Water connects life and is one of the essential elements for survival each day – for drinking, cooking, farming, and other chores. 

The Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia faces the problem of access to clean and hygienic water. 

While Cambodia may be abundant with freshwater during the rainy season, many rural people have to cover long distances to find the water they need during the dry season. 

Off-late, the Cambodia water crisis is steadily improving, but few areas need to be addressed. Although half the nation has access to a primary water supply, only 24% is safely supervised water. This egress is a constant problem that affects its rural communities the most. 

It takes a lot of time, energy, and strength to carry this heavy water such long distances. This subject has become a churning issue and a national problem as well. More than 3.4 million people in Cambodia lack access to safe water. 

The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the challenge of living without access to safe water for the Cambodian population. Now more than ever, access to safe water is critical to families’ health in Cambodia.

5 Contributors to the water crisis

cambodia water crisis statistics
Cambodia Statistics on water and hygiene| Infographics Credit: Life Water
  1. In some villages, rainwater is collected and preserved in cement structures. The stored water may harbor parasites in the shortage of expensive water treatment systems.
  1. It lacks resilience due to inappropriate water management practices and suffers from water scarcity.
  1. The heavy Cambodian rains tend to carry human feces across communities and surface water sources. Only 23 percent of people have good access to bathroom facilities, due to which open defecation persists in Cambodia.
  1. The next culprit is contaminated water from inappropriate waste disposal. Everyone loses their trash on the floor, road, behind the buildings, anywhere they prefer. This trash sits in murky water, leaking toxins into the ground, which gets into the water through the surface or groundwater.
  1. Lack of adequate infrastructure in dealing with the excess rain during the rainy season is also an area of concern. The water stagnates whenever there are rains, creating unstable soils and attracting unwanted living things like snakes and mosquitoes. 

Sustainable solutions

More than 2 million people in Cambodia lack access to safe water
More than 2 million people in Cambodia lack access to safe water | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Most Cambodians cannot get easy access to clean drinking water as they belong to poor communities and live in rural areas. 

Improving rural water quality would help accelerate and solve the ever-existing water crisis in Cambodia.

Rural water supply needs to be spick, and span to get the desired results. The Cambodian government should monitor and prioritize lucid access to clean water instead of other development sectors.

Local authorities should improve clean water in rural areas rather than building new roads and schools.

Cambodia’s water crisis has taken its toll on vulnerable children. Children are affected by diarrhea frequently, which is causing alarming deaths amongst children under five. 

Besides that, some 40 percent of primary schools and 35 percent of health centers do not have safe water and sanitation.

Cambodia water crisis impacts on women 

Women do not have basic cleaning and nutritional facilities
Women do not have basic cleaning and nutritional facilities | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Women and girls of Cambodia are struck by the lack of a proper water system and discrimination. In Cambodia, most homemakers, women, are considered the principal users of the household facilities. 

The time consumed fetching water affects a cost to human health, productivity, and in many cases, educational prospects—an obligation that is carried disproportionately by women and girls. 

This time consumption and difficulty invariably mean that many women do not have basic cleaning and nutritional facilities.

Cambodia water crisis Determinants

Cambodia water crisis Determinants

Four crucial characteristics can classify the state of drinking water supplies: quality, quantity, reliability, and cost. 

Cambodia, however, is way behind as compared to the other parts of the world. Let’s have a look. 

1. Quantity 

The United Nations and other organizations evaluated that each person mandates access to a minimum of 20-50 liters of water per day

It is needed for drinking, food preparation, and personal hygiene, which is found wanting in this country. 

2. Quality 

Various national agencies have drinking water quality standards that specify safe drinking water’s acceptable microbial, chemical, and radiological characteristics. 

In Cambodia, the pipes are not successfully protected from contaminants, the quality of drinking water suffers. Improper storage results in unsafe drinking water.

3. Reliability

Water sources may be variable and unreliable. The portion of water in rivers and lakes can also be inconsistent. 

Some rivers only flow during part of the year in Cambodia, leaving a dry riverbed and no local water source. 

Here the groundwater sources are depleted too rapidly or are not being successfully recharged; hence the quantity of drinking water suffers.

4. Cost

There are certain costs involved in distributing water to their home or community. Some expenses are monetary, while others are measured in the time it takes to travel to and from a safe drinking water source. 

The poor communities, in particular, suffer the most at the hands of cost. They are compelled to deal with inefficient or wasteful water sources as they cannot break the cost of pure, clean water.

Final Words

There is an inequality to access essential water and sanitation services, but there is also little protection. 

Cambodian inhabitants lack resilience against global disasters, which has led to an increase in both frequency and intensity due to global warming.

It’s not just Cambodia; countries such as Nepal, LaosCambodia, and Thailand are also not safe from water exploitation.

(Last Updated on May 12, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dabadi is a Master’s degree graduate in Mountain Ecology and Glaciology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China. His expertise in climate change impacts on people and ecology makes him an ideal consultant for environmental problems. Hills and forests, rivers and lakes, valleys and mountains, oceans and seas, you can name more; These will always be things that he will love more than any materialistic gifts!