Rain Gives Sihanoukville a Break in Water-Shortage Crisis

Critical water shortages were narrowly averted in Sihanoukville when heavy rains on Friday and Saturday evenings saved some 200,000 residents connected to the municipality’s dangerously low public water supply from being totally cut off, officials said Sunday.

Authorities had warned on Wed­nesday that the bustling tourist town’s reservoir would run com­plete­ly dry on Saturday without immediate and substantial rainfall.

“We can now give Sihanouk­ville residents 40 to 70 percent of their pub­lic water supply due to the two heavy rains,” said Prak Chan Roeun, chief of Sihanoukville’s department of industry. Though officials could theoretically now provide residents with 100 percent of the supply, they have opted instead to ration the wa­ter carefully in case of continued drought, he added.

The water authority’s reservoir and two wells were eking out 10 to 18 cubic meters per hour at the height of the drought on Wed­nesday, far from their usual 250 cubic meters per hour, officials said.

“If it rains a few more days this week, I hope our water supply will be back to normal,” said Chuon Chetha, deputy chief of Siha­nouk­ville Water Supply Authority.

Pol Chhoeun, a receptionist at Sihanoukville’s Jasmine hotel, said the establishment is receiving much more water since the rains.

Kong Mean, whose private wa­ter supply company in Siha­noukville was thriving during the dry spell, said that with about one meter of water now in the public reservoir, residents have stopped coming to him.

Moeung Sonn, director of Eu­rasie Travel, said that while it is local people in Sihanoukville who are most affected by water shortages, it is the tourists who use the most water.

If the water shortage continues, “I think guests cannot stay [in Siha­noukville] a long time,” he said.

Helmut Dahmen, a regional planning adviser from the German development organization DED who is based in Battambang province, said that deforestation is playing a major role in water shortages nationwide.

“Forests act like a sponge…which regulates the whole water system,” he said. Trees, in combination with their roots and the soil, absorb water and release it into streams and the environment at a consistent pace over the course of the year, he said. Without forests to help manage the water supply, there are more ex­treme weather phenomena like floods and droughts, he added.

The temporary water shortage in Sihanoukville highlights a host of problems relating to infrastructure in the area, said Ho Vandy, director of the Cambodian Association of Tra­vel Agencies.

“If you are going to develop the area for tourists, you need to develop all the services,” he added.


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