As Sihanoukville’s water shortage drags on, the price of water being delivered by private suppliers has skyrocketed with residents and business owners growing ever more desperate to get clean water into their homes, hotels and restaurants.
Over the past week, since a reservoir supplying the city with water completely dried up, the price of 2,000 liter tanks of clean water from Sihanoukville’s O’Pi water spring has more than doubled, rising from about $20 to more than $50, according to business owners and local officials. Some 60 percent of the city has access to little or no running water, according to officials.
“The price of water is increasing every day because of the high requirement of users in the city,” said Mann Tou, provincial tourism police chief. The people hardest hit by the water crisis have not been business owners but civil servants and residents in Sihanoukville who cannot afford to dig their own well, he added.
But some business owners are still feeling the pinch.
“We are having a terrible time, we have about 5 liters of water left,” said Bob Pipinich, owner of Aqua Resort in Sihanoukville’s Buon commune, who said a well he previously used had been filled in by a nearby property development.
“[The price of a tank of water] went from $15 to $50. It’s awful. How are you expected to do business here?” he said, adding that as demand rises for water being transported from outside the city, getting water delivered has become harder.
Sihanoukville’s water shortage began after the provincial department of national power supplier Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) decided to ration electricity being distributed to the city’s privately owned water distributor, Anco Water Supply, for pumping water from a nearby waterfall.
That decision by the EdC drastically reduced the power being supplied to Anco’s pumping facility at the Kbal Chhay waterfall, which is roughly 16 km away from the city.
Without enough water being pumped from Kbal Chhay, Prek Tup Lake, a state-owned reservoir 4 km from Sihanoukville, became overburdened and quickly dried up. EdC has urged residents to tap into their own wells and asked Anco to use its generator at the facility in order to pump more water to Sihanoukville.
But Ngy Sun, manager of Anco Water Supply, said that the company cannot afford the amount of diesel fuel needed to operate at more than 50 percent capacity.
Khuon Sarun, the chief of Buon commune, said that most of the people living in her commune have been heading outside the city to shower and then bringing containers of water back to the city by motorbike for cooking and other essential uses at home.
Bun Kim, a resident of Pi commune, said that his neighbors have been traveling to the homes of friends and family outside of the city for water.
“People are not happy with the provincial water supply authority for cutting off the water; my family are having to use water from the wells of relatives who live outside our commune,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)