Water leaks cost HK$530m a year
Hong Kong’s ombudsman urged the Water Supplies Department to step up waterpipe maintenance as leakage from government mains last year cost the city HK$530 million.
The volume of fresh water leaking from infrastructure could fill more than 38,000 standard-size swimming pools and would have met demand from about 2 million people in Hong Kong annually, according to the report by the public administration watchdog.
The volume of salt water leakage could fill as many as 10,000 standard-size swimming pools, the report added.
“The annual amount of water lost in Hong Kong is quite astonishing,” Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing told a press conference.
The ombudsman said the WSD needs to upgrade its water-pipe systems to reduce leaks.
The leakage rate of water mains in Hong Kong is currently 15.2 percent — worse than the rate in a number of other world cities.
Singapore has a 5 percent leakage rate while Lisbon, in Portugal, has an 8 percent rate, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Although the incidents of government water mains bursting have declined in recent years, the 88 cases of water mains bursting in 2017 mean that such incidents happen once every four days, on average,” she said.
In 2000, the number of burst water main incidents was 2,500, according to the report. The improvement came after the WSD renewed more than 3,000 kilometers of mains since 2000 under its Replacement and Rehabilitation Program of Water Mains.
The report identified a number of inadequacies in WSD’s handling of government water main bursts. This included insufficient follow-up measures on water leakage “hot spots” and not enough measures to reduce the leakage rate.
Some water leakage “hot spots” burst repeatedly within a month or even a week of being fixed. This caused inconvenience to the public and was harmful to the environment, the report noted.
Responding to the report, a WSD spokesperson explained that in Hong Kong frequent construction work and heavy traffic caused vibrations and disturbances to underground water pipes. Mountains in Hong Kong also increased pressure on the water grid.
All these factors increased the likelihood of water pipes bursting or leaking, the spokesperson said.
The department wants to decrease the water mains leakage rate to 10 percent. It will study how other cities manage their water pipes, the spokesperson said.