EPD - Beach Water Quality


Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong 2012

Our Mission:

To safeguard the health and welfare of the community and meet conservation goals by working to achieve and maintain the Water Quality Objective for bathing beaches

[Photo: Both locals and tourists like our clean and beautiful beaches]


Many attractive beaches with long stretch of smooth sand are found along the long coastline of Hong Kong. Each year, millions of beach-goers enjoy bathing in these beaches with clean water.

The objective of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD)'s Beach Water Quality Monitoring Programme is to monitor beach water quality and protect the health of bathers. The background and details of EPD's monitoring activities can be found at EPD’s Homepage (http://www.epd.gov.hk) or its thematic website (http://www.beachwq.gov.hk).

[Photo: Greenery and clean water greet swimmers at Clear Water Bay Second Beach]

This report summarises the beach monitoring data collected in 2012, the gradings of the beaches and their compliance with the Water Quality Objective (WQO) for bathing beaches. In 2012, the EPD monitored 41 gazetted beaches and three non-gazetted beaches in different parts of the territory. The gazetted beaches were monitored weekly during the bathing season from March to October, and EPD staff made field observations and collected samples for laboratory analyses of E. coli as the bacteriological water quality indicator. EPD staff also took measurements of dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, temperature and turbidity of beach water.

[Photo: Bacterial testing of beach water at EPD's laboratory]

[Photo: EPD inspectors monitor water quality at Deep Water Bay Beach]

Hong Kong's beaches are assessed using a dual system: annual ranking and weekly grading which are both based on the E. coli level in beach water to indicate potential health risks associated with swimming. The annual ranking reflects the overall water quality of the beach over the entire bathing season, while the weekly grading denotes the recent water quality of the beach. Under the dual rating system, beaches are categorised into "Good", "Fair", "Poor" and "Very Poor". Those ranked "Good" and "Fair" meet the WQO for bathing waters.

[Photo: Beach water quality grading board]

Annual Beach Ranking in 2012

All 41 gazetted beaches in Hong Kong complied with the WQO in 2012. Although the total rainfall recorded during the bathing season in 2012 (1733 mm) was 27.5% higher than that in 2011 (1359 mm), there was only slight increase in the E. coli levels in beach water, which is generally within the normal range of fluctuation of bacteriological water quality. Compared with the ranking in 2011, the number of beaches ranked as "Good" has changed from 31 (or 76%) to 23 (or 56%) and the number of beaches ranked as "Fair" has increased from 10 (or 24%) to 18 (or 44%). No beach was ranked as "Poor" or "Very Poor" in 2012.

[Photo: Fun for all ages at Hap Mun Bay Beach]

The beaches with a "Good" water quality ranking were largely located in the Southern District (Hong Kong Island South), Outlying Islands and Sai Kung. Nine of the 12 beaches in the Southern District were ranked as "Good" in 2012. The ranking of Big Wave Bay Beach and Rocky Bay Beach has changed to ˇ§Fairˇ¨ but the change was not statistically significant. Of the nine beaches on the Outlying Islands, eight were "Good" while Silver Mine Bay Beach was rated as "Fair". In the Sai Kung area, five beaches were "Good" in 2012. Among them, Hap Mun Bay Beach was the cleanest gazetted beach in Hong Kong in terms of overall E. coli levels. The ranking of Silverstrand Beach has changed from ˇ§Goodˇ¨ to ˇ§Fairˇ¨ but the change was statistically insignificant. On the western side, all six beaches along the Tuen Mun coast received a "Fair" ranking in 2012.

The water quality of the Tsuen Wan beaches has been stable in 2012 following improvement in 2011 and 2010, which is mainly due to the smooth operation of the Advance Disinfection Facilities (ADF) of the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works since March 2010, and the completion of the sewerage works in the hinderland of the beaches. Since all the Tsuen Wan beaches have achieved the WQO for bathing, four previously closed beaches, namely Approach Beach, Casam Beach, Hoi Mei Wan Beach and Lido Beach, have been reopened to the public for swimming since June 2011. Improvement works to the facilities at the remaining three beaches, i.e. Anglers' Beach, Gemini Beaches and Ting Kau Beach, are being carried out with a view to their reopening in 2013-14.

