EPD - Beach Water Quality


Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong 2015

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: Beaches with white sands and clean water are popular places for both local people and tourists to swim and enjoy their leisure time]


Hong Kong has a long twisting coastline with many beautiful and attractive beaches. Each year, millions of beach-goers enjoy bathing in these beaches with white sands and 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 the EPD's monitoring activities can be found at its Hong Kong Water Quality Resource Centre (HKWQRC) thematic website (http://wqrc.epd.gov.hk) or its beach water quality thematic website (http://www.beachwq.gov.hk).

[Photo: There are many great beaches in Hong Kong to swim, sunbathe and play]

This report summarises the beach monitoring data collected in 2015, the gradings of the beaches and their annual compliance with the Water Quality Objective (WQO) for bathing beaches. In 2015, 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 Escherichia coli (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: Bacteriological analysis of beach water at EPD's microbiology laboratory]

[Photo: EPD staff monitoring beach water quality]

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 2015

All 41 gazetted beaches in Hong Kong complied with the WQO in 2015. Although the total rainfall (1703 mm) recorded during the bathing season in 2015 was 33% lower than that in 2014 (2523 mm) for the same period, there were frequent heavy rainstorms in the territory since May, and the total rainfall recorded in May, July and October were all higher than the normal amount recorded in the three months. There were occasional increases in the E. coli levels in beach water after heavy rainstorms, which were seen mostly for beaches in the western side of Hong Kong. Their E. coli levels were, however, still generally within the normal range of fluctuation of their bacteriological water quality. Compared with the ranking in 2014, the number of beaches ranked as "Good" has increased from 23 (or 56 %) to 25 (or 61 %) and the number of beaches ranked as "Fair" has changed from 18 (or 44%) to 16 (or 39%). No beach was ranked as "Poor" or "Very Poor" in 2015.

[Photo: Kwun Yam Beach - a favourite beach for both Cheung Chau residents and visitors]

The beaches with "Good" water quality ranking were largely located in the Southern District (Hong Kong Island South), Outlying Islands and Sai Kung. Ten of the 12 beaches in the Southern District were ranked as "Good" in 2015. The ranking of Big Wave Bay Beach had progressed from "Fair" to "Good", while Shek O Beach and Rocky Bay Beach (not open for swimming) had changed to "Fair", but the changes in E. coli levels were not statistically significant. Of the nine beaches on the Outlying Islands, eight were ranked as "Good". The ranking of Pui O Beach had progressed to "Good" while Silver Mine Bay Beach remained as "Fair". In the Sai Kung area, all six beaches were rated as "Good" in 2015 with Silverstrand Beach moved up to "Good". On the western side, Ma Wan Tung Wan Beach had progressed to "Good" while the other seven beaches in Tsuen Wan District and all six beaches along the Tuen Mun coast were all ranked as "Fair" in 2015.

[Photo: Repulse Bay Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong]

Despite the occasional and temporary deterioration of water quality, largely due to heavy rain and substandard discharge from private treatment works which was later rectified, the water quality of the Tsuen Wan beaches has been stable in 2015, mainly owing 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 hinterland of the beaches.

[Photo: Scenic Lido Beach]

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. After the upgrading of beach facilities, Anglers' Beach and Ting Kau Beach have been reopened for swimming since September 2013 and April 2014 respectively. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has also reopened Gemini Beaches for public use after the completion of the improvement works in 2014, but the beaches are not open for swimming since there is no lifeguard service.

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. In 2015, Discovery Bay and the beach adjacent to Kiu Tsui Beach continued to be ranked as "Good", and Lung Mei as "Fair". Village houses in the Lung Mei area are being connected to the public sewerage network in phases. Together with the pollution abatement measures to be implemented, the water quality at Lung Mei will continue to improve after all the sewerage connection works are completed.

Weekly Beach Grading in 2015

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

[Photo: Clear water and fine sand makes St.Stephen's Beach an ideal bathing beach]

In 2015, the water quality of beaches in the Southern District was largely satisfactory. All ten open gazetted beaches received mostly "Good" or "Fair" grading in the bathing season. Chung Hom Kok Beach, South Bay Beach and Turtle Cove Beach achieved "Good" grading over 80% of the rating occasions, while St. Stephen's Beach was rated as "Good" close to 100% of the time.

The beaches on the Outlying Islands were generally very suitable for swimming, with Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Tong Fuk Beach and Upper Cheung Sha Beach achieving "Good" grading on all rating occasions, while Lo So Shing Beach was graded as "Good" over 90% of the time. Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach, Kwun Yam Beach and Silvermine Bay Beach were rated as "Very Poor" on one or two occasions after heavy rain.

[Photo: Hung Shing Yeh Beach - white sands, turquoise waters and blue sky]

The water quality of the Sai Kung beaches was also generally good with weekly grading of "Good" or "Fair". Hap Mun Bay Beach and Trio Beach had the best water quality achieving "Good" grading on all rating occasions.

The water quality of the beaches in Tuen Mun area was generally fine and nearly all graded as "Good" or "Fair" on most of the rating occasions. Cafeteria Old Beach and Castle Peak Beach were graded as "Very Poor" on one or two occasions after heavy rain.

The water quality of the beaches in Tsuen Wan was generally satisfactory with grading mostly at "Fair". Approach Beach, Hoi Mei Wan Beach and Ting Kau Beach were rated as "Very Poor" on several occasions after heavy rain, and Approach Beach was rated as "Poor" during the period of substandard discharge from private treatment works.

[Photo: Golden Beach in summer time]

Water Quality Trend

The beach water quality in Hong Kong is able to fully comply with the WQO for the last six 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 2015


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.

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.

There was a further 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 Harbour Area Treatment Scheme 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 - 2015

Commissioning of the Advance Disinfection Facilities at Stonecutters Island STW.

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

Upgrading of the Pillar Point STW to chemically enhanced primary treatment with disinfection facilities

All Tsuen Wan beaches

Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

Tuen Mun beaches

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 beaches in Tsuen Wan have met the WQO since 2010. To sum up, all of Hong Kong's gazetted beaches have now achieved the required standard for swimming for the six consecutive year.

Compliance with WQO at gazetted beaches, 1997 - 2015

[Figure: Compliance with WQO at gazetted beaches, 1997 - 2015]

Water quality trend lines of gazetted beaches over the last 30 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 the EPD's Hong Kong Water Quality Resource Centre (HKWQRC) thematic website (http://wqrc.epd.gov.hk) or its beach water quality 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: Children enjoy playing at the 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
Rocky Bay
Big Wave 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 frequency


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 2015 Findings

Hong Kong's gazetted beaches 2015 annual ranking

Weekly beach grading summary of gazetted beaches by district in 2015

[Image of Annual ranking of gazetted beaches at a glance in 2015]

Southern District beaches

Sai Kung beaches

Tsuen Wan beaches

Tuen Mun beaches

Outlying Islands beaches

Water Quality Trend

Annual beach rankings of gazetted beaches from 1986 to 2015

Comparsion of annual beach ranking of gazetted beaches in 1986 and 2015

Annual geometric mean E. coil levels of gazetted beaches by district, 1997-2015


Appendix A - Annual geometric mean E. coli levels (1997 – 2015)

Appendix B - 2015 Beach visitor number

Appendix C - Physicochemical water quality data for gazetted beaches, 2015

Appendix D – Images of Long-term trend of beach water quality (1986 – 2015)


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