Seasonal draught forces use of contaminated bore holes
When venturing from Phnom Penh’s central city and traveling west along Cambodia’s state highway seven, in less than 30 minutes you will arrive in the well-known commune town of Prey Totoeng. Generations of farmers have worked their rice fields and tended to animals without a sustainable supply of drinking water – surviving seasonal fluctuations in the water table below the land that otherwise sustains their lives.
The summertime is a particularly harsh period of the year because extreme drought conditions result in dry water sources. When the rainy-season supply of water disappears, then deeper bore holes become the primary source of water. Regardless of the season though, all sources of water are untreated. Forty-eight-year-old Seng Sokngim, a farmer with four children, sees water issues in his community as a safety issue for his children, “I always worry about my kids,” said Sokngim. "Most shallow water sources in the village became dried up and I have to wake up earlier and rush to collect water.”
Prey Totoeng School is large by most measures in the region with just under 1,500 students and 79 teachers. Regard-less of the student population size in a rural community like Prey Totoeng, drinking water at the school is sourced from a bore hole and a shallow well – and used without being treated to remove bacteria, viruses and pathogens.
Mrs. Va Sokha, the Headmaster of Prey Totoeng School said, “My school has no access to clean and safe water. This is so critical for us. We do not have a budget to buy clean drinking water for our students and teachers, so everyone drinks from our existing water source. Our water here is not safe and it is visibly contaminated with germs. Students use it to wash their hands, but they are afraid to drink this water because it is proven unsafe. The big challenge for us here is clean drinking water.”
“I have five family members, and every day I have to buy bottled water like the other students because our school does not have clean drinking water. Everyone has to sort out clean drinking water themselves,” said 10th-grade student Heang Laysiv. The AquaTower and Water-Health and Hygiene Education programs that are provided by Cambodia Beverage Company (Coca-Cola) will forever change the lives of the students like Heang, and the teachers and faculty of Prey Totoeng School.