Political Dynamics and Water Supply in Hong Kong

Management of environmental resources presents challenges across jurisdictional boundaries. In the case of river basins, multiple localities must coordinate water allocation, often across social, economic, and political contexts. As such, the scale of governance systems often fails to match that of environmental challenges or the reach of their impacts. This study analyses Hong Kong’s water supply management in the context of political tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China, a transboundary dynamic offering broader lessons for improving regional water management. Hong Kong imports a majority of its water from neighboring Guangdong province, historically shaping a pattern of dependency and complacency. This study finds that chronic underinvestment in alternative sources of water exposes Hong Kong to potential instability in water supply from up-stream areas in mainland China. The study’s examination of institutional conditions and political dynamics add complexity to the largely technical and scientific research about water governance in Hong Kong.

By Kris Hartley, Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas, 2018. Article published in Environmental Development, Volume 27, pages 107-117. DOI: 10.1016/j.envdev.2018.06.003

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