Introduction to Water Quality Issues in Hong Kong

Water quality is of prime importance to Hong Kong. This page will tell you about the Government's water quality control measures, and introduce a range of important issues relating to water that may affect your health.

Water Quality Control in Hong Kong

Although most people take water for granted, it's a valuable resource that can be exposed to contamination. Water pollution can harm marine and freshwater life and cause significant health problems. So the Water Supplies Department strives to ensure the adequacy and safety of the drinking water supply in Hong Kong. The Environmental Protection Department also works hard to improve the beach, river and marine water quality, which has resulted in an increase in the number of clean beaches and a decrease in the number of polluted rivers over recent years. The implementation of Harbour Area Treatment Scheme has also significantly reduced key pollutants.

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Drinking and Dongjiang Water Quality

Around 70-80% of Hong Kong's fresh water supply is imported from Dongjiang (the East River) intake to Shenzhen Reservoir in neighbouring Guangdong province via a dedicated aqueduct. A series of pollution prevention and control measures have been implemented by the Guangdong authorities to protect its quality. The Government of the Hong Kong SAR and Guangdong authorities have worked closely to strive to maintain the quality of raw water from Dongjiang to conform to the national standard for Type II waters (applicable for the abstraction for human consumption in first class protection area) in the "Environmental Quality Standards for Surface Water, GB 3838-2002". A series of rigorous water treatment processes and close monitoring for raw water is also carried out to make the drinking water supply in Hong Kong one of the safest in the world.

Information about drinking and Dongjiang water quality

Beach Water Quality

The quality of water on our beaches not only affects enjoyment of swimmers, but can also affect their health. The Environmental Protection Department routinely monitors the water quality of Hong Kong's beaches, providing a beach water quality monitoring, rating and advisory warning system and devising long-term pollution-control measures. With these efforts, you can enjoy swimming at the seaside safely.

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River Water Quality

Because Hong Kong's many rivers and streams are situated in densely populated areas, the effects of river water pollution can be felt by everyone. That's why the Environmental Protection Department undertakes comprehensive monitoring of fresh watercourses in Hong Kong. With a Water Quality Index in place to inform you of potential danger and long-term pollution control strategies at work, you can rest assured that your environment is being protected.

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Marine Water Quality

We rely on the sea surrounding us for food, flushing water, cooling water and sewage disposal mean that marine water quality is vitally important to everyone. The Environmental Protection Department's water quality monitoring programme extends to all marine areas within Hong Kong's territorial limits, and ensures that anti-pollution measures are always based on accurate information.

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Harbour Area Treatment Scheme

The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) is the largest environmental infrastructure project in Hong Kong, with an aim at improving the water quality of Victoria Harbour. The project is implemented in two stages. Stage 1 was commissioned in December 2001, treating about 75% of the sewage daily generated from both sides of Victoria Harbour. With the significant improvements in water quality, the annual cross-harbour swimming race resumed in 2011 after years of suspension. The facilities of Stage 2A came into full operation in December 2015. All sewage from both sides of Victoria Harbour are now conveyed to the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works for centralized treatment, disinfection and then discharged into the western approaches of the harbour.

Information about the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme

Use of Reclaimed Water

Reclaimed water is highly treated effluent. The Government has launched “Reclaimed Water” pilot schemes at some of the sewage treatment works to investigate the use of reclaimed water for non-potable purposes (such as toilet flushing) in Hong Kong. Use of reclaimed water will reduce the consumption of drinking water and lower water pollution levels in rivers and the sea. The benefits to you will be a cleaner ecosystem and more sustainable development in the years to come.

More information on the use of reclaimed water

Sewage Treatment and Charges

Proper sewage treatment protects our marine environment and safeguards public health.  At present the Government funds the capital cost of all sewage treatment facilities in full, whereas part of the cost of sewage collection, treatment and disposal is shared within the community in accordance with the polluter-pays principle.

More information on sewage treatment and charges

Red Tide Information

Red tides or algal blooms are natural discolorations of seawater caused by the rapid multiplication of algae. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department acts as the coordinator of the Red Tide Reporting Network, receiving red tide reports, conducting investigations, providing warnings of the associated risk to marine fish farmers and outlining appropriate measures to reduce loss.

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What You Can Do

Your role in improving water quality in Hong Kong is very important. On a practical level, you can reduce your overall water consumption in showers and clothes washing to reduce the amount of waste water. You can also report any pollution incidents to the Environmental Protection Department so action can be taken to minimise possible damage to water quality and the environment.

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Last revision date: June 2017