By Chakriya Khiev


“Clean water business is not only for making profit.” 


So said Phon Sokun, owner of Tbeng Khpos, a private water operator in Kampong Chhnang Province, and we completely agree. 


“It also gives back to society with clean and safe water for people to use whenever they want. It improves health, hygiene and comfort to all Cambodians, especially kids and vulnerable people,” he added.


Access to safe, clean and affordable water, and the challenges and solutions around this issue, were the focus of the 4th Cambodian Water Conference and Exhibition today. 


CAPRED, together with our partners at the Cambodia Water Supply Association (CWA) and Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI) organised the event.


The two-day conference and exhibition was attended by government, NGOs, development partners, business associations and private companies. 


Private water operators (PWOs) are key to the supply of clean water in Cambodia. It is an essential public service for the wellbeing and livelihoods of Cambodian people.


CWA has 317 members including 284 licensed PWOs, operating in 23 provinces. There are an estimated 500 PWOs in Cambodia, both licensed and unlicensed. Most have played an important role in supplying clean and affordable water to Cambodian people in rural and agglomerated areas. 


In the last ten years, PWOs have installed over 500,000 water connections across Cambodia, providing water to two million people. 


Australia has been part of funding this vital work through viability gap funding (VGF)


“Providing policy and investment support for the development of piped water supply will be one of CAPRED’s key activities under its infrastructure domain”, said David Ray, CAPRED Facility Director. “This work leverages Australia’s past effective water sector work on VGF, which has given up to one million rural Cambodians access to clean, piped water for the first time.”


There’s still work to be done in the sector. The conference highlighted challenges such as better suited technology and the need to improve business practices, capacity building and sector coordination. 


“The water supply sector needs to accelerate and strengthen its effective management,” said H.E Oum Sotha, Secretary of State of MISTI.

“Providing access to safe, clean, and secure water is essential to supporting production, businesses and services in all sectors of Cambodia. And access needs to meet the four conditions of quality, safety, sustainability, and affordability,” he added. 


Access to safe water is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG6), and we’re supporting Cambodia’s work towards this. One way is through an innovative water financing plan called the Water Development Fund (WDF). 


The WDF is a financing mechanism designed to attract, leverage and manage investments for a coordinated and collaborative approach to gaining universal access to clean water for all Cambodians. 


CAPRED also supports capacity building across the WDF and other projects. 


For PWOs like Phon Sokun, the annual Cambodian Water Conference is an opportunity for capacity building, networking and knowledge. 


“I have learnt a lot from the CWA conference and trainings,” he said. “Past Australian funding also helped me to build capacity to manage my business and be able to provide clean and safe water to people.”    


CTA: Learn more about Australia’s support for clean, piped water in Cambodia