Macau to look at recycling sewage to cut raw water imports

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Issue 707, Page 5
Word count: 828
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Macau may in the future introduce the use of recycled water particularly in newly developed areas such as the Concordia Industrial Estate, in order to be less dependent on raw water supply from mainland China.

At present, 98 percent of Macau’s raw water is being imported from the mainland.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io and his cabinet attended the Legislative Assembly plenary meeting yesterday to present the development strategies and policies for the management of water resources and supply.

The current 25-year franchise of Macao Water will be up on July 7, 2010.

However, from the speech of the secretary yesterday, legislature president Susana Chou said Lau already “forecast” the government will renew the contract with Macao Water for another 20 years.

Lau reiterated that if Macao Water could not meet the government’s new standards and requirements before the current franchise expires, a two or three-year temporary contract will be signed with the company while an open tender will be staged to find another water supplier for the SAR.

According to the existing concession contract system, the secretary said certain limitations had been imposed on Macao Water to manage water resources and its services, such as to co-ordinate the supply of raw water.

He also said that there was room to improve the water tariff mechanism, as a flat rate pricing would not push forward the establishment of a “water-saving society” in Macau.

Yet, due to the small size and population of the territory, Lau pointed out that it would be unlikely to introduce more than one water supplier to the market.

In the future, he said the government will ensure a “stable, safe and quality water supply service”, and concentrate on shaping Macau as a new “environmentally-friendly water-saving city”.

As such, community campaigns to reinforce the awareness of water conservation, foster the use of water-saving appliances and also developing unconventional water resources will be done in order to achieve the goal, the secretary told the lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the SAR government will increase its level of participation in water resources management through supporting construction of the Pearl River’s water supply facilities, and setting up a new water tariff structure which will take into account people’s livelihood as well as be effective in promoting water conservation.

The government will at the same time try to explore other domestic water resources in a bid to increase the capability of self supply, the secretary said.

He added that the import price of raw water, which is currently standing at HKD1.21 per cubic metre, would be significantly increased due to the development of the Pearl River Delta and inflation.

According to Maritime Administration director Susana Wong Soi Man, Macau has conditions to develop the technologies to turn sewage into reclaimed or recycled water for irrigation or other non-drinking purposes.

In the three local sewage treatment plants, Wong said 90 percent of the sewage will go through a secondary treatment and then be discharged into the sea.

Hence, she said after expanding the present facilities and adding one more treatment process, recycled water can be produced to substitute part of the raw water consumption in Macau.

However, she emphasised that experts’ recommendation is to make use of rain water as the first priority, followed by recycled water and then desalination of seawater.

The future Macau-Taipa reclaimed urban area, Seac Pai Van and the Concordia Industrial Estate where infrastructures are not yet built could be among the first to use recycled water within the community, Wong said.

On the other hand, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works said the Macau government will strengthen supervision on the water supply company’s service quality and operation efficiency with the participation of the general public and social organisations.

The Maritime Administration will also consider setting up a department specially to look after water resources management and to study the content of the new franchise agreement.

Lau said the preliminary idea is that an interim appraisal system will be introduced to the 20-year franchise and only by reaching the criteria the rest of the service term could be completed.

Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong questioned the government officials of when non fresh water would be used on flush toilets.

He said the experience in Hong Kong showed that a quarter of fresh water consumption would be saved.

However, the secretary said it would be a difficult task to implement in both the future residential areas and existing buildings.

In Seac Pai Van or the Concordia Industrial Estate where no housing has yet been built, Lau said new water pipelines being laid underground will have “nowhere to be connected to”.

He also said that the government is not able to force landlords to install seawater flushing drainpipes in private buildings and it is also “technically impossible” to lay another network in an already-built building.

Yet the secretary pointed out that the government will look at the feasibility of seawater flushing in future construction of public housing.

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