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Issues Asia: Cambodia Study

Water in Cambodia

by Oriane Boudinot

ScreenHunter 02 Feb. 12 20.40

Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia, located in an area which experiences the monsoon season from May to November every year, and has the Mekong River which flows through. You wouldn’t think that this country would have water issues, but this is a fact of life. Having lived amongst Cambodians for seven months in 2009, I was exposed to some of these issues.

Drinking Water

Although drinking water is something that is available by opening a faucet in any Western country, this is a privilege which the West has. In a country like Cambodia, the main source of any villager’s drinking water will come from rain fall. Water is collected in huge cement structures which store it for a long period of time. However, this creates unsafe environment parasites, and can also be the source of mosquito reproduction. This means that many people, especially children, get sick with diseases which can be easily treated. However, it is extremely expensive to receive treatment and adequate chemicals to purify the water. When I lived in the orphanage 15 km west of Phnom Penh, the personnel told me that in the beginning of this NGO’s history, many children got sick due to poor quality drinking water. They then received enough donations from an organization in Canada, which allowed this organization to buy a water purification system, which has dramatically reduced the number of sick children.

Contaminated Water

Contaminated also comes from improper waste disposal. Everyone throws their trash on the floor behind the building where they cook, clean or live. This trash just sits in mucky water, which is part of fields that produce their food. This trash is everywhere in the country, especially plastic bags. This trash leaks some toxins into the ground, which then gets into the water, through surface or ground water.

Lack of infrastructure

The lack of appropriate infrastructure in dealing with the excess rain during the rainy season is also a great issue. Every time it rains, the water stagnates in the area, which creates saturated unstable soils, and attracts unwanted living things such as snakes and mosquitoes. Also in the markets, this is an issue with run off toxins being carried through highly congested areas in the cities. This stagnating water also will create unstable grounds for roads, which are mostly dirt roads in this country, creating bad conditions for driving the motorcycles, which is the main form of transportation in Cambodia.

For more information, contact Oriane at:

Cambodia Study Gallery

By Oriane Boudinot

staff in Cambodia
water bottles
in Cambodia
Choeut, Touch and Moul on a water run
in Cambodia
bye bye leonard

Oriane shares why she chose Cambodia for a field study:

"[Why I went to Cambodia] is actually an interesting and random story. I had decided originally (this is around oct 2008) to go to south east (because of my art history background i love that area), and I had put my heart on Thailand. I wanted to teach english and live there for 7 or 8 months.

A month or so later, around end of nov 2008, I was working at the National Gallery of Art in the gift shop, and a guy came to my register. He looked at me, and asked me where I was from. I told him "French - American". I asked him where he was from, and he answered "Le Cambodge". This is the french version for Cambodia. So I looked at him, and asked him if he spoke french, and we ended up having a 45 minute conversation while I was ringing up people about what I was doing, what I would like to do, and that I was going to South east Asia soon. He advised me to go to cambodia, because it needed more help. And that was it, I had made up my mind on going to Cambodia, because I had met a Cambodian man who had fled the country right before the genocide of the Khmer Rouge happened.

When I left for Cambodia, I spent a few days in Vietnam, and immediately when I entered Cambodia I saw a huge difference in poverty and infrastructure. I had no contacts, so I had sent out emails to orphanages around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I spent one week in each city, touring the tourist sites, as well as the orphanages. The only one that I found that was completely run and operated by Cambodians was Save the Children Cambodia for Development (SCD). And this is where I decided to spend 7 months.

A month and a half after I arrived in Cambodia, I went to Thailand, and again almost immediately, I was so happy I had made my mind on Cambodia. It is a country that has not developed as much for tourism, and still has a raw feeling to it, especially when you are in the middle of villages.

After my return for a few weeks, I am so happy of my random decision to listen to a man I had just met, to travel to a country and meet people I barely understood. Now I have come to know and love this country. I will always be in contact with the people of SCD, and I hope that in the children's future, we will be able to work together to work and improve Cambodia." 2011

in Cambodia


Cambodia: Water Brief

by Sunyoung Park (2013

Water is a resource that Cambodia has in abundance, but health problems

persist in rural areas of the country due to unsafe drinking water. Access to water is not difficult for most of the population – 91% of households have water within 30 minutes round trip from their house, even in the dry season (2012). However, access to clean drinkable water is a problem for many households in rural areas with 46% of rural households taking their drinking water from a non-improved source during the dry season, and 23% during the wet season (2012).

Typical drinking water sources are unsafe and that household water filtration is a useful but complex intervention strategy for addressing this problem. The impact of this poor water quality is extensive but largely avoidable disease amongst children and adults, large numbers of whom live with chronic diarrhea as well as other water borne diseases such as typhoid. Recent studies have shown between 15 and 30% of children under 5 have had diarrhea within the last two weeks (2012). Particularly in young children these diseases can be fatal if not appropriately treated; with low knowledge amongst the population this is a significant risk, contributing to an under 5 child mortality rate of 54 deaths in 1,000 children (2012). Health services are improving but still limited in many areas in terms of staff and medical resources.

Lack of access to clean water is still a major problem for many people in Cambodia with serious negative impacts Cambodia needs to perform an observational study of potential drinking water sources and identify the problems the country faces in treating water for consumption.


2012. clearcambodia. Web. Retrieved from

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