The General Population Census of Cambodia 2019 has provided detailed information regarding sources of clean drinking water for the provincial populations across the Kingdom, determining which regions depend on rivers, streams, lakes and ponds as primary sources while others depend mostly on wells or transported water.
The census report indicated that Stung Treng province had the highest rate of dependence on natural bodies of water and waterways at 46.1 per cent of the population. Six other provinces relying on these as primary sources of water were Pursat (28.4 per cent), Kampot (25.3 per cent), Oddar Meanchey (24.8 per cent), Pailin (21.5 per cent), Battambang (20.9 per cent) and Mondulkiri (20.6 per cent).
The provinces most dependent on water transported by tanker lorries were Oddar Meanchey (21.3 per cent) and Kampong Speu (17.8 per cent).
Provinces with the highest use of bottled drinking water were Pailin (30.3 per cent), Kep (26.5 per cent) and Banteay Meanchey (22 per cent).
The five provinces where people were most dependent on pumping or drilling wells were Svay Rieng (83.9 per cent), Prey Veng (70 per cent), Tbong Khmum (51.2 per cent), Siem Reap (39.1 per cent) and Kampong Chhnang (36.5 per cent).
Neam Kopy, an environmental specialist, described Cambodia as a water-rich country but said in order to save enough water to meet the people’s needs, the government should find better ways to store water according to the actual situation of each area.
“In the areas that receive the most rainfall, we need to build additional reservoirs or increase the capacities of existing reservoirs to sustain supply through the dry season. The government should be strategic. Every year, our country has lots of rainfall. The problem is how to keep the water from the rainy season for use in the dry season,” he said.
Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha could not be reached for comment on February 17.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said work was ongoing to protect natural water resources.
“Maintaining forests and water sources is a necessary task. For example, Phnom Kulen is the main water source for Siem Reap province, and there are as many as 56 water sources which need to be maintained to protect water supplies for the whole province. It is the same with other provinces, which necessarily means maintaining water sources including forests,” he said.
Pheaktra added that paying closer attention to water resources has resulted in the government implementing a pilot programme called “Payment for Ecosystem Service”, a new system of tax liabilities for businesses which consume water as part of their income model.
“So far, we are applying the system on a voluntary basis, and we are using that money to protect water resources and forests in the area,” he said.
The environment ministry has also appealed to the public as well as companies, hotels and guesthouses to conserve water for the sake of the environment.
If water resources are not protected, the country could face shortages and other challenges in the context of climate change, Pheaktra said.