The price of water from the Dongjiang in the mainland is set to increase by seven percent, as the government prepares to sign a new agreement with mainland authorities.

Hong Kong currently imports about 70 to 80 per cent of its potable water supply from the river in Guangdong. The cost of Dongjiang water has doubled in the past decade, drawing criticism.

The government has been holding negotiations with authorities in neighbouring Guangdong province, as the current agreement with China expires at the end of the year.

dongjiang water
Raw water supply pipes from the Dongjiang. Photo: GovHK.

According to documents submitted by the Development Bureau to the legislature, the government is set to sign a new agreement, which stipulates that the price of Dongjiang water will rise by 0.3 per cent per year. It means Hong Kong will pay over HK$14.4 billion over three years – an increase of about 6.9 per cent compared to the previous three-year agreement.

See also: Cost of mainland water has doubled in past decade, but local supplies are inadequate, say officials

Under the agreement, Hong Kong will continue to purchase water using a “package deal lump sum approach,” meaning it will pay a set amount each year to purchase up to 820 million cubic metres of water.

But local usage has not reached the upper limit, and critics have denounced the approach for wasting public money, saying that Hong Kong should purchase water by the amount it uses.

However, Guangdong authorities say that Dongjiang also supplies water to multiple cities in Guangdong, including Huizhou, Dongguan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. With the expansion of these cities, Guangdong may not be able to guarantee Hong Kong’s water supply during droughts if a set amount is not agreed upon.

Carrie Lam Dongjiang
Then-secretary for development Carrie Lam in 2011 visited the Shenzhen Reservoir, which receives Dongjiang water from a dedicated aqueduct. Photo: GovHK.

DAB lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fan expressed disappointment in the new agreement. He suggested that the government try to negotiate a mixed approach in 2020, to pay for a set lower amount, and pay per unit after it surpasses the set amount.

Democratic party lawmaker Helena Wong said that she met Guangdong officials while on a tour to inspect the water supply, and described them as unyielding. She said that Hong Kong was too reliant on Dongjiang water, and did not develop its own water supply, meaning that the government had little room to negotiate.

Wong recommended that the government look into expanding existing reservoirs, building new ones, or building seawater desalination plants to reduce its reliance on Dongjiang water.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.