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Can I drink the tap water in Cambodia? What is the best water filter for Cambodia

Can I drink the tap water in Cambodia and what’s the best water filter?

Is the tap water in Cambodia safe to drink? What is the water quality like in Phnom Penh? Common tap water issues in Cambodia? What is the best water filter for Cambodia? Is bottled water better than tap water?

Whether you live in Cambodia, plan to move there or just visiting we will answer all these questions and more. If you want a short answer then jump to the summary at the end.

Where does tap water in Cambodia come from?

The main source of drinking water is surface water (mainly the Mekong river) and rain fall. Rain 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. Source: https://thewaterproject.org/water-crisis/water-in-crisis-cambodia

Diarrhoea, which often results from poor sanitation and hygiene, is a major cause of children’s illnesses, including stunting and impaired brain development. One in three Cambodians uses water from a non-improved drinking source, which means they do not hygienically separate human waste from human contact. Source: https://www.unicef.org/cambodia/water-sanitation-and-hygiene

Construction works on Bakheng Water Production Facilities, Cambodia’s largest water treatment plant, began in 2020 to allow an increase in water production capacity in Phnom Penh, Cambodia`s capital and the largest city, by 65%, from current 600 000 m3/day to around 1 000 000 m3/day expected in 2024. Source: https://www.eib.org/en/press/news/safe-drinking-water-for-cambodia-s-phnom-pehn

From January to May the water level will become low, then it synthesis with the sun heat to produce moss which we can see directly by our eyes during dry season”, Naro said, adding that the authorities are trying to disinfect virus, bacteria, and moss by using chlorine. Consumers should leave their taps open for the first round of water to be released so that the smell will go away.
Source: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501037497/unpleasant-tap-water-odour-due-to-moss-caused-by-dry-season/

Water treatment in Cambodia

The government has set the goal of 100% access to water in all urban areas by 2025. Currently about 76% of the population have access to “improved” water, 100% in urban areas and 76% in rural areas. However, as of 2020, only 47 percent of all Cambodia’s villages, about 53 percent of Cambodian households, have access to clean, piped treated water. More than 2 million people in Cambodia lack access to safe water, and 3 million lack access to improved sanitation. With approximately 77 percent of Cambodians living in rural areas, poor access to safe water and sanitation disproportionately affects its rural communities. Source: https://water.org/our-impact/where-we-work/cambodia/

Diarrhoea, which often results from poor sanitation and hygiene, is a major cause of children’s illnesses, including stunting and impaired brain development. One in three Cambodians uses water from a non-improved drinking source, which means they do not hygienically separate human waste from human contact. Source: https://www.unicef.org/cambodia/water-sanitation-and-hygiene 

Construction works on Bakheng Water Production Facilities, Cambodia’s largest water treatment plant, began in 2020 to allow an increase in water production capacity in Phnom Penh, Cambodia`s capital and the largest city, by 65%, from current 600 000 m3/day to around 1 000 000 m3/day expected in 2024. Source: https://www.eib.org/en/press/news/safe-drinking-water-for-cambodia-s-phnom-pehn

Can you drink the tap water in Phnom Penh?

Tap water in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is officially drinkable by the government, reports in newspapers and radios give this information. In Phnom Penh, the Pasteur Institute carries out potability tests among other activities (vaccine, medical tests, etc.). The water provided to Phnom Penh and nearby towns, such as Takhmao, is pumped from the Sap, Bassac, and Mekong rivers. It is then treated with chlorine and polyaluminium chloride. The filtering process is based on national water standards and WHO standards used by the European Union and the United States of America. Source: https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/keeping-bottled-water-clean

The water generally tastes pretty bad as the chlorine content is high to keep it safe from bacteria and other pathogens. An affordable and high quality water filter such as Ultra by TAPP Water will make it taste great and safe to drink.

If you boil the water then it’s definitely safe to drink in the short term. Note however that it could still contain contaminants such as nitrates, pesticides, microplastics and heavy metals that might impact your long term health.

Image: New water pipes for tap water in Phnom Penh

Fractured water pipes under much of the city often result in raw sewage mixing with clean water supplies and experts advise people not to drink untreated tap-water. Although some pipes have been replaced recently with French aid, many areas do not have bacteria-free water and leaks in the pipes mean that water does not reach the outer suburbs.

Today wild connections have disappeared in Phnom Penh. Leaks represent barely 5% of production, just like in Singapore or Tokyo, two of the cities with the best water supply systems in the world. This rate is five times higher for Thames Water, the company responsible for the distribution of water in London. Virtually all indicators show that Phnom Penh’s water supply system is better than London’s or Washington‘s. Source: https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/754830/

Bottled water in Cambodia not safe to drink

Image: Bottled water in Phnom Penh

The most popular bottled water brands for foreigners in Cambodia are Kulen, Dasani, Evian, Fiji and Aquafina. The fact that Evian and Fiji water are sold in Cambodia is crazy but it’s understandable that people don’t trust local brands.

Almost all of Cambodia’s local water bottling companies siphon unprocessed water from local rivers or receive treated water from the Phnom Penh Water Authority. The water is usually treated and filtered through reverse osmosis.

Random tests of local bottled water brands in Cambodia showed that two of the 10 tested brands of bottled failed purity tests. They had high levels of nitrites as well as microplastics and other contaminants. The government should thoroughly test all bottled water before allowing it to be sold.
Source: https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/tests-reveal-tap-water-drinkable

It is estimated that more than 4.5 million plastic water bottles are used each month in the tourism sector in Cambodia. Hundreds of organisations around the country, including many restaurants and cafes, are supporting the move to limit the amount of plastic water bottles sold. So far this effort has been unsuccessful.

What is the best water filter for Phnom Penh and Cambodia?

To be safe it’s recommended to always filter the water in Cambodia. Historically the only filters that guaranteed safe drinking water where reverse osmosis filters used by many hotels and restaurants. Thanks to new technology it’s now possible to produce small, sustainable and affordable water filter. This includes faucet water filters, gravity filters, water bottle filters and water straws.

Ultra by TAPP Water was recently launched in Cambodia as now available to buy from our local partner TAPP Water Cambodia. Ultra filters over 100 contaminants including 99.99% bacteria, microplastics, chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and much more. It’s super easy to install and each cartridge last about 3-6 months depending on family size and water use. Ultra by TAPP Water is one of the simplest and most affordable alternatives for clean tasty tap water in Cambodia

Find out more on https://www.khmer24.com/en/tapp-water-adid-7358018.html

For hotels, restaurants, offices, schools and other public institutions there are a range of other great water filters suitable for Cambodia. The Ministry of Environment and the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia in Phnom Penh recently provided water filters to 16 schools in Phnom Penh. Source: education.ams.com.kh

Summary about tap water in Cambodia

  • Access to tap water has vastly improved but 50% of the population still lack access to potable tap water
  • The tap water in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is treated according to WHO standards and keeps improving
  • To be on the safe side only drink filtered water in Cambodia or boiled water in rural areas with treated water
  • Bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water in Cambodia and should be avoided if possible as it’s also an environmental disaster
  • The best water filter for Cambodia in as affordable and simple to install an ultrafiltration faucet filter like Ultra by TAPP Water
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