LCQ11: Replacement and Rehabilitation Programme of Water Mains

Following is a question by Dr Hon David Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 10):


It has been learnt that the Government has since 2000 been implementing the Replacement and Rehabilitation Programme of Water Mains (the Programme) in four stages, with the final stage scheduled for completion in 2015, for the purpose of replacing and rehabilitating about 3,000 kilometres (km) of aged water mains throughout Hong Kong.  As of December 2009, 37% of the Programme works had been completed. As such, the remaining 63% of the project is to be completed by 2015, requiring a significantly higher level of construction activities in the remaining five years of the Programme. According to the Water Supplies Department (WSD) website, stages three and four of the Programme, which comprise replacement and rehabilitation of about 1,850 km of water mains, will cost some 68% of the total estimated project cost of $21.81 billion. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the reason for the discrepancy between the total estimated project cost of $21.81 billion as shown on WSD website and the total estimated project cost of around $19 billion in money-of-the-day prices as indicated by the Director of Water Supplies at the Public Works Subcommittee meeting on June 20, 2008;

(b) among the estimated 7,700 km of water mains presently under the management of WSD, of the respective lengths of water mains, which were made of different types of pipe materials (including asbestos cement, ductile iron, polyethylene, polyester woven liner, etc) as at December 31, 2009 and on the completion of the Programme;

(c) whether there are adequate professional and skilled construction personnel in Hong Kong at present to enable the Government to complete the Programme as scheduled, and whether the Government or contractors will need to hire the personnel concerned from overseas; if so, of the number of personnel to be hired and of their skills; and

(d) whether it has assessed if the major infrastructure projects now being undertaken by the Government will have any impact on either the schedule or the cost of the Programme; if it has, of the justifications of the assessment outcome?



The replacement and rehabilitation (R&R) programme comprises the replacement or rehabilitation of about 3,000 km of water mains in 4 stages, originally in a 20-year period from 2000 to 2020. In 2005, we decided to compress the programme to a 15-year period from 2000 to 2015. At this juncture, Stage 1 of the programme has been substantially completed, site works of Stage 2 and Stage 3 as well as the investigation and design works of Stage 4 are actively underway. About 1,100 km of the water mains (30% of the programme) have been replaced or rehabilitated since the commencement of the works in late 2000.  Currently, the work completion rate is maintained at an average of about 30 km per month.

My reply to the four points raised in the question is given below:

(a) The figure of $21.81 billion given in WSD's website is the latest update on the cost estimate of the entire project. The increase in the cost estimate is mainly due to the following reasons-

(i) Increase in cost estimate for the proposed Stage 4 works due to the recent upsurge in tender prices;

(ii) Anticipated traffic, environmental and road opening constraints, requiring more sections of the replacement or rehabilitation works adopting the more costly trenchless method; and

(iii) Anticipated extra co-ordination for resolving interfacing issues arising from the works.

(b) The lengths of the different types of pipe under the management of WSD as at December 31, 2009 and at the conclusion of the project are shown below -

Length (km)
Different Types
of Water Mains
As at December 31, 2009
At the conclusion of
the R&R programme
Asbestos cement
Cast iron
Ductile iron
Mild steel
Galvanised iron/
Lined Galvanised Iron
Unplasticised polyvinyl
chloride (PVC)




(c) We have been closely monitoring the human resource requirements in the construction sector generally and on this programme specifically. In respect of professional resources, we anticipate that there might be slight to moderate manpower mismatches but it will unlikely pose a major problem due to the rather high mobility of professionals. As for construction workers and technicians, Government has been working in close collaboration with the Construction Industry Council Training Academy (CICTA) and the Vocational Training Council (VTC) to organise various pipe laying and waterworks related courses. We believe that these training courses will attract new blood to join the industry and there will be additional worker/supervisors to meet the manpower requirements arising from the R&R programme. Overall, we consider that there will be adequate local professional and skilled construction personnel for delivering the R&R programme and we do not foresee the need for hiring skilled construction personnel from overseas.

(d) The nature of the R&R programme is rather specific and specialised and the major infrastructure projects should not have a direct impact on the R&R works. Notwithstanding, these projects, when carrying out in the same geographical areas, would result in additional challenges, demanding greater efforts in co-ordinating traffic and interfacing issues, as well as overcoming environmental and road opening constraints. We have accounted for these factors in our projected increase in the cost estimate for the Stage 4 works and would closely monitor their progress as we take forward the R&R works.

Ends/Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:10