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LCQ5: Tap water supply for residents in remote areas

Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):
 
Question:
 
While tap water supply is at present available to 99 per cent of the population in Hong Kong, quite a number of residents in remote areas (including Tai Long Village and the Sea Ranch on Lantau Island) are not yet supplied with tap water. They need to rely on stream water or well water in their daily lives, which will be affected whenever the water source is contaminated or dries up. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the names of the villages yet to be supplied with tap water, and the number of households and population of each of such villages, and set out the information by District Council district;
 
(2) of the number of times that the authorities transported, on an ad hoc basis, potable water to such remote villages in the past three years and the expenditures involved, broken down by village name; and
 
(3) whether it has plans to provide tap water supply systems for Tai Long Village and the Sea Ranch; if so, of the timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:
 
President,
 
At present, the treated water supply networks cover about 99.9 per cent of the population of Hong Kong. The areas that do not have treated water supply are mainly remote villages with sparse population. While these villages do not have treated water supply, they have access to systems that supply stream or well water for domestic consumption. These supply systems have been in use for many years. Most of them are under the maintenance of the Home Affairs Department (HAD). The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) also regularly monitors and tests the stream or well water quality of these villages to ascertain their suitability for potable consumption. In the event of water depletion at source, the Government will provide assistance, including transporting potable water to meet the needs of villagers.
 
With the assistance of other departments and the Heung Yee Kuk, the Water Supplies Department (WSD) has been conducting studies on ways to improve water supply for over 700 villages around the territories since 1980. After more than 30 years of hard work, the WSD has managed to provide treated water supply for a total of 724 villages by the end of 2016.
 
The Government submitted an information paper on the cost-effectiveness of supplying treated water to remote villages to the then Panel on Planning, Lands and Works of the Legislative Council in 2003. It proposed that, for those remote villages where treated water supply schemes were still not cost-effective, the schemes should be reconsidered at a more opportune time when nearby developments rendered the provision of treated water supply more cost-effective or when other factors that warranted further study emerged. In accordance with the above-mentioned principles, we have been monitoring the water supply situation of these remote villages and their nearby developments.  Treated water supply systems were completed for 23 remote villages over the past 10 years.
 
We will continue to closely monitor and regularly review the situation. Should the Government decide to provide treated water supply to the remaining remote villages in future, we will submit funding applications for implementing treated water supply systems in accordance with the established procedures.
 
Having consulted the HAD and the FEHD, the reply of the Development Bureau to the Hon Holden Chow's question is as follows:
 
(1) Of the 18 District Councils, there remain 19 villages in six District Councils that do not have treated water supply. These villages and their respective estimated population are listed in Annex 1. Amongst them, the works for supplying treated water to Yuen Tun Ha, Tai Po has commenced and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017. By then, the number of villages that do not have treated water supply will be further reduced to 18.
 
These 18 villages have sparse populations and are far away from both urban areas and existing treated water supply networks. The per capita capital cost for the construction of treated water supply systems for these villages is very high. Moreover, low total water consumption may lead to stagnant water in water mains and hence resulting in the deterioration of water quality. As mentioned above, we will monitor and regularly review the situation of these remote villages, including their existing water resources and water quality. Should there be developments near these remote villages that render the provision of treated water supply more cost-effective or when other factors that warrant further study emerge, we will proceed to apply for funding under the established procedures to take forward the works for treated water supply systems.
 
(2) The Government transported, on an ad hoc basis, potable water to remote villages for a total of 14 times and at a cost of around $240,000 in the past three years. A breakdown of the details by villages is at Annex 2.
 
(3) The existing domestic water supply at Tai Long Village, located at the southern coast of Lantau, is through a stream water supply system maintained by the Islands District Office. To extend the treated water supply system to Tai Long Village, which is separated from the government water supply system by a high mountain, it will require to build a pump house, a high level water tank, long water mains and associated leak detection and monitoring facilities, etc. Given its sparse resident population, the per capita construction cost for extending the treated water system to the village is very high. We also need to consider whether the low water consumption will lead to stagnant water in the water tank and water mains and hence resulting in the deterioration of water quality. We will continue to closely monitor and regularly review the situation of Tai Long Village.
 
Sea Ranch is not a remote village. Its management company is responsible for providing domestic water supply to its residents. 
 

Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:22

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