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Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings – Fresh Water (Plus)

1. Introduction

The treated fresh water provided by the Water Supplies Department (WSD) complies fully with World Health Organisation's (WHO's) "Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality". Well-maintained water plumbing systems are keys to a healthy environment for water consumption and good quality water to consumers. To ensure good quality of water at the taps and avoid/minimise failures in water supply, building/property owners, building management agents and customers should properly maintain their internal plumbing systems within the areas under their jurisdiction1. With the endorsement of the Advisory Committee on the Quality of Water Supplies2, the WSD launched "Fresh Water Plumbing Quality Maintenance Recognition Scheme" in July 2002. The said scheme was re-titled "Quality Water Recognition Scheme for Buildings" and "Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings - Fresh Water" in January 2008 and March 2015 respectively to signify enhancement features.

In view of the recent incidents of excessive lead in drinking water found in isolated public rental housing estates and the aspirations of the general public for enhanced water quality assurance at consumer taps, there is a need to enhance the above scheme and in particular the protocols for water quality examination under the above scheme. With the endorsement of ACRQWS, the WSD launched the enhancement measures of the scheme in December 2015 to include testing of heavy metals and to expand scope of water sampling, and the scheme is re-titled "Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings - Fresh Water (Plus)" (the Scheme).

2. Objectives

The Scheme aims to:

(a). raise the awareness of the building/property owners, building management agents and customers of the importance of proper maintenance of the internal plumbing systems and the use of pipe materials and fittings complying with the relevant British Standards for potable water use in their own units;
   
(b). enable the public and overseas visitors to have greater confidence of the water quality at the tap;
   
(c). strengthen the capability of building management agents to achieve value-added performance in meeting the needs of customers with respect to quality of tap water;
   
(d). give recognition to building management agents who can demonstrate consistent compliance with the prescribed criteria under the Scheme; and
   
(e). assist the building/property owners and building management agents to conduct self-assessments on conditions of the internal plumbing system and to identify areas for necessary maintenance.

3. The Scheme

The Scheme is administered by the WSD. Participation in the Scheme is voluntary and there is no new application or renewal fee. The target groups to join the Scheme are the building/property owners, owners' corporations and building management agents in general. They shall submit new/renewal applications to the WSD using Form A(PDFPDF Format. / WordWord Document.) and Annex I to Form A (PDFPDF Format. / WordWord Document.) (and Form B (PDFPDF Format. / WordWord Document.) (for change of building management agents))(available on http://www.wsd.gov.hk).

The WSD will award certificates to successful buildings to recognise proper maintenance of their internal plumbing systems. The names of the buildings, the names of the owners' corporations and building management agents are shown on the certificates to commend their contributions. The certificates or their copies could be displayed in those awarded buildings, stationeries and promotional materials, subject to the WSD's guidelines. The certificates are classified into three grades according to the length of the continuous period for which a building has joined the scheme:

Type of certificateLength of continuous participation*Validity
Blue - new application Less than 4 years 2 years#
Blue - renewal Less than 4 years
Silver - renewal 4 years or more but less than 6 years
Gold - renewal 6 years or more

*Continuous participation means there is no break of more than 3 months. Besides, qualification for upgrading the certificate shall remain the same for those applicants who have already joined the old scheme before the launching of the enhanced scheme, i.e. in general a shorter participation period is required for upgrading the certificate.

#For new applications, the validity period is extended from 1 year to 2 years to encourage participation; however, applicants shall submit documents (i.e. those required for application except water quality examination) within 3 months after 1 year from the start of the validity period to demonstrate continuous effort has been made to maintain the internal plumbing system. Should applicants fail to submit the required documents within the specified period, the applicants shall return the certificates to the WSD.

Renewal applications submitted later than 3 months after the expiry date of the last certificates will be considered as new applications. The certificates are properties of the WSD, and their validity is subject to continuous satisfactory maintenance of the internal plumbing systems within the validity period.

4. Assessment of Applications

Applications will be assessed according to the following criteria:

(a). The internal plumbing system is inspected3 at least once every 3 months by qualified persons (such as licensed plumbers, building services engineers or building surveyors) and is found to be in good physical condition. All defects identified in the inspections are promptly rectified by qualified persons;
   
(b). The water tanks are cleansed at least once every 3 months; and
   
(c). Water samples are taken in accordance with the required procedures and tested for items specified, at least once for new/renewal applications. The water samples shall be taken within 3 months from the date of submission of applications, and the test results shall comply with the acceptable limits of the items. Enhancement measures in this aspect are detailed in Section 5 below.

