Facing Water Shortage, Sihanoukville Prays for Rain

sihanoukville – Sihanoukville mu­nicipality is facing a critical water shortage and, without an immediate and substantial rainfall, the tour­ist town’s dangerously shallow res­ervoir will run completely dry by Saturday, Chuon Chetha, deputy chief of the Sihanoukville Water Supply Authority, said Wednesday.

Many of Sihanoukville’s 200,000 residents who are connected to the water supply lost water Sunday, but some have been affected since last Thursday.

“It’s never been this bad,” Chuon Chetha said during an interview at his office. “Usually we have some rainfall this time of year,” he said. “We cannot support all of the public using water.”

Water shortages at the height of the hot season in April are not un­common, but usually there is some rain which prevents severe water shortages, such as the resort town is suffering, Chuon Chetha said, adding that his own office is without water.

Sihanoukville Water Supply Au­thority usually pumps 250 cubic meters of water per hour from its reservoir and two additional wells. However, the reservoir has been reduced to a trickle and the wells are only able to provide 10 to 18 cubic meters of water per hour.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak downplayed the significance of the water shortage, which he said would be alleviated as soon as there was some rain.

“Of course, we have a water problem. But last week we appeal­ed to the city residents to try to conserve their water,” Say Hak said.

“If next month the rain falls two or three times, we will have water in the reservoir,” he said. “I am sorry for the inconvenience to those who have no water,” he added.

Say Hak said the municipality could still exist on the town’s reserve water wells.

Kong Mean, owner of a private water-supply company in Sihanoukville, said that he has been inundated with extra business since the municipal water system started to dry up.

However, Kong Mean said that he was also concerned that his 600 water wells, located outside the municipality, would also run dry if rain does not fall by next week.

“Before, we only used to have 10 clients this time of year. Now that the state water has run out, we work all day,” he said, adding that his company has raised their prices from $7 to $20 for 4,000 liters of water.

Kong Mean denied that he was taking advantage of the water shortage. “Customers raised the price by themselves because they want to get the water first,” he said.

Prumb Pov, 36, who lives in Mittapheap district’s Klaing Leu commune, said that her house lost water on Monday and she has had to buy small containers of water.

“It’s been very hard to find water sellers,” she said. “I have no money to buy big water barrels.”

Businesses are also suffering from the water shortage. Keo Kim, 54, owner of the 41-room Makara Guesthouse on Ochheuteal Beach, said that he has seen the water pressure decreasing for weeks, but on April 19 water stopped completely.

“We have to buy water from the water trucks,” he said, adding that he pays $30 per 10 cubic meters of water, which he requires each day.

A resident of Sihanoukville for 25 years, Keo Kim said that he had never seen a water shortage this bad, adding that even his private water supplier is concerned about running out of water if the shortage continues.

“He said that if the problem continues, not only will the price go up, but his wells will dry up,” Keo Kim said.

The more than 100 Buddhist monks at Wat Enta Nhen Sihanoukville, located near the Sihanoukville Water Supply Authority, have been without water since Sunday, said monk Nget Chhen on Wednesday.

“Our pagoda relies on the state water supply—if it has no water, we have no water,” he said.”The monks who want to bathe have to go to villagers’ houses that have their own wells.”

Nou Phon, chief administrator of the Sihanoukville Referral Hospital, said that he is uncertain what medical problems will occur if the water shortage continues.

“If Sihanoukville has a drought, I am very concerned,” he said, adding that his house is also without water. “It’s up to the municipal government to fix the problem.

Chuon Chetha said that municipal authorities have known about the city’s water capacity problems for several years, and had signed an agreement with Anco Brothers Company Ltd to create an alternative water supply in case of such drought.

“After we learned about the shortage, we made an agreement with Anco to take water from a waterfall nearby,” Chuon Chetha said. “But we do not know when it will be operational.”

Officials at Anco Brothers Company Ltd could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Michael O’Leary, country representative for the World Health Organization, said that he was unaware of the water shortage problem in Sihanoukville, but that if it were to continue for an extended period of time there could be serious consequences.

“If water is in very short supply, there are implications for agriculture, drinking water and sanitation.”

Acute water shortages can lead to illnesses such as diarrhea and conjunctivitis, O’Leary said.

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