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Task force on “waste reduction at source” at reservoirs

Currently there are 17 impounding reservoirs in Hong Kong, in which a variety of living organisms such as algae, zooplankton, and fish can be found. These living organisms grow naturally in a state of ecological balance. However, the water quality of some of the reservoirs have been affected by an excessive growth of algae. Therefore, to ensure an ecological balance and to maintain good water quality, the Water Supplies Department (WSD) maintains a certain quantity of fish, which feed on algae, in such reservoirs by stocking fish fry into them regularly. Here we have invited colleagues from the WSD to tell us more about the “fish army” and the work of “reservoir fishermen” at the reservoirs.Fish army to prevent excessive growth of algaeWaterworks Chemist of the WSD, Mr TANG Ho-wai paid a site visit to Plover Cove Reservoir with colleagues recently. According to Mr TANG, the prolonged sunlight exposure and the relatively high level of nutrients in some of the reservoirs are favourable conditions for the growth of algae. For reservoirs that have experienced an excessive algae growth, the department regularly stocks fish fry, which feed on phytoplankton, into them. This method is particularly effective in regulating the growth of algae. The fish army in the reservoirs of Hong Kong is mainly made up of Silver Carp, Big Head, and Mud Carp.The Silver Carp is a filter feeder that mainly lives right below the water surface. With its fine gill rakers, the Silver Carp can filter and feed on small phytoplankton. The Big Head is an omnivorous fish that stays in the upper and middle layers of water, feeding on both phytoplankton and zooplankton. The Mud Carp mainly stays in the middle and bottom layers of water and feeds on organic detritus. Members of the fish army perform their functions at different water depths. As Silver Carp and Big Head are river fish which require a high flow of water to induce spawning and cannot reproduce in the still water of reservoirs, fish fry are regularly stocked into the reservoirs by the WSD. “Gill-netting” by reservoir fishermenMr TANG Ho-wai says to us that, to monitor the water quality and ecological environments of the reservoirs, the WSD regularly takes water samples from reservoirs for testing. In addition, gill-net surveys are conducted regularly to monitor the condition of fish to ensure an ecological balance in the reservoirs. According to Mr TANG Ho-wai, past monitoring records show that the water quality of the reservoirs in Hong Kong remains satisfactory.On the topic of “fishing”, we have to introduce two artisans (fishing), also known as “reservoir fishermen” – Mr KWOK Tai-hei and Mr YIP Chi-on, from the WSD. They leave for a reservoir every day early in the morning and spend almost the whole day working on a boat, with one steering the boat and the other casting a fishing net into the reservoir. Gill-netting is conducted at various monitoring points regularly to monitor the fish in the reservoirs. Basic information of fish, including the species and sizes, and their share of the population, is recorded. At the same time, they take water samples for testing at the laboratory to monitor water quality. Monitoring water quality in reservoirs in the front lineMr KWOK Tai-hei, who has been working at the reservoirs for 29 years, will retire in a few months. With extensive experience in the job, he shares that the water surface of the reservoirs may look calm, but actually it is no different from the sea under unstable weather conditions. In particular in the monsoon season when high winds come, white caps on wave top over reservoir water surface can also be seen. Furthermore, when casting a fishing net into a reservoir, one should be able to keep the net away from the intake points to prevent the net from being sucked in. Mr KWOK Tai-hei wants to pass on his work experience over the past years to his colleagues and remind them to pay attention to work safety at all times.Mr YIP Chi-on, who has been in the industry for six years, says that he enjoys “fishing” in the reservoirs. The duties of “reservoir fishermen” also include patrolling at the reservoirs and monitoring the situation inside the reservoirs. For example, if an excessive growth of algae is identified in a reservoir, they need to report to the department as soon as possible to enable timely handling and follow-up actions.The WSD always attaches great importance to the water quality in the reservoirs. Apart from using fish to control and prevent excessive growth of algae, the department will also explore new technology for enhanced monitoring of water quality, for example, exploring the deployment of unmanned surface vessels to conduct water sampling. The frontline crew is responsible of monitoring the sources of drinking water to ensure the quality of reservoir water and maintain the safety of drinking water in Hong Kong.   (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)

First outstanding female apprentice of the Water Supplies Department

To ensure the provision of a reliable and quality water supply service, the frontline work of the Water Supplies Department (WSD) is very crucial and our artisans have played an indispensable role. Since 2015 WSD has run an apprentice training scheme to nurture artisans, recruiting about ten Technician Trainee II (Waterworks) each year and offering them a series of on-the-job training. The first female apprentice under the scheme, Ms KAO Fuk-yee, Koey, received the Outstanding Apprentices Award by the Vocational Training Council, giving the department a shot in the arm for its dedication to training young people to join the industry. Turning to waterworks from business In 2016, at the suggestion of her friend, she, as a fresh graduate from an associate degree in Business, began to reckon that the engineering discipline had good development potential. She decided to give up pursuing a business career and turn to working in waterworks by studying the Basic Craft Course (Plumbing and Pipefitting) offered by the Construction Industry Council. In the same year, she had obtained an offer from the WSD and became its first female apprentice. During the training period, she was enrolling in the Craft Certificate in Plumbing and Pipefitting while undergoing the internship. Upon completion of the apprentice training scheme last year, she was employed by the WSD as an artisan. Practical and professional training During the two-year apprentice training, Koey was assigned to take up internship in various positions within the department, for example, learning the water treatment processes and the corresponding water quality monitoring procedures; learning how to use devices to detect the whereabout of the leakage on water mains in the Water Loss Management Unit; and learning ways to handle public enquiries on water quality and supply in the Customer Services Section. She was also assigned to the Distribution Section to assist in handling emergency water main burst cases. According to Koey, the apprentice training scheme is an eye-opener for her. Currently stationing in the Customer Services Section in Hong Kong and Islands Region, she is mainly responsible for replacing and conducting accuracy tests on aged meters, as well as handling customer enquiries on water quality and supply. She is pleased that the apprentice training has equipped her the skills that she can apply in her job. Strong as men through physical training As the work of artisans is physically demanding, it is a position that has been perceived as one dominated by males. Koey shares with us that it is indeed not easy for females, the physically weaker gender, to pick up a large pipe wrench weighing two to three pounds to install and remove meters, which she also finds difficult at times. To cope with the work, she persists in working out every week and has hit the gym four times a week at her peak to improve body strength. Now she can lift heavy items at ease. She also recalls when she was a newbie, what feared her most was working in some dark, dirty and wet courtyards, but she has got used to it now, which she says with a grin on her face. Tireless efforts of outstanding apprentices Koey believes that, apart from physical fitness, it is very important for artisans to be meticulous and observant. For instance, when inspecting pipes, one must observe carefully for any damaged parts. Whenever she comes across a special case or cases involving various rusting pipes, she will pay extra attention for future reference. In fact, many procedures that require physical strength can now be done with machines. For example, the valves of large-diameter pipes are now controlled electrically by a switch. Therefore, female workers are not put at an obvious disadvantage. However, to become an outstanding apprentice, one has to work extra hard to constantly upgrade oneself, and acquire more knowledge about waterworks through further studies and daily exposure at work, says Koey. (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)