EPD - Beach Water Quality


Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong 2016

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: The coastline of Hong Kong was embellished with white sand and clear water beaches


Hong Kong boasts beautiful beaches with fine sands and clean water along its extended coastline. These beaches attract millions of beach-goers to enjoy their seaside leisure time every month during the summer.

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. This report summarises the beach monitoring data collected in 2016, the gradings of the beaches and the annual compliance with the Water Quality Objective (WQO) for bathing beaches.

[Photo: Charming beaches for bathers to enjoy their leisure time]

In 2016, 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 conducted 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: EPD staff conducting water sampling and field data recording]

[Photo: Analysis of beach bacteriological water quality at EPD's environmental microbiology laboratory]

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" or "Fair" meet the WQO for bathing waters.

[Photo: Water quality grading board displayed at the gazetted beaches]

Annual Beach Ranking in 2016

All 41 gazetted beaches in Hong Kong complied with the WQO in 2016. Compared with the ranking in 2015, the number of beaches ranked as "Good" has decreased from 25 (or 61 %) to 18 (or 44 %) and the number of beaches ranked as "Fair" has changed from 16 (or 39%) to 23 (or 56%). This was mainly due to the combined effects of more rainfall and less bright sunshine in the bathing season of 2016. The cumulative rainfall recorded in the bathing season of 2016 was 17% higher than the average in the past 30 years (1986 - 2015) while the number of bright sunshine hours was 13% lower than that in the same period. Although the annual ranking of seven beaches have changed from "Good" to "Fair" in 2016, the changes in E. coli levels were within the normal range of fluctuation of the bacteriological water quality and had no overall adverse impact on the health of swimmers. No beach was ranked as "Poor" or "Very Poor" in 2016.

[Photo: The tranquil Tong Fuk Beach in Lantau Island]

The beaches with "Good" water quality ranking were located in the Southern (Hong Kong Island South), Islands and Sai Kung Districts. Nine of the 12 beaches in the Southern District were ranked as "Good" in 2016, including Chung Hom Kok Beach, Deep Water Bay Beach, Hairpin Beach, Middle Bay Beach, Repulse Bay Beach, South Bay Beach, St. Stephen's Beach, Stanley Main Beach and Turtle Cove Beach. Shek O Beach and Rocky Bay Beach continued to receive a "Fair" ranking, while the ranking of Big Wave Bay Beach has changed from "Good" to "Fair". Of the nine beaches on the Outlying Islands, six were ranked as "Good", including Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach, Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Kwun Yam Beach, Lo So Shing Beach, Tong Fuk Beach and Upper Cheung Sha Beach. Silver Mine Bay Beach remained to be ranked as "Fair", while Lower Cheung Sha Beach and Pui O Beach have changed from "Good" to "Fair". Three of the six beaches in Sai Kung District were rated as "Good" in 2016 including Hap Mun Bay Beach, Kiu Tsui Beach and Trio Beach, while Clear Water Bay First Beach, Clear Water Bay Second Beach and Silverstrand Beach have changed from "Good" to "Fair". On the western side, all eight beaches in Tsuen Wan District and all six beaches in Tuen Mun District received a "Fair" ranking in 2016, among them Ma Wan Tung Wan Beach has changed from "Good" to "Fair".

[Photo: Dynamic and lively Shek O Beach on a beautiful sunny day ]

The water quality of Tsuen Wan beaches continued to be satisfactory and suitable for swimming after the commissioning of Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 2A in December 2015. The seven beaches along Castle Peak Road had once been closed due to poor water quality before 2010. Since the completion of sewerage along Castle Peak Road in the beach hinterland and the commissioning of the Advanced Disinfection Facilities of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme in March 2010, the water quality of these seven beaches has improved and met the WQO for bathing beaches. This has led to the gradual re-opening of all these beaches during 2011 - 2014 and maintained open since then.

[Photo: The relaxing Ma Wan Tung Wan Beach]

EPD also monitored three non-gazetted beaches in Hong Kong: Discovery Bay (a popular beach in Lantau Island), a sandy beach adjacent to Kiu Tsui Beach in Sai Kung, and a planned artificial beach in Lung Mei, Tai Po. In 2016, Discovery Bay has changed from "Good" to "Fair", largely due to occasional deterioration in water quality after heavy rain. The beach adjacent to Kiu Tsui Beach continued to be ranked as "Good", and Lung Mei as "Fair". Most of the village houses in the Lung Mei area have been connected to the public sewerage network, and the remaining connection work is still ongoing. Together with the pollution abatement measures to be implemented, the water quality at Lung Mei will continue to improve.

Weekly Beach Grading in 2016

To keep the public informed of the latest beach water quality condition, the EPD issues weekly gradings of all open gazetted beaches and one non-gazetted beach (i.e. Discovery Bay) through weekly press release, EPD's websites, the beach enquiry hotline, GeoInfo Map of the GovHK website and noticeboards at the beaches.

[Photo: South Bay Beach embraced by green mountains]

In 2016, the water quality of beaches in the Southern District was largely satisfactory. All ten open gazetted beaches received "Good" or "Fair" grading most of the time in the bathing season. Deep Water Bay Beach and Middle Bay Beach were once rated as "Very Poor" in early September and late July respectively after heavy rain, while Big Wave Bay Beach was rated as "Very Poor" in mid-June due to a series of rain events. South Bay Beach had the best water quality, achieving "Good" grading 97% of the occasions.

