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).
The Scheme aims to:
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(PDF / Word) and Annex I to Form A (PDF / Word) (and Form B (PDF / Word) (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:
*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:
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:
Basic Plan - Communal Area (for domestic and non-domestic buildings)
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.
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.
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.