5. Water Quality Examination

This aspect will be enhanced to extend the scope of sampling process to both the communal area ("Basic Plan") (for domestic and non-domestic buildings) and the non-communal area ("Extended Plan") (for domestic buildings only) of the internal plumbing system. Details of the enhancement measures for new and renewal applications are as follows:

(i) include 4 types of heavy metal of Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Nickel in the testing parameters, for which the test reports/certificates complying with the requirement will be valid for 4 years. If the applicants want to use the test results of 4 heavy metals for two consecutive applications, they shall submit the first application within 3 months from the date of test results of 4 heavy metals and the subsequent renewal application within 3 months after the expiry of the first certificate. The requirements on the test reports/certificates for other test parameters (i.e. pH, colour, turbidity, conductivity, Iron, E. Coli and total Coliforms) will remain unchanged;
   
(ii) extend the scope of sampling process to include sampling in both the communal area ("Basic Plan") (for domestic and non-domestic buildings) and the non-communal area ("Extended Plan") (for domestic buildings only) of the internal plumbing system such that the samples4 shall be taken and collected by an accredited laboratory as per the WSD's standard procedures (using the standards and techniques as listed in Page 6 of Annex I to Form A (PDFPDF Format. / WordWord Document.) and tested by the accredited laboratory for physical, chemical and bacteriological analyses. Domestic buildings could choose to participate in the Basic Plan or the Basic Plan plus the Extended Plan.

Basic Plan - Communal Area (for domestic and non-domestic buildings)
The applicant can choose to participate in the Basic Plan of the Scheme and the water samples to be taken in the communal area are as follows:

No. of storeys in each buildingWater sampling locations
≤20 At least one set of samples4 at the top level for each roof tank (samples from the washout of roof tank are also acceptable) and at least one set of samples4 at the lowest point of each down feed pipe, or riser if down feed pipe does not exist, under the jurisdiction of the applicant
>20 At least one set of samples4 at the top level for each roof tank (samples from the washout of roof tank are also acceptable), at least one set of samples4 at the lowest point of each down feed pipe and at least one set of sample4 to be taken at an intermediate level between the top and the lowest point of each down feed pipe under the jurisdiction of the applicant

For branched down feed pipes, one set of sample is to be taken at the lowest point of the branched pipe and for branched down feed pipes covered over 20 storeys, one set of sample at the intermediate level is also required. Certificates will be awarded for total compliance with the requirement of the Scheme.


Extended Plan - Non-communal Area (for domestic buildings only)
In addition to the Basic Plan, the applicant can choose and is encouraged to participate in the Extended Plan of the Scheme by testing additional water samples5 taken in the non-communal area (i.e. individual households). The purpose of the Extended Plan is to raise the awareness of the building/property owners and customers to the importance of proper maintenance of the internal plumbing systems and the use of pipe materials and fittings complying with relevant British Standards for potable water use in their own domestic units. For different prescribed sampling sizes, the corresponding merits will be shown on the certificates awarded to the applicants as follows in recognition of their additional compliance with the prescribed criteria:

No. of samples5 taken from individual household in each building and complied with testing criteriaMerit to be shown on certificates awarded
5
10 ☆☆
15 ☆☆☆

 

(iii) perform water sampling test by the WSD staff in addition to the current random inspection such that applications for the Scheme will be randomly selected for testing of water samples taken at the area of jurisdiction of the maintenance agent or individual household (selected from those sampled by the applicant) (which requires co-ordination and assistance from the applicants) for audit checking.

For buildings undergoing major renovation (i.e. re-plumbing) with newly renovated fresh water internal plumbing system, applicants could choose to make use of the test results of the water samples taken at the newly renovated plumbing system in submitting their applications. For new developments with newly installed fresh water internal plumbing system, applicants could choose to make use of the test results of the water samples taken at the newly installed plumbing system in submitting their applications.

6. Privacy Protection

The WSD will keep all details of the applications confidential and will only publish the names of successful applicants. Under no circumstances will the WSD disclose the test data of water samples and information pertaining to the corresponding households to any third party. In this regard, the applicant should handle all direct/referred enquiries/requests for such data/information, and is held fully accountable and responsible for such disclosure.