[Photo: Hong Kong beaches offer respite from hustle and bustle of city life]

EPD also monitored three non-gazetted beaches in Hong Kong: Discovery Bay (a popular beach on Lantau Island), a sandy beach adjacent to Kiu Tsui Beach in Sai Kung, and a planned artificial beach in Lung Mei, Tai Po. Discovery Bay and the beach adjacent to Kiu Tsui Beach continued to be ranked as "Good" in 2012. Similar to 2011, Lung Mei was ranked as "Poor" in 2012. The public sewerage network is being extended to villages in the Lung Mei area, and other pollution abatement measures will be implemented to improve the water quality.

[Photo: Ma Wan Tung Wan Beach]

Weekly Beach Grading in 2012

The EPD issues weekly gradings of gazetted beaches which are open for swimming. The information is disseminated to the public through weekly press releases, the EPD's website, the beach hotline, GeoInfo Map of the GovHK website and beach noticeboards.

In 2012, the water quality of beaches in the Southern District was largely satisfactory. All ten gazetted beaches received mostly "Good" or "Fair" grading in the bathing season, except for Big Wave Bay Beach and Rocky Bay Beach (a closed beach) were rated as ˇ§Very Poorˇ¨ on a few occasions after heavy rain. Chung Hom Kok, Repulse Bay, South Bay and Turtle Cove Beaches had the best water quality, achieving "Good" gradings on all rating occasions.

The water quality of the Sai Kung beaches was also generally good. Hap Mun Bay Beach achieved "Good" gradings on all rating occasions, while the other beaches were mostly "Good" or "Fair". Silverstrand Beach was rated as ˇ§Very Poorˇ¨ on a few occasions after heavy rain.

The beaches on the Outlying Islands were generally very suitable for swimming, with Kwun Yam, Lo So Shing, Tong Fuk and Upper Cheung Sha Beaches achieving 100% "Good" gradings. Cheung Chau Tung Wan, Hung Shing Yeh and Lower Cheung Sha Beaches achieved "Good" gradings over 80% of the rating occasions. Pui O and Silver Mine Bay Beaches were rated as ˇ§Very Poorˇ¨ on several occasions after heavy rain.

The water quality of the beaches in the Tuen Mun area was generally fine and nearly all graded as "Good" or "Fair". The water quality of beaches in Tsuen Wan was generally satisfactory with gradings maintained mostly at either "Good" or "Fair".

[Photo: Scenic Repulse Bay Beach]

Water Quality Trend

The beach water quality in Hong Kong is able to fully comply with the WQO for the last three years. The percentage of beaches complying with the WQO had changed from 74% in 1986 (29 of 39 beaches) to 63% (26 of 41 beaches) in 1997, and then improved to 100% since 2010 for all 41 gazetted beaches.

Comparison of annual beach ranking of gazetted beaches in 1986, 1997 and 2012


WQO Compliant

WQO Non-compliant




Very Poor







24.4% (10)

39.0% (16)

29.3% (12)

7.3% (3)






( ) No. of beaches

Note: Two Beaches degazetted in 1995 were excluded from the calculation.

There was a drop in compliance rate in the mid-1990s due to population growth particularly in the new town areas. Since then, there has been progressive improvement in the last decade as a result of enforcement of environmental legislation, extension of the sewerage network and provision of new sewage treatment facilities across the territory including the beach hinterland. Major improvement measures implemented in the past are summarized in the following table.

Major improvement measures for the beaches since the implementation of beach water quality monitoring programme in 1986

1986 – 1990

Implementation of the Livestock Waste Control Scheme under the Waste Disposal (Livestock Waste) Regulation.

Declaration of the Southern Water Control Zone (WCZ) under the Water Pollution Control Ordinance (WPCO) and legislative enforcement.

Interception and diversion of polluted storm drains at beaches in Southern District.

Most beaches, particularly Silver Mine Bay Beach

Southern beaches

Southern beaches

1991- 1995

Implementation of chemical waste control.

Declaration of the North Western WCZ under WPCO and legislative enforcement.
Diversion of polluted storm water drains away from Castle Peak Beach.
Provision of public sewers for So Kwun Wat and Sam Shing Estate.

Commissioning of Stanley Sewage Treatment Works (STW).

All beaches

Tuen Mun beaches

Stanley Main Beach

1996 - 2000

Full implementation of WPCO in all WCZs.

Commissioning of the Shek O Sewage Screening Plant and diversion of polluted storm water drains at Shek O Village.

Completion of all major works under Southern Southern Sewerage Master Plan.

Commissioning of the new 2 km long Pillar Point sewage submarine outfall.

All beaches

Shek O Beach

Southern beaches

Tuen Mun beaches

2001 - 2005

Completion of HATS Stage 1.