The beaches on the Outlying Islands generally had decent water quality. Hung Shing Yeh Beach and Upper Cheung Sha Beach achieved "Good" grading on all rating occasions, while Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach, Kwun Yam Beach, Lo So Shing Beach and Tong Fuk Beach were graded as "Good" over 90% of the time. Lower Cheung Sha Beach was rated as "Very Poor" twice in early May and early August respectively after heavy rain. After Silver Mine Bay Beach was rated as "Poor" or "Very Poor" in the rainy month of April, its water quality continued to improve starting from early summer, and was rated as "Good" toward the end of the bathing season.

[Photo: Trio Beach - an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city]

The Sai Kung beaches were generally suitable for swimming, mainly with "Good" or "Fair" weekly grading. Clear Water Bay First Beach, Clear Water Bay Second Beach and Silverstrand Beach were rated as "Very Poor" on one to three occasions, which were mostly associated with heavy rain. Hap Mun Bay Beach had the best water quality achieving "Good" grading on all rating occasions.

The water quality of the beaches in Tuen Mun area was comparable to that in the previous years, with usually "Good" or "Fair" weekly grading. Butterfly Beach was graded as "Very Poor" on three occasions in July after heavy rain, and improved to "Fair" grading since mid-August.

The water quality of the beaches in Tsuen Wan was mostly satisfactory. Ma Wan Tung Wan Beach was either rated as "Good" or "Fair" grading. The other Tsuen Wan Beaches maintained mostly at "Fair" grading, in which Casam Beach, Hoi Mei Wan Beach and Lido Beach were improved to "Good" grading toward the end of the bathing season. Ting Kau Beach was once rated as "Very Poor" after heavy rain in mid-August.

[Photo: Casam Beach - water quality steadily improving in recent years]

Water Quality Trend

The beach water quality in Hong Kong is able to fully comply with the WQO, and suitable for swimming, for the last seven 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 increased to 100% since 2010 for all 41 gazetted beaches.

Comparison of annual beach ranking of gazetted beaches in 1986, 1997 and 2016


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 all the statistics above.

Back in the 1980s, many beaches were 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) due to 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. In the last decade, there has been progressive improvement as a result of enforcement of environmental legislation, extension of the sewerage network, provision of new sewage treatment facilities across the territory including the beach hinterland, as well as implementation of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme. 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

Beaches with Water
Quality Improvement
Implementation of the Livestock Waste Control Scheme under the Waste Disposal (Livestock Waste) Regulation. Most beaches, particularly Silver Mine Bay Beach
Declaration of the Southern Water Control Zone (WCZ) under the Water Pollution Control Ordinance (WPCO) for legislative enforcement. Southern beaches

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

Southern beaches

1991- 1995

Implementation of chemical waste control. All beaches
Declaration of the North Western WCZ under the WPCO for legislative enforcement. Tuen Mun beaches
Diversion of polluted storm water drains away from Castle Peak Beach. Castle Peak Beach
Provision of public sewers for So Kwun Wat and Sam Shing Estate. Tuen Mun Beaches

Commissioning of Stanley Sewage Treatment Works (STW).

Stanley Main Beach

1996 - 2000

Full implementation of the WPCO in all WCZs. All beaches
Commissioning of the Shek O Sewage Screening Plant and diversion of polluted storm water drains at Shek O Village. Shek O Beach
Completion of all major works under Southern Sewerage Master Plan. Southern beaches

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

Tuen Mun beaches

2001 - 2005

Completion of Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 1. Big Wave Bay, Shek O, Rocky Bay Beaches
Provision of public sewers in the Silverstrand area. Silverstrand Beach

Full operation of the Sham Tseng STW.

Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

2006 - 2016

Commissioning of the Advance Disinfection Facilities at Stonecutters Island STW. All Tsuen Wan beaches
Extension of the public sewerage network to the beach hinterland along Castle Peak Road. Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

Full operation of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) Stage 2A.

Beaches along the Tsuen Wan coast

Through continuous efforts of the government to implement pollution abatement measures, there was significant improvement in water quality at the beaches in various districts over the years, and the beaches have consistently complied with the WQO in recent years. With significant improvement of water quality at beaches in Tsuen Wan since 2010, all of Hong Kong's gazetted beaches have now achieved the required standard for swimming for the seventh consecutive year.

Compliance with WQO at gazetted beaches, 1997 - 2016

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

Water quality trend lines of gazetted beaches over the last 31 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 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: Happy youngsters having fun 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 2016 Findings

2016 Annual ranking and bathing season geometric mean E. coli levels of Hong Kong's gazatted beaches

Annual ranking of gazetted beaches at a glance in 2016

Weekly beach grading summary of open gazetted beaches by district in 2016

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 2016

Comparsion of annual beach ranking of gazetted beaches in 1986 and 2016

Annual geometric mean E. coil levels of gazetted beaches by district, 1997-2016


Appendix A - Annual geometric mean E. coli levels (1997 – 2016)

Appendix B - 2016 Beach visitor number

Appendix C - Physicochemical water quality data for gazetted beaches, 2016

Appendix D – Images of Long-term trend of beach water quality (1986 – 2016)


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