Skip to Main Navigation
Results Briefs July 22, 2020

Partnering for Impact – Strengthening Institutions to Bring Water and Sanitation Services to Cambodia’s Rural Areas

A partnership between the World Bank and the Stone Family Foundation analyzed the barriers to providing water supply and sanitation services to rural areas in Cambodia. Through a Technical Assistance program, the partnership helped to enhance the institutional capacity to deliver water supply and sanitation (WSS) services, enable evidence-based decision making for water supply investments, and boost the capacity of private water operators to provide efficient and accountable services to rural residents.


Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) on clean water supply and sanitation (WSS) presents a huge challenge for many developing countries. Cambodia is no different. In 2017, access to safely managed water supply in the country was only 26 percent, and access to basic sanitation was 59 percent.

Of the total number of people who have access to piped water services in Cambodia, approximately 50 percent of them get their clean water from Private Water Operators (PWOs) through small-scale piped water supply systems.  

The government of Cambodia, through its National Strategy for Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (2011-2025), has an ambitious target of reaching 100 percent coverage of rural sanitation services by 2025. The government also aims to achieve universal coverage of water supply in urban areas by the same year. With the target date not too far away, addressing various institutional and regulatory bottlenecks to accelerate the sector’s progress is imperative to meeting this vision.


In 2016 the World Bank partnered with the Stone Family Foundation to help the government of Cambodia unlock key constraints and regulatory bottlenecks in the water and sanitation sector. 

Before this partnership, the Bank had been working with the government on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at the sectoral level, while the Foundation supported large-scale sanitation marketing program that helped to significantly increase sanitation coverage in rural areas. The Bank and the Foundation joined forces through a program of technical assistance (TA)—the Cambodia Improving Rural Water and Sanitation Services (CIRWSS) program—which began in 2016 and concluded in February 2020.

CIRWSS focused on building the capacity of the institutions that deliver and manage water and sanitation services and on reforming the sector. For water supply, this work included supporting the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation in processing licenses for water operators, strengthening the tariff regime, and developing models for private sector participation in water service delivery. For rural sanitation, the TA supported the development of the National Action Plan for Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, particularly the decentralization of rural sanitation responsibilities to the provincial, district, and commune levels. The TA also supported early analysis of fecal sludge management in rural contexts. 


The three-year program has helped to:

  • Build a foundation for Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI) to carry out its regulatory function in water supply sector management through strengthened capability in sector monitoring, managing license applications for water supply service provision, and in holding water operators accountable to customers. The number of licenses issued by MISTI to private water operators (PWOs) has increased fourfold since 2016, and 258 licenses have been issued as of 2019. In addition, the key performance indicators of PWOs are increasingly available in the MISTI’s Water Supply Monitoring System, which enables the ministry to monitor and track the performance of each PWO and overall sector performance.
  • Catalyze private sector investments by analyzing the potential for private sector engagement in providing water supply service through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in areas where piped water supply was not available. In-depth studies and provincial investment plans helped identify a number of potential water supply sites suitable for a PPP, one of which has been included in the World Bank-financed Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project (WaSSIP). 
  • Improve capacity of private water operators by providing technical and management know-how to operate a water supply business. From March 2018 to June 2019, the Cambodian Water Supply Association and MISTI implemented a program to build capacity of 12 Cambodian PWOs) with support from the Bank.
  • Support the development of the Second National Action Plan (NAP2) for rural sanitation, which, building on the successful implementation of NAP1, sets out a holistic vision for rural sanitation and strengthens stakeholder coordination and partnership.  
  • Pave the way for institutional reform through the decentralization of rural sanitation functions from the national to the district level. By piloting the decentralization approach for rural sanitation in 15 districts, the TA pushed through significant barriers to help provide clear roles, responsibilities, and processes for implementing sanitation at every level of government.
  • Conduct policy analysis for how to safely manage waste in rural contexts. This helped the government to focus on fecal sludge management (FSM) by developing and getting endorsement for FSM guidelines for rural areas from the Ministry of Rural Development, increasing momentum to achieve Cambodia’s national target of being Open Defecation Free by 2025.  
  • Pioneer WASH-nutrition interventions with a national, child-centered behavior change communication campaign, which is being used in some partners’ efforts, such as UNICEF, Water Aid, and Plan International, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and also in the Bank-financed WaSSIP project to complement infrastructure investment.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank provided US$0.8 million through multi-donor Trust Funds from the Water and Sanitation Program and Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility.  


The Stone Family Foundation provided US$2 million to the Technical Assistance. The Foundation is a private foundation based in the United Kingdom that supports financially sustainable water supply, sanitation, and hygiene enterprises to deliver affordable, high-quality, and reliable services that have a transformational impact on households in Africa and Asia.

Moving Forward

The World Bank-Stone Family Foundation partnership and technical assistance has enabled each partner to advance key strategic objectives in the Cambodian water and sanitation sector. For the Bank, the TA’s outcomes have furthered its operational engagement in the sector through investment lending for the Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project (WaSSIP). This investment is focused on both rural and urban water supply and sanitation services. It takes forward the recommendations on further engagement and involvement of the private sector in water supply. 

For the Foundation, the TA outcomes have supported strategic initiatives such as facilitating local bank lending to private water operators to achieve SDG 6, and working with implementing partner iDE Cambodia to launch the world’s first Development Impact Bond for rural sanitation in partnership with USAID.

The World Bank and the Foundation anticipate continued collaboration to support Cambodia’s private sector to deliver better services for all and to help the country expand water and sanitation services for all.