7. Assessment Criteria

The assessment criteria stipulated in the above paragraphs should be able to cover most of the scenarios. There may be odd cases for which the WSD will assess these applications on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the stipulated criteria as far as applicable, and the decision of the WSD on the applications shall be final.

8. Education to Residents

Underpinning the enhanced Scheme is the pivotal role of applicants (e.g. property management companies or owners' corporations) in effectively informing and educating owners, residents and users of the building the importance of proper maintenance of the internal plumbing systems and use of pipe materials and fittings complying with relevant British Standards for potable water use in their own domestic units. These may take the forms of display of publications (e.g. topical posters and leaflets), talks and making "maintenance of the internal plumbing systems" a standing agenda item in regular meetings of the owners' corporations. To this end, applicants are strongly advised and encouraged to educate and properly inform the residents of the above importance through the above-proposed forms.

9. Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1 How to form and operate an owners' corporation?

Answer: "Formation of Owners' Corporation" in the Home Affairs Department Homepage (available on http://www.had.gov.hk) encourages and assists owners to form owners' corporations for effective building management.

Question 2 How to get financial assistance?

Answer: The Buildings Department pamphlet "Building Safety Loan Scheme" (available on http://www.bd.gov.hk) provides the details that individual owners of all types of private buildings (including domestic, composite, commercial and industrial buildings) can apply for financial assistance in carrying out works for improving the safety of their buildings (including water supply plumbing systems).

Question 3 Why testing of four additional elements of Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Nickel are required for application of the enhanced Scheme?

Answer: In view of the recent incidents of excessive lead in drinking water found in isolated public rental housing estates and the aspirations of the general public for enhanced water quality assurance at consumer taps, there is a need to enhance the Scheme and in particular the protocols for water quality examination under the Scheme. In particular, the WSD has issued the Circular Letter No. 1/2015 with enhancement of the testing requirements of water samples. For all applications for new water supply submitted on or after 13 July 2015, testing of 4 additional elements of Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Nickel are required. To be in line with the revised testing requirement, it is necessary to incorporate the testing of the same metallic element under the enhanced Scheme for new/renewal application to check if the internal plumbing systems of the buildings have been ready to join the Scheme.

Questoin 4 Why accredited laboratory is required for sampling?

Answer: Sampling of drinking water for physical, chemical and bacteriological examinations are very important steps to ensure the quality of the water samples are truly reflected by the laboratory test result. As such, it is necessary to specify that the samples shall be collected, preserved and handled using the standard techniques performed by the laboratories have the required techniques to do so.

Question 5 Why is testing of samples collected at household for private domestic buildings (Extended Plan) is introduced?

Answer: As the recent incident of excessive lead content in potable water samples were related to the communal system affecting the water quality at the households taps, it is considered necessary to extend the current water sampling and the subsequent testing from the communal system to the individual household. The objectives of the Extended Plan is to raise the awareness of the building/property owners, building management agents and customers of the importance of proper maintenance of the internal plumbing systems and the use of pipe materials and fittings complying with the relevant British Standards for potable water use in their own units.

Question 6 Why the applicants will be randomly selected for testing of water samples taken at both communal system and individual household by the WSD staff; and how will the sampling be carried out?

Answer: Under the current procedures of the Scheme, 2% of the applications will be randomly selected for inspection of the plumbing system by WSD staff for site audit checking of the application. It is considered necessary to extend the checking to the water sample tests to enhance the scope of the audit checking system in line with the enhancement on the assessment criteria for the Scheme.  WSD will perform water sampling with required sample size at the identical locations where water samples were previously taken by applicants for audit checking. If any sample failed in the water quality examination, the applicant will be requested to identify and rectify the defects. Upon completion of the rectification, the WSD will re-sample at the same location for further verification

Question 7 How will the current new and renewal applications be handled?

Answer: All the current certificate holders will be encouraged to apply for the enhanced Scheme but they have the option to remain status quote until the expiry of the current certificates by then they have to apply for renewal under the enhanced Scheme within 3 months after the expiry of their current certificates or otherwise to apply for new application under the enhanced Scheme.

Question 8 What actions will be taken if there is building accredited under the enhanced Scheme but non-compliant with assessment criteria is identified afterwards?

Answer: The certificate holder will be requested to return the certificate and to rectify the non-compliance within three months. If the rectification works could be rectified within three months from the date of returning the certificate, the WSD will return the same to the holder and the validity period of the certificate will not be affected or otherwise new application for a certificate should be submitted.

