Written by Emily Stewart | Edited by Jaspar Chan | Photos by Isaac Yee
To many of us, easily accessible water is something we take for granted. It has become so convenient for us to get a drink, wash our hands or take a shower that we sometimes forget that water is a limited resource. As magical as the tap may seem, there is much more to water supply than just turning the tap on and expecting a flow of clean water.
Hong Kong’s current steady supply of water is reliant on our financially stable government’s ability to purchase water from the Dongjiang river on the mainland. In fact, it has not always been like this – during the 1960s, Hong Kong suffered from frequent, serious water shortages. Back then, Hong Kong’s underdeveloped infrastructure was not able to deliver water at a rate that was able to keep up with the rapid population growth of the 60-70s. This resulted in the government harshly restricting water usage, particularly in low-income, undeveloped areas like squatter villages and the earliest public housing estates. The situation was so dire that, at one point, people were confined to a mere 4 hours of water supply every 4 days. Just imagine having to live in such a limiting manner in our modern-day society! In fact, Hong Kong’s era of chronic water shortages are still within living memory to many of the city’s residents.
While we may now feel safe within our own bubble of assured water security, we must keep in mind that there are other cities and countries that are less fortunate than us in this regard. One good example would be the water crisis currently unfolding in Cape Town. A recent Times magazine article labelled Cape Town the ‘first modern major city in the world to completely run dry’. Today, most Capetonians live under draconian water restrictions, and the lifestyle of every individual has been altered due to this condition – and it is only getting worse. Even though the main responsibility for absolving this disaster falls on the government (as the crisis stems from poor infrastructural planning on the government’s part in the first place), every resident is should also be responsible for monitoring and moderating their water usage. Capetonians are trying their best to stave off the imminent coming of Day Zero, when all taps and pipes finally run dry for good. However, this day is predicted to come within the next few months, and there is nothing the citizens can do apart from their own independent conservation and hoarding of water. Obviously, the impact of the water shortage on both the economy and the individual’s well being is highly detrimental. From this, we can see how important water as a resource is, and that we should give the conservation of water as a pressing social, environmental and ecological matter the proper attention it deserves. By the time we finally come to realise that we have overindulged in our wanton wastage of water, the lakes will have already run dry and there will be nothing we can do to roll back the horrendous consequences of our predicament. Water is vital for the growth and survival of all communities; it is also a limited resource. Hence, we must not take the water we have for granted, and wake up to the importance of proper water conservation in our lives.