The Ombudsman probes Water Supplies Department mechanism for handling leaks (bursts) of private water pipes
18 December 2014
The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, declared today (December 18) a direct investigation into the effectiveness of the mechanism of the Water Supplies Department (WSD) for handling leaks (bursts) of private water pipes.
The Office of The Ombudsman has received complaints from the public against WSD for delays in following up incidences of leaks (bursts) of private water pipes, resulting in wastage of fresh water for prolonged periods. Recent newspaper reports have also alleged that in handling a complaint about an already heavily leaking private fresh water pipe, WSD had failed to urge the consumer involved to carry out repairs quickly or arrange for the pipe to be repaired immediately. Consequently, a large amount of fresh water was wasted, while residents nearby continued to be affected by the nuisance of water leakage.
Under the Waterworks Ordinance, consumers are responsible for the repairs of damaged water pipes within their premises. Upon receipt of reports on leaks (bursts) of water pipes, WSD will demand the consumer to complete the repairs within a reasonable period of time (normally 14 days). The Department will consider cutting the water supply in case of non-compliance.
Nevertheless, a preliminary inquiry by the Office has revealed that when deciding whether to cut the water supply, WSD’s main concern was whether the leakage would jeopardise people’s lives and property or the structural safety of the building. The amount of fresh water wasted was never an important factor for consideration. In addition, WSD seemed to have no criteria or specific way to estimate the amount of fresh water wasted. Information provided by WSD showed that in about half of the private water pipe leaks (bursts) occurring between 2009 and 2013 (i.e. 2,440 cases out of a total of 4,953), repairs took more than 60 days to complete. In some cases, the repairs took more than two years. Meanwhile, the leakage persisted. It was virtually impossible to assess the huge amount of fresh water wasted.
Ms Lau said, “We all know that water is a precious resource in Hong Kong. It is a shame that fresh water is being wasted because of leaking (burst) pipes. WSD has been promoting water conservation among the public. If it fails to set a good example and cannot effectively prevent the wastage of fresh water caused by leaking (burst) private water pipes, its publicity will backfire.”
The ambit of this direct investigation includes:
(1) the procedures and efficiency of WSD in following up complaints against leaking private water pipes, including whether the timeframes set for consumers to complete the repairs are reasonable, and whether WSD’s follow-up actions are effective;
(2) how WSD assesses the urgency of repairs to water pipes, including whether the amount of fresh water wasted should be taken into account; and
(3) how WSD exercises its statutory power in urging consumers to take up the responsibility for repairs to leaking and burst water pipes to avoid wastage of fresh water.
The Ombudsman welcomes public views and other information on this investigation. Comments in writing should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by January 19, 2015.
Address : 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre
168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax : 2882 8149
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Office of The Ombudsman
18 December 2014