Hong Kong Water Supply – Kowloon Tong Water Tank

Tymon Mellor: As the end of 2020 draws to a close the water storage reservoir at Bishop Hill in Shek Kip Mei has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The relevant Government departments have failed to recognise the importance of this structure in the development of the Kowloon water supply and the unique design of this historic facility.

Kowloon Water Supply

With the early development of Kowloon, a reliable water supply was needed, but with no major rivers, the population had to rely on wells for water. By 1895, three wells along with service reservoirs and a pipe distribution system had been commissioned to serve the growing population.

1896 Kowloon Water Supply (Large)

Within ten years, the demand of the growing population was more than the system could support and it was proposed to build a large reservoir in the hills behind Kowloon to provide a new water source. A number of sites for the new reservoir were identified concluding with a site above Cheung Sha Wan, supplying a service tank as a service reservoir on a hill above the village of Kowloon Tong. The new project would become the Kowloon Reservoir scheme and would-be Kowloon’s water source for the next twenty years until water shortages forced the Government to construct Shek Lei Pui Reservoir (1926) and Kowloon Byewash Reservoir (1931).

Kowloon Tong Tank

Kowloon Reservoir supplied water to the Kowloon Tong tank, which in turn fed the water into the existing Kowloon water distribution system. The tank was 46m (150ft) in diameter, 6m (20 ft) deep with a design capacity of 2,000,000 gallons and constructed on the top of Bishop’s Hill. A hole was excavated at the top of the hill to allow a concrete slab to be cast. On this, granite pillars were constructed with brick arch vaulting to form the roof[i]. The structure was then backfilled and landscaped.

Kowloon Tong 4

The construction contract for the Kowloon Tong tank was awarded to a Mr Tung Shing in February 1903 for completion on the 30th June 1904. By the end of 1903, half of the arch roof was complete and the contractor was offered a bonus to complete the structure early to take advantage of the summer rain. However, the remaining work progressed slowly and the structure was only completed on the 10th August 1904[ii] with a final capacity of 2.183 million gallons. By the end of 1904, the reservoir was connected to the Kowloon water supply network.

On the 24th March 1906 the first water from the new dam works was piped into the tank, the water having being intercepted from streams and catchwaters. Water from the new Kowloon Reservoir would not start flowing until the 24th December, 1906 with the commencement of impounding of the reservoir[iii].

The cost of the structure was $67,639.31[iv].


Kowloon Tong 3

The tank remained in constant use until the early 1950’s when repair works were carried out. The facility was ultimately taken out of service in April 1984 when it was disconnected from the water supply network.

Heritage Value

Hong Kong is not short of water, with an average of 2.4m of annual rainfall there is plentiful water, but it is however short of means to capture and store the liquid. With the urbanisation of the territory, engineers have been continually developing water schemes to keep up with demand. It was recognised that covered water tanks were required to maintain the quality of the treated water, requiring engineers to develop technical solutions compatible with the available construction materials and skills of the day.

The Kowloon Tong tank, is one example of a number of the remaining water supply tanks from those early days, constructed from local materials and using skilled craftsmen to create a large watertight structure. These structures supplied the fresh water that allowed Hong Kong to grow and flourish through the years and in their retirement, deserve the respect and preservation in recognition for a job well done.

Tank 3

Images of the remaining structure can be found:




Images – South China Morning Post

Maps – http://www.hkmaps.hk/

[i] Report of the Director of Public Works for the year 1903

[ii] Report of the Director of Public Works for the year 1904

[iii] Report of the Director of Public Works for the year 1906

[iv] Report of the Director of Public Works for the year 1910

This article was first posted on 3rd January 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Bishop Hill century-old underground reservoir in Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon – campaign to stop it being demolished
  2. Hong Kong Water Supply – Lam Tsuen Pipeline
  3. Hong Kong Water Supply – Tai Lam Chung Reservoir
  4. Tai Lam Chung Reservoir – first built post-WW2 – construction images added
  5. Tai Lam Chung Reservoir – construction images
  6. Hong Kong Water Supply – Shing Mun Reservoir
  7. Hong Kong Water Supply – Shing Mun First Section
  8. Hong Kong Water Supply – The Tai Tam Tuk Scheme First Section
  9. Hong Kong Water Supply – The Tai Tam Tuk Scheme – Second Section
  10. Hong Kong Water Supply – The Politics of Water Supply and Rider Main Districts (1890-1903)
  11. Hong Kong Water Supply – Kowloon Reservoir
  12. Hong Kong Water Supply – Tai Tam Upper Dam (formally Tytam Reservoir)
  13. Hong Kong Water Supply – Kowloon Peninsula
  14. Hong Kong Water Supply – Pok Fu Lam Reservoir
  15. Hong Kong Water Supply – Mint Dam and Other Early Structures
  16. Hong Kong Water Supply – The Aberdeen Reservoirs Scheme
  17. Hong Kong Water Supply – Shek Lei Pui and Kowloon Byewash Reservoir
  18. Hong Kong Water Supply – Irrigation Reservoirs


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