17 February 2019
Hong Kong uses 30 percent more water per person than the world average. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong uses 30 percent more water per person than the world average. Photo: HKEJ

Govt mulls desalination plant to increase water supply

The government plans to build a seawater desalination plant to increase Hong Kong’s supply of drinking water, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.

The plant, to be located in Tseung Kwan O, will cost HK$9.3 billion (US$1.2 billion), including consultation expenses and construction costs, the newspaper said. 

The Legislative Council will review the plan in the first quarter of this year. The proposed facility is expected to be completed in 2020. 

Environmental assessment of the plant has almost been completed, and no major environmental impact is predicted.

The plant is designed to produce a maximum of 270,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day. The annual output of nearly 100 million cubic meters will be equivalent to about one-sixth of the water supplied to the city by the Dongjiang River in Guangdong province in 2013.

The desalination cost is estimated at HK$12 per cubic meter, 30 percent higher than the price of Dongjiang water, the newspaper said.

Christine Fong Kwok-shan, a member of the Sai Kung District Council, said the Hong Kong Water Supplies Department should be in charge of the operations of the plant, to ensure the quality of the drinking water it produces.

She said the construction of the desalination facility will help boost Hong Kong’s bargaining power in future negotiations over the supply of water from the Dongjiang River.

After the last desalination plant was closed in 1981 because of the high cost of operating it, Hong Kong has lagged behind other cities in setting up new desalination plants.

By 2013, Singapore had two such plants, which can supply 100 million gallons (378,500 cubic meters) of water every day, or about a quarter of the city state’s water supply.

Man Chi-sum, chief executive of Green Power, an environmental concern group, said Singapore launched a water supply plan in 2013 that aims for the city — which is still heavily dependent on water from neighboring Malaysia — to supply 80 percent of its water by 2060.

Hong Kong, however, remains at a preliminary stage of discussions, Man said. 

He said Hong Kong should not rely too much on water from Dongjiang, as many cities in Guangdong province have in recent years been using water exceeding their quota.

Hong Kong, he said, should start looking for new sources of water.

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