Detailed information is organized into various categories, namely, Beach Water Quality, Marine Water Quality, River Water Quality, Regional Collaboration, Problems & Solutions, Data & Statistics, Study Reports, and Guidelines & References which can be accessed through the menu. We are now conducting a review on the marine water quality objectives. Please visit our dedicated website on WQO Review for details.



The State of Our Waters
Water pollution can be invisible to the naked eye, but its impacts are for the most part clear enough. Bacteria, nutrients and other pollutants can make swimmers sick, contaminate or kill marine life, and give off bad smells. Like other major cities in the world, Hong Kong is working diligently to improve its water quality. Our pollutants come from human and industrial sources and livestock farms, and programmes are underway to reduce pollution loads. At the same time, we are working hard to retain the unspoiled clean water in remote areas.

Our water quality has improved within some parameters in recent years, but it is not enough for a clean bill of health, particularly in areas like Inner Deep Bay and Victoria Harbour. An expected growth in population will put added pressure on water quality.

For a full account of the quality of Hong Kong's waters, please see Beach Water Quality, Marine Water Quality and River Water Quality.


Improvements Made
PhotoThe EPD has an extensive programme for cleaning up Hong Kong's waters which has had good results. The number of gazetted beaches meeting the Water Quality Objective for bathing water increased to 41 since 2010, compared with 26 in 1997. The number of river monitoring stations with bad or very bad water quality dropped, from 52 per cent in 1988, to less than 15 per cent in recent years.

In Victoria Harbour, the first stage of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) to collect and to treat the sewage generated around the harbour was completed at the end of 2001. Now, 75 per cent of sewage around the Victoria Harbour receives chemical treatment. As a result, the dissolved oxygen in the harbour waters has increased by about 10% and the levels of key pollutants in the harbour area waters have generally decreased.  The Government is now implementing the first phase of the second stage of HATS aiming to clean up the remaining 25% of sewage that flows into the harbour.  

Water quality improves only when we stop dumping untreated or inadequately treated sewage into the sea and the local rivers, streams and bays. The government has a three-pronged approach for dealing with the problem: controlling pollution at source, providing sewers, and collecting and treating sewage.

PhotoControlling At Source
The EPD controls waste water discharges through the Water Pollution Control Ordinance. Operators are required to ensure their discharges meet standards specified by the EPD, and these specifications are contained in licences allowing them to discharge their waste water into receiving water bodies. The EPD regularly inspects operators, responds to complaints and will prosecute offenders.

Providing Sewers
All sewage should be discharged into sewers, not stormwater drains which are only meant to carry rainwater into the sea. The EPD is trying to extend the public sewer networks in the NT and new development areas. The department prepares sewerage masterplans and the works are carried out by the Drainage Services Department. The plans are revised to take into account a projected population increase of about two million by 2016.


Photo of Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works
Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works

Collecting and Treating Sewage
The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) is a strategy for collecting and treating sewage from both sides of Victoria Harbour. Stage 1 of HATS, which intercepts sewage from Kowloon and part of Hong Kong Island and delivers it to Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works for chemical treatment, was brought into operation in late 2001. Following studies, trials and a public consultation exercise, the Government developed a two-phase programme (Stage 2A and 2B) which will provide additional facilities to convey all sewage from the northern and south-western areas of Hong Kong Island to Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works for chemical treatment and disinfection in Stage 2A, and in Stage 2B, biological treatment. The Government is now implementing HATS Stage 2A (3D Animation of HATS Stage 2A) aiming for completion in 2014.

Elsewhere, a collection and treatment system in Tolo Harbour has resulted in a drop in red tides from 43 in 1988 to less than 20 in recent years.

The Hong Kong-Guangdong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection held its ninth meeting in Hong Kong.Pearl River Delta Regional Water Quality Management Cooperation
Hong Kong shares its waters with Guangdong. It makes sense, therefore, that pollution control efforts be matched by both sides. Through a joint working group, we agreed in 2000 on a 15-year plan to clean up Deep Bay and to reduce pollution from existing sources and control future pollution. At the end of 2007, Hong Kong and Shenzhen completed a review of the plan and at the same time agreed on a new set of water pollution reduction targets and the next phase of collaboration to improve the Deep Bay water quality. The two sides have also initiated the first review of the regional water quality control strategy for Mirs Bay at the end of 2008. Necessary additional measures for protecting the Mirs Bay water environment and meeting the sustainable development objectives will be recommended.

Schematic layout of the PRD Model which is composed of a 1D river model (SOBEK) and a 3D estuary model (Delft3D)
In addition, the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau and the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department successfully developed an advanced numerical water quality model for the Pearl River Estuary region in 2008. The model is capable of simulating the complicated flow dynamics and water quality processes in both the river network and the coastal region, and provides a scientific analytical tool for the formulation of regional water quality management and pollution control plans. The model was endorsed by the Hong Kong–Guangdong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection in December 2008. More details can be found in the article Hong Kong - Guangdong Joint Development of a Pearl River Delta Water Quality Model and the Final Study Report.

What You Can Do
Individual operators, such as restaurants and factories, can help to make a difference by ensuring they follow anti-pollution laws. Please refer to Guidelines & References for a full account of compliance guides and good practices.

Residents should co-operate with efforts to connect their buildings to sewers. They can also try to reduce their consumption of water, thereby reducing the amount of sewage that needs treatment. For more advice on reducing water pollution, please refer to Tips to Save the Earth.


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Thursday, 19 September, 2013