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Children fill bottles at a village’s ground water pump in Preah Vihear province last year.
Children fill bottles at a village’s ground water pump in Preah Vihear province last year. Hong Menea

Cambodia's water woes get US Army tech assist

The US Army Corp of Engineers is providing Cambodia with new tools to understand its growing groundwater shortage.

Last week, the Ministry of Environment, US Army Corp of Engineers and National Council for Sustainable Development hosted a three-day technical exchange on groundwater modelling.

The event aimed to train Cambodian officials on how to use a new software tool that would allow them to see where and why the Kingdom is experiencing groundwater shortages.

“This software will help us see whether the groundwater shortage is from human activity, like overuse, or if it’s from climate change,” said Phan Kongkea, an official at the General Secretariat for Sustainable Development.

Both over-exploitation of water sources and climate change-induced droughts have been pinpointed as the cause for groundwater depletion. A March study suggested that the dwindling supply could leave about 1.5 million farmers without enough water for their crops.

Ideally, the new software would allow the government to understand the issue well enough to address it. But a lack of data could prove an obstacle. “We need to gather the . . . data and start testing how the model works,” said Kongkea.

The council is now collaborating with a variety of bodies including Resource Development International (RDI) and the University of Agriculture to gather the necessary information.

“I don’t think there is sufficient data collection in Cambodia, because new wells are being drilled all the time,” said Chanda Cheng, communications director at RDI. “We have not collected new data lately.”

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