September 1, 2010 — Grandma Nov Som beams with happiness when asked how she feels about being able to get clean water. “I cannot compare my happiness at having clean water to anything else,” the 75-year-old laughs.
“Before, we used water that a private supplier pumped directly from the river. Sometimes, we smelled disposal waste such as foamy mud,” she continues, as she swings her sleeping grandson in a hammock under a mango tree near the new pipe connected to her house. “I am really, really happy now because I have clean water...and it’s much cheaper.”
Her neighbor, Mom Sivutha, 46, a mother of four who is busy cleaning her dishes and pots, and washing clothes with her new tap water, agrees and says, “I am poor and I think that this clean water will help me a lot.”
Sivutha used to pay around 8,000 riel (US$2) per half month to the private water supplier. She reckons her new clean-water supply will cost a quarter of that—US$2 every two months.
Sivutha makes less than US$1 a day hand-washing her neighbors’ clothes. Her husband is a bicycle-cart rider at the market. Besides putting her three children through school, she has to take care of her grandmother, who gets sick often and stays in bed. Her eldest daughter is taken care of by a charity NGO. She hopes that the cheaper cost of water will reduce the burden of the family’s living expenses.
Ms. Som, Ms. Sivutha and other members of the community in Russey Sros village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh had to use unclean water until July 2010, when the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) laid a water pipe to their community. The private supplier charged 2,000 riel per cubic meter for the unclean water he supplied; now the PPWSA charges between 500 and 770 riel. Sivutha and Som are among many poor families who qualified for a discount on the connection fee ranging from 50 to 100 percent. The normal cost of connection is around US$120.
With the support of the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and other development partners, the PPWSA has connected 90 percent of Phnom Penh’s 1.3 million people to a reliable supply of water that is safe for drinking and on tap 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The PPWSA is confident that by 2020 all people who live in Phnom Penh will be getting safe drinking water, meeting one of Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals.
The PPWSA recently won the Stockholm Industry Waste Award 2010, in recognition of its world-class performance in water supply and self-sufficiency.