Provision of public sewers in the Silverstrand area.

Full operation of the Sham Tseng STW.

Big Wave Bay, Shek O, Rocky Bay Beaches

Silverstrand Beach

Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

2006 - 2010

Commissioning of the Advance Disinfection Facilities at Stonecutters Island STW.

Extension of the public sewerage network to the beach hinterland along Castle Peak Road.

All Tsuen Wan beaches

Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

Back in the 1980s, many beaches were either closed, such as Cafeteria Old Beach, Castle Peak Beach and Silver Mine Bay Beach, or on the verge of being closed (e.g. Middle Bay Beach and Repulse Bay Beach) because of poor water quality. Through continuous efforts of the Government to implement pollution abatement measures over the years, there was significant improvement at the beaches in various districts in the last few years. Improvement at Silver Mine Bay Beach, Castle Peak Beach and Repulse Bay Beach was most remarkable as the beaches have consistently complied with the WQO in recent years. All the seven beaches in Tsuen Wan have met the WQO since 2010. To sum up, all of Hong Kong's bathing beaches have now achieved the required standard for swimming.

Compliance with WQO at gazetted beaches, 1997 - 2012

[Figure: Compliance with WQO at gazetted beaches, 1997 - 2012]

Water quality trend lines of gazetted beaches over the last 27 years are included in this report to show the changes over the years. More in-depth background and details of the beach monitoring programme are available at EPD's Homepage (http://www.epd.gov.hk) or its thematic website (http://www.beachwq.gov.hk), which provides user-friendly access to the annual beach reports as well as data published since 2000.

[Photos: Youngsters having fun at Lido Beach]

The Monitoring Programme

Beaches monitored by the EPD


Sai Kung

Tsuen Wan

Tuen Mun

Islands District

Tai Po

Deep Water Bay
Repulse Bay
Middle Bay
South Bay
Chung Hom Kok
St. Stephen's
Stanley Main
Turtle Cove
Shek O
Big Wave Bay
Rocky Bay

Kiu Tsui
Hap Mun Bay
Clear Water Bay First
Clear Water Bay Second
Kiu Tsui (New)**

Ma Wan Tung Wan
Hoi Mei Wan
Ting Kau

Castle Peak
Cafeteria Old
Cafeteria New

Silver Mine Bay
Pui O
Lower Cheung Sha
Upper Cheung Sha
Tong Fuk
Cheung Chau Tung Wan
Kwun Yam
Hung Shing Yeh
Lo So Shing
Discovery Bay**

Lung Mei**


** Non-gazetted beaches


Beach monitoring frequencies


Monitoring frequency per month

Bathing season *

Non-bathing season

Gazetted beaches open all year round**

at least 3 times

at least 3 times

Other gazetted beaches

at least 3 times


Non-gazetted beaches

at least 3 times


*  March to October

** Clear Water Bay Second, Deep Water Bay, Golden and Silverstrand Beaches


Overview of Various Stages of the Beach Monitoring Programme

[Image of overview of various stages of the Beach Monitoring Programme]


Hong Kong's annual beach ranking system


E. coli counts per 100 mL*

Minor illness rate**
(Cases per 1,000 swimmers)

WQO Compliance












Very Poor



* Geometric mean E. coli count calculated based on all data collected between March and October.

** Skin and gastrointestinal illnesses

Hong Kong's weekly beach grading system


Beach water quality

E. coli counts per 100 mL*

Minor illness rate **
(Cases per 1,000 swimmers)














Very Poor

or last reading >1,600


* Unless otherwise indicated, the E. coli count represents the geometric mean of the 5 most recent sampling occasions.

** Skin and gastrointestinal illnesses

The 2012 Findings

Hong Kong's gazetted beaches 2012 annual ranking

Weekly beach grading summary of gazetted beaches by district in 2012

[Image of Annual Ranking of gazetted beaches at a glance]

Southern District beaches

Sai Kung beaches

Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun beaches

Outlying Islands beaches

Water Quality Trend

Annual beach rankings of gazetted beaches from 1997 to 2012

Comparsion of annual beach ranking of gazetted beaches in 1997 and 2012

Annual geometric mean E. coil levels of gazetted beaches by district, 1997-2012


Appendix A - Annual geometric mean E. coli levels (1997 – 2012)

Appendix B - 2012 Beach visitor number

Appendix C - Physicochemical water quality data of gazetted beaches, 2012

Appendix D – Images of Long-term trend of beach water quality (1986 – 2012)


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