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Water woes

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Siem Reap’s water shortage is angering business owners.

Daily dry season interruptions in Siem Reap’s water supply look set to continue indefinitely, according to Water Supply Authority officials.

Siem Reap Water Supply Authority deputy director Soum Kounthea told 7Days that water cuts lasting from one to three hours each day have been imposed on homes and businesses in a large swathe of downtown Siem Reap due to an increase in consumer demand during the dry season.

“The water shortages were not caused because of mistakes on our part, but are due to weather conditions and the limitations of water production facilities in the province,” Soum Kounthea said.

Supplies from Siem Reap’s main water plant in Teuk Vil village are not sufficient to keep up with demand.

Deputy general director of the Water Supply Authority Chan Seng La said: “In 2012 a new water plant owned by the KTC Korea Company will be up and running and [will be] capable of supplying an extra 17,000 cubic metres of water per day. Until then the Water Supply Authority is exploring ways to supply customers with water from Tonle Sap Lake.”

KTC was given permission by the Cambodian government to construct and operate a water treatment plant six kilometres from Siem Reap town in December 2010. But the privately owned treatment plant, which draws water from the Baray reservoir, will not come online until 2012 at the earliest, providing little comfort to Siem Reap residents and business owners facing ongoing shortages.

X Bar manager Carlo Tarabini said the on-off water supply was frustrating when trying to run a business. “The cuts seem to happen during our busiest hours of operation in peak season. It happens so randomly we’ve had to keep a large bin full of water near the bar and ration it.”

Some bar and restaurant owners have even taken to installing water tanks to maintain supplies to their businesses.

Chan Seng La explained he has recently been contacted by customers unhappy over cuts to their water supply,  but is unable to offer much assistance. “Whenever people call about the problem I explain the reasons behind it, and offer advice on what they should do while waterless,” he said. “I tell them to store water while it’s on and use that when the supply is cut.”

Tarabini finds the reliability of the water supply in Siem Reap has failed to improve in recent years, despite a recent price increase. “I wish they’d let people know which areas are affected. You see workers tearing up streets and pipes but there’s no notice about anything.”

A meeting held two months ago between business owners and Siem Reap’s governor Sou Phirin at the Pacific Hotel discussed the issue of water reliability, which Miss Wong bar owner Dean Williams sees as an important step in resolving the problem.

“For the previous two years the problem had existed but we’d received no information from authorities. This was the first time the issue was addressed in a public forum and it was a really positive step.”
Despite still facing ongoing problems with water reliability, Williams said maintenance carried out on the town’s water infrastructure is having a gradual effect. “The problem is still on and off but it appears to be getting better. The pipes in our street were recently torn up and replaced and I’ve noticed an increase in water pressure as a result.”

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