Hong Kong has a water crisis?

Jasmine writes*

Unseen by its 8 million residents, a water crisis is approaching Hong Kong. Seventy to eighty percent of Hong Kong’s water comes from the Dongjiang river, which also brings water to Macau and other regions in the Pearl River Delta. The Dongjiang river is reaching its “critical limit” and further growth in the region might exceed that limit.

Things only become worse for Hong Kong when considering that the city-state lost 32.5% of its water to leakage and theft. Compare that figure to Tokyo, which dropped its leakage from 20% in 1955 to 2% today.

Hong Kong needs to focus on water loss management to reduce its risks. The Total Water Management (TWM) Strategy was launched in 2008, and it reduced leakage to 15% by 2019. TWM is also trying to get Hong Kong residents to use less water.

I grew up in Hong Kong and never considered that the city was facing a water crisis. I don’t think I use absurd amounts of water, but I also paid little attention to my usage. A study conducted by the OECD across 48 major cities reported that Hong Kong residents have very high domestic water per capita. Hong Kong’s illusion of unlimited water has encouraged residents to overconsume this scarce resource. The TWM strategy [pdf] promotes water-saving devices and conservation awareness in schools, but Hong Kong is consuming more water than ever.

Hong Kong’s water crisis will only worsen unless stricter policies are implemented and additional action is taken.

Bottom Line: Hong Kong’s heavy reliance on the Dongjiang river, leaky pipes, and overconsumption of water risks exposing the city to severe water scarcity in the near future.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

2 thoughts on “Hong Kong has a water crisis?”

  1. I found it very interesting to read about the minimal extent of awareness that is extended to water scarcity in Hong Kong. Comparing its figures to Tokyo brings the situation to scale, and although there are education plans in place to increase awareness, high consumption persists. As water scarcity increases due to overdepletion of the Dongjiang river and water loss, do you feel that residents will become aware of their consumption and related water issues? Or do you believe ignorance regarding water use will continue until it is “too late”? Also, as a former resident of Hong Kong, do you feel somewhat responsible to bring this awareness to your family and friends who live there as well?

  2. I find the example of Hong Kong very interesting from a water scarcity perspective. As an island region with heavy rainfall and cheaply imported water, I understand the lacking awareness of water scarcity. It appears from your post that without demand-orientated intervention, excessive water consumption will continue to be a pressing issue in Hong Kong. However, considering China’s growing assertiveness in Hong Kong, I was wondering how likely a shift from supply-side solutions is given China’s technocratic style of governance. Additionally, is Hong Kong’s continual dependence on the mainland for water considered politically advantageous by the government? Will an economically weakening Hong Kong have to compete with the prosperous Guangdong province for water? These questions may be misguided, but I think looking at the evolving institutional environment of water management would be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *