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Water Supplies Department’s unmanned surface vessel system

Raw water in impounding reservoirs is a major drinking water source in Hong Kong. The Water Supplies Department (“WSD”) monitors water quality and collects water samples in impounding reservoirs on a regular basis to keep track of any changes in water quality, so that drinking water safety can be ensured by more effective water treatment processes in water treatment works. To further enhance water quality monitoring, the WSD has introduced a new Unmanned Surface Vessel (“USV”) system in recent years to perform automatic water quality monitoring and sampling in impounding reservoirs, boosting efficiency through the adoption of innovation and technology.Enhancing emergency responsivenessCurrently, there are 17 impounding reservoirs for raw water storage in Hong Kong. The water quality of impounding reservoirs may sometimes be affected by natural environmental conditions or unexpected incidents. For instance, a change of weather may lead to excessive growth of algae, causing an impact on water quality. The USV “fleet” of the WSD mainly conducts water quality monitoring in the Plover Cove Reservoir (“PCR”) - Hong Kong’s impounding reservoir with the largest surface area - to keep track of water quality and facilitate immediate action in case of emergency. Equipped with water quality monitoring unitsWaterworks chemist of the WSD, Mr Tang Ho-wai, says the USV system consists of a base station computer and four electric USVs. Each USV is equipped with a water quality monitoring unit to monitor temperature, conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll-a and blue green algae. The water sampling unit on each vessel is connected to a pipe underneath that pumps water into the water sampling tank directly. The USVs are also equipped with Global Positioning System receivers and an obstacle avoidance system for navigating around obstacles during operation.Auto-navigation along a pre-set routeMr Tang Ho-wai tells that, by using the base station computer, the WSD staff can remotely control the USVs to navigate automatically along a pre-set route, monitor water quality and conduct sampling at designated locations. The water quality data collected can be sent to the base station computer in real-time for quick analysis and generation of a surface water quality profile indicating areas with significant variation in water quality for appropriate follow-up. Endurance for a distance of 11 to 14 kmThe four USVs can in a day monitor different parts of the surface of PCR, which is 12 km2 in surface area, and also record the distribution and changes of surface water quality at the impounding reservoir. The vessels are each equipped with a battery that can support the continuous operation of about 3 to 4 hours, which is about 11 to 14 km if converted into traveling distance. However, according to Mr Tang Ho-wai, the longest hours and distance that a USV can actually operate depend on a number of factors, such as settings of the water quality monitoring work, and the day’s wind direction and speed, etc. Based on routine and USV’s monitoring data, the water quality of the PCR has been consistently steady and satisfactory.Numerous advantages of USVsCompared with traditional vessels for water quality monitoring, the USV system has many advantages. For example, USVs can be operated by a trained technician, whereas traditional vessels have to be operated by a licensed vessel operator. USVs are smaller in size and can travel to relatively narrow or shallow areas in impounding reservoirs. Moreover, they can simultaneously cover a number of monitoring points for higher efficiency. They can also generate water quality graphical reports with reference to the topographic map of the impounding reservoirs, making it easier to diagnose the distribution and trends of water quality data. With ease of deployment and transportation, the whole USV system can be deployed to work at various impounding reservoirs in the event of water quality emergencies. Furthermore, USVs of the WSD are powered by renewable energy. The WSD has specially installed a solar panel system outside the USV storage house for generating electricity to operate the USVs. Extension of the project to other impounding reservoirsLooking forward, Mr Tang Ho-wai says the WSD plans to use USVs at other impounding reservoirs, such as the High Island Reservoir, to monitor water quality and collect water samples. The department will continue to attempt the upgrading of the intelligence of the system, so that it can work in response to real-time water quality data. For example, when certain areas of an impounding reservoir are found to have a higher chlorophyll reading, USVs will automatically increase the number of monitoring points to collect more data and water samples, so that laboratory staff can conduct a more detailed analysis on the quantity and species of algae later in the laboratory.Innovation and technology development is the global trend. We can see creativity and innovation in various departments in recent years, examples include the use of the “robot dog” to enhance slope safety management; the employment of Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) technology to overcome graphical limitations and time-space constraints to improve project planning and design; the adoption of Modular Integrated Construction (“MiC”) method to speed up the building process and enhance safety; the development of the “Common Spatial Data Infrastructure” to build a Smart City; and the introduction of advanced environmentally-friendly reclamation technology. It is believed that the Government departments will continue to proactively explore and adopt innovation and technology to enhance work performance and effectiveness, increase productivity, and improve quality. (The video is in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)

A $33 license enables you to fish in reservoirs!

There are 17 reservoirs and 9 irrigation reservoirs in Hong Kong that are open to the public for fishing in the non-spawning season, being the period from 1 September of each year to 31 March of the next year. Any person who would like to fish in the reservoirs may apply for a fishing licence from the Water Supplies Department. Applications are accepted throughout the year. The licence will be valid for 3 years and the fee is HK$33. To apply for the licence, you must be over 13. There is no restriction on the number of fishing licences to be issued each year. Apply for a Fishing LicencePilot scheme for year-round opening of reservoirs to anglersThe Water Supplies Department launched a pilot scheme on relaxation of the fishing period in reservoirs, allowing anglers holding valid fishing licences to fish in the Plover Cove Reservoir and the Tai Tam Group of Reservoirs (i.e. the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir, the Tai Tam Byewash Reservoir, the Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir and the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir) throughout 2021. Anglers should observe the terms and conditions of the fishing licence to safeguard the precious water resources from being polluted. The WSD reminds anglers and other visitors to keep the gathering grounds, catchwaters and reservoir areas clean, not to litter or throw rubbish or objects into the reservoirs, and to avoid activities such as water play, swimming, washing or ritual release of animals, including fish, in gathering grounds, catchwaters and reservoirs to safeguard water safety and public health. Polluting the reservoirs is an offence. Upon conviction, the offender is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and two years' imprisonment.Some observations for the anglers The use of nets or other appliances (apart from rod and line) or the use of explosive or toxic substances to catch or destroy fish is strictly prohibited. The use of boats, dinghies, rafts etc. for fishing is prohibited. All Black Bass under 360 mm, all Snakehead under 300 mm and all other fish species under 180 mm in length measured from tip of nose to fork of tail shall be immediately returned alive to the water. Not more than two Black Bass 360 mm or over and two Snakehead 300 mm or over and two numbers of each species 180 mm or over in length for any other fish species shall be retained by any one angler in one day. To protect fish, birds and people from lead poisoning, anglers are prohibited to use lead fishing sinkers. The release of any animals, including fish and reptiles, into reservoirs without the prior permission of the Water Authority is prohibited. Do not litter or pollute the reservoirs. For more details, please visit WSD website.

"H2OPE Centre" hydrates young minds

Have you ever wondered how raindrops are transformed into drinking water, and how does the water cycle work?The H2OPE Centre (H2O Public Education Centre) is a public education centre aiming at enhancing public’s knowledge of water conservation. Through the exhibits, live demonstrations and interactive games, visitors can gain a thorough understanding of various issues related to water resources in Hong Kong.12 Thematic Exhibition ZonesVisitors could learn how rain passes through catchwaters in mountains and is filtered and distributed to people’s homes at one of the 54 games or displays at the water education centre.  They can also try their hand at a fishing simulator to learn about tips and advice on fishing in reservoirs, watch immersive videos at the centre’s 3D dome theatre and discover ways to recycle and save water at other attractions. Virtual Tour Breaks Physical BarriersNo worries if you are not able to visit the centre in person! Water Supplies Department has also launched a virtual tour so that members of the public could view the exhibits while staying at home.Plan Your VisitWith crowd management measures, admission is not guaranteed for visitors without booking. Interested organisations or individual visitors are therefore encouraged to make booking by logging on to the Online Booking System to make applications.For details, please visit the website of H2OPE Centre.

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)