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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Water shortage raises questions

Water shortage raises questions


"Water?" cries Josh, a barman at the Warehouse. "What the f*** is that?"


Why is service disrupted? When will it be resolved? More importantly, who or what is to blame?

Siem Reap is entering week four of a mysterious water supply disruption, and the only thing flowing is the rumour mill. The town's watering holes, as well as other businesses and homes,  have been parched dry, stretched to the breaking point with as little as one hour of water a day, with no explanation from authorities and no end in sight.

Officials are alternately blaming overpopulation, Lunar New Year festivities and burst water pipes - but no concrete answers are forthcoming in Siem Reap's own Watergate.

The water troubles began in the last week of January but reached an intolerable level in the first week of February. Unable to clean dishes or flush toilets, many bar owners were forced to improvise or close.

Dean Williams, owner of Miss Wong, told the Post: "We've basically had water problems for three weeks. This week, it only comes on after midnight. I stay up until it comes on, then fill 300 litres in plastic bins. It gets me through the night. I could buy a tank, but we have no information on how long it's going to last."

For many bar owners, the lack of communication is just as devastating as the lack of water - fuelling uncertainty and limiting their ability to adapt. Carlo Tarabini, owner of X-bar, said: "It's really poor planning. Someone should know what's happening and people should be told. But we only hear rumours. If it continues, more places will close."

Two weeks ago, the minister of tourism was in town, "saying we had to stick together and that the government was going to help us through the global financial crisis. They said they're building a new road to Angkor Wat. But what's the use of a new road if tourists can't flush the toilet? I feel like there's been no support, and no one knows what's going on", Williams said.

Charlie, manager of Angkor What? bar, said: "The bills keep coming but the water doesn't. I'm not going to pay my bill this time. What are they going to do? Cut my water off?"

Chan Sengla, assistant director of the Siem Reap Water Supply Authority, originally told the Post that the water supply has been short because "we cannot produce enough to meet demand", blaming the additional load caused by Lunar New Year celebrations. But Cheav Channy, deputy director of the Technical Department at the authority, blamed a burst pipe at the wastewater pipe excavation site on Sivutha Boulevard, near Hotel de la Paix - a claim denied by Ken Cook, team leader of the Siem Reap Wastewater Management Project, which is responsible for the excavation.



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