Water, water, everywhere…

Posted on October 11th, 2009 in Air and Water Quality by Michele Felder

Living in a sub-tropical climate, surrounded by an ocean, it can be hard to remember that fresh water is a precious resource. And yet, billions of people around the world don’t have access to clean water, and places that used to have plenty of water are now facing serious droughts.  In fact, Hong Kong faced its own water shortages in the 1960s until the HK government signed an agreement with the Guangdong government to ensure a steady supply of water for HK residents.  Hong Kong’s water now comes from two sources: 20-30% from local reservoirs and 70-80% from the Dong Jiang (river). The river travels through Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces before reaching Hong Kong, serving 45 million people along the way every day.

While water is plentiful and available to us now, it is easy to take it for granted: letting it run down drains, leak out of plumbing, or filling it with detergents and chemicals making it expensive or impossible to use again. But just because we have the water we need now, does not mean we can afford to waste it.  With a growing human population (especially across the border), increasing economic development and greater per capita use, there are huge pressures on existing and future fresh water supplies.

According to a 2008 report by the International Water Association, in 2006, HK residents used 206 litres per capita daily, among the highest of the major cities in the world. By comparison, per-capita daily consumption in Singapore was 158 litres, 154 litres in London, 145 litres in Sao Paulo, and 133 litres in Madrid. Tokyo and Taipei were higher than HK at 241 and 352 litres, respectively.  According to the same report, HK residents pay one of the lowest rates in the world for their water. A very likely connection between high use and low price!

In addition to the water itself, pumping it from Guangdong into HK and ultimately to its destination uses a lot of energy.  Think of the amount of electricity (and therefore coal) it takes to move millions of litres of water from a river in China, pump them through filtering and testing equipment, and then deliver them to the seven million residents of HK. In California, for example, water treatment, storage and transportation accounts for 19% of the state’s total electricity usage.  Saving water also saves energy!

According to “Going Green in Hong Kong” by DB resident Catherine Touzard, the major uses of water in our homes are:

  • Baths – 120-300 litres
  • Clothes washers – 60-80 litres
  • Dishwashers – 15-60 litres
  • Showers – 20-60 litres
  • Hand washing dishes – 20-40 litres

So what can each of us do to conserve water (and energy)?

  • Be aware of the water you are using – it is valuable and should never be wasted
  • Don’t let water run while brushing teeth or washing dishes
  • Ensure dishwashers and clothes washers are fully loaded before running
  • Take short showers, not baths, and turn off the water while soaping!
  • Install aerators on sink faucets and low-flow showerheads
  • Use the water from dehumidifiers for watering plants or flushing toilets
  • Install low-flow toilets or put a brick (or filled plastic bottle) in the tank to reduce flushing water
  • Water outdoor plants and gardens in morning or evening when the water can absorb more slowly and effectively
  • Choose new dish and clothes washers based on low water usage
  • Fix leaks on indoor and outdoor faucets

We can use less water, many people in major cities around the world do use much less than we do here in Hong Kong. Saving water also saves energy which has an impact on our air quality. If we don’t change our habits now, we (or our children) will face some very serious challenges in the near future!

One Response to 'Water, water, everywhere…'

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  1. BobN said,

    on October 12th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    A great article. Very thought provoking.

    However, I was both amazed and appalled when, several times recently, I have seen cleaning workers from the DB contracted cleaning company hosing down the common areas of the Plaza, using a only pressure hose. To make matters even worse the hose, still pumping water, is frequently left unattended for lengthy periods while the workers chat, light a cigarette or re-adjust the tape barrier. This inefficient and largely ineffective process must use thousands of gallons of water each month, which is not only wasteful but is also, I understand, billed to DB owners in their management fees.

    It is very difficult to motivate DB residents to be economical with water when washing or brushing their teeth when there is such a massive waste of water taking place right outside their homes. Moreover, there is no motivation for the cleaning company to be economical in it’s use of water when it is not paying for the water it uses. Is DB Green not able to bring pressure to bear on HK Resorts and our management company?

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