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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Water: A key to investment?

Water: A key to investment?

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PG13-story-1.jpg

The Phnom Penh Water Authority says the capital's vastly improved

water quality should be further incentive for investors to set up shop

in the city

TRACEY SHELTON

Until recently, drinking municipal water straight from the tap was

unthinkable for most. But water authority officials say city water is

now as safe as bottled or boiled water.

Watered down

Only 24 of the 130 bottled- water

producers in Cambodia are registered with the government, raising

concerns for quality, according to Ping Sivlay of the Industry

Ministry. "Some brands are safe to drink, but many are not," he said.

ONCE shunned, Phnom Penh's public water

supply has improved to the point where it is safe to drink from the

tap, according to the Phnom Penh Water Authority, which is using the

capital's water quality as a major selling point to potential investors.

"Today our water is 100 percent safe to drink directly from the family

faucet, Ek Sonn Chan, told the Post Wednesday, explaining that new

pipes and the introduction of chlorine has raised the calibre of the

water.

Raw municipal water samples were tested this year at PSB Corp in

Singapore and the Coca-Cola Co's Global Quality Analytical Services

laboratory in Shanghai, he said.

Both found the water to be free of dangerous materials like lead or

mercury, or to contain acceptable levels of other substances, according

to documents obtained by the Post.

With investment in Cambodia growing, the demand for water in the

capital has increased 10 percent year-on-year, Ek Sonn Chan said, and

now stands at 250,000 cubic metres a day.

He added that the authority has connected some 17,000 households to

public water in the previous year and hopes to have 40,000 new

customers by 2011.

However, factories and an expanding hospitality sector continue to be the leading consumers, he said.

In the past, he said, both have been forced to pour millions of dollars

into their own treatment plants or source their water from elsewhere,

adding heavily to the overall cost of doing business in Cambodia.

"Now hotels like the Cambodiana and factories have enough [public]

water supply - they are using Phnom Penh water and lowering their

costs," Ek Sonn Chan said.

While the Cambodiana still maintains a private water supply, general

manager Bernard Piere said the hotel began using public water earlier

this year.

"This is a great step to have the convenience of clean state water," he said.

Luu Meng, president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, said that five

years ago, hotels were spending much more money on water-treatment

operations.

"Today is much cleaner," he said Thursday.

"I can say that almost every hotel is using state water - it is

important that the water supply becomes higher quality, for both

business and personally," he added.

The high cost of utilities continues to be the biggest deterrent to

foreign investment, say commerce officials, who have encouraged the

government to lower both water and electricity prices. The water

authority is planning to build a new US$40 million water treatment

plant by 2009, Ek Sonn Chan said.

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