Question 9 For buildings supplied solely by direct supply system, how to take water sample in communal area?

Answer: At least one set of samples should be taken from risers under the jurisdiction of the applicant (e.g. public toilets).

Question 10 What is the difference between Basic Plan and Extended Plan?

Answer: Basic Plan is applicable to domestic and non-domestic buildings while the Extended Plan is applicable to domestic buildings only. For the Extended Plan, additional water samples should be taken at the non-communal area (i.e. individual household).

Question 11 Are the test reports of other test parameters other than the heavy metals valid for 4 years as well?

Answer: Only the test reports/certificates of heavy metals (i.e. Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Nickel) that complied with the requirement of the Scheme will be valid for 4 years. If the applicants would like to use the test results of 4 heavy metals for two consecutive applications, they shall submit the first application within 3 months from the date of test results of 4 heavy metals and the subsequent renewal application within 3 months after the expiry of the first certificate. The validity of the test reports/certificates for other test parameters (i.e. pH, colour, turbidity, conductivity, Iron, E. Coli and total Coliforms) will be 2 years.

Question 12 Are the applicants required to submit all documents for renewal applications again?

Answer: If applicants who have already joined the former scheme before the launching of the enhanced scheme, they are required to submit outstanding documents, including duly completed Form A, Annex I to Form A, records of regular maintenance of the internal plumbing systems and water test reports.

Question 13 Could the applicants for former scheme, who have submitted test reports of other test parameters before, just provide test reports of 4 heavy metals only for applying for the new scheme?

Answer: Water samples taken under the former scheme may not be in compliance with the procedures and location required for the enhanced scheme and therefore applicants could not just submit test reports of 4 heavy metals only.

Question 14 Could the test reports for newly installed inside service be used for applying for the Scheme?

Answer: In view of the similar requirements of tests for newly installed inside service and that under the enhanced scheme, the test reports for newly installed inside service could be used to apply for the enhanced scheme. However, applicant is still required to submit the records for water tank cleansing and plumbing inspection for each building.

Question 15 Is there any examples illustrating the locations where water samples should be taken?

Answer: The applicants may make reference to the examples in the following two schematic diagrams for the locations of water samples to be taken. However, the applicants are reminded to ensure water sampling will be carried out in accordance with the requirements stipulated in the Section of Water Quality Examination in the website.

Locations and Numbers of Water Sampling under various Schematic Plumbing Diagrams - Example (1).

Locations and Numbers of Water Sampling under various Schematic Plumbing Diagrams - Example (2).

10. Enquiry

Enquiry about the details of the Scheme and application can be made through the WSD telephone enquiry hotline or by fax or by e-mail.

Enquiry hotline : 2824 5000
Fax : 2824 0578
E-mail : wsdinfo@wsd.gov.hk
Website : http://www.wsd.gov.hk

Note:

1 For private residential buildings, the area under jurisdiction of the property management agents refers to the communal area up to the individual households' water meters, whereas the remaining inside service up to and within individual households is the area under the jurisdiction of property owners/customers. For public rental buildings, the area under jurisdiction of property management agents refers to the communal area up to and within individual households.
   
2 The predecessor of the then Advisory Committee on Water Resources and Quality of Water Supplies (ACRQWS) which was retitled Advisory Committee on Water Supplies (ACWS) in April 2016.
   
3 Alternatively, the applicant may select to provide the following information/documents that indicate the buildings under application are administered by a robust maintenance system (instead of filling in Part C and Table 2 of Annex I to Form A and submitting the document under item 4 of Part E of Form A) for the WSD's consideration:
  • the names of buildings under application;
  • the composition and strength of the responsible maintenance team with adequate in-house qualified professionals and technical staff responsible for the concerned buildings;
  • a copy of the maintenance contract; 
  • the mechanism in handling routine tasks and emergencies; and
  • the relevant performance pledge/targets with respective statistics in the previous 12 months from the submission date of application/renewal application
   
4 For communal area, samples shall be collected at communal system/cold water tap without water filter installed. For non-communal area, i.e. the internal plumbing system of individual household, samples shall be taken at the kitchen cold water tap without water filter installed.
   
5 The prescribed sampling sizes apply to the general majority of residential buildings in Hong Kong and serves to encourage household's participation in the enhanced Scheme. Buildings with small no. of households but large proportion of participation will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The applicant is advised to select different households for sampling in subsequent renewal applications.
   

 

 
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