Access to clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right! However, nearly 50% of Siem Reap's rural population do not have any access to clean water. Additionally, 82% do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Cambodia still has a high infant and child mortality rate with 1 in 7 children under 5 dying from preventable diseases; many of these stemming from water-borne diseases. Water-borne illnesses inevitably keep people away from their work while they're sick, therefore stopping them from earning an income to support their families.
Luckily, our partner at the Cambodia Clean Water Project has been working hard to help provide clean water to Cambodian villages surrounding Siem Reap.
How the Project is Helping!
The team at the project has been helping rural communities in Cambodia since 2005. They have four programs that cover the areas of health, food security, education, and economic development.
Their health programme aims to reduce preventable illnesses by distributing bio-sand water filters around the region. The filters are estimated to reduce viral contamination by 90%, as well as bacterial contamination by 90% to 99%. Part of the weekly filter installation is teaching the locals how to use, maintain and clean the filters properly. Effectively, the team educates as many locals as they can on the importance of good hygiene and sanitation practices.
Working with Communities
In rural Cambodia, each village has a chief who represents the people. The team works with the village chief to assess and plan to deliver the most effective clean water source for the people. This includes not just the distribution and installation of the filters but also planning the workshops for using the filters. Sometimes it is necessary to plan on drilling wells when there are none so that the village has a constant water supply.
One filter can serve up to fifteen people, or three families (at an average family size of five). Each week the project can deliver around 7 to 14 filters. That means there is the potential for 210 Cambodians to gain access to clean water every week!
In 2019, 643 filters were delivered to families surrounding Siem Reap!
Each year, the team sets a goal to deliver a minimum of 410 filters. This is a very achievable goal for such a dedicated team. Over the years, they have built and distributed more than 5000 filters; making an enormous impact on the lives of villagers in rural Cambodia.
One filter provides EIGHTY LITRES of clean water EVERY day!
How do Bio-Sand Filters work?
Following the solidification of the cement in the outer layer, they are filled with specifically selected rocks, pebbles and sand. The top layer is a biolayer: a 1-2cm layer of micro-organisms that eat some pathogens, helping the filter treat the water better. Next, the water passes through filtration sand which removes pathogens and suspended solids from the water. Finally, the water moves through a layer of separation gravel and then drainage gravel; these two layers support the filtration through the sand but stop any sand going into the outlet tube. In half an hour, 20 litres of water can be filtered through this system!
An added benefit of the filters is that they don't rely on power. The filtration system works solely on gravity. Once the water makes it out of the outlet tube it is safe to drink; no more need for boiling!
Education on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Education is key to helping communities identify the link between unsafe water and many deadly water-borne diseases. Therefore, the process does not simply end with installing the filters. Training on proper use and maintenance of the filters is conducted for those who need it. As well as on proper storage, basic hygiene and sanitation practices. The team ensures they are well equipped to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases. This is an essential step for the success of the project.
With proper care and cleaning, one bio-sand water filter can provide clean water for up to 20 years!
How you Can Help!
The help of volunteers to construct the bio-filters is invaluable! Volunteers work alongside local staff at the project, helping to construct the cement outer layer, prepare the sand and gravel, and deliver essential training for the communities. It is a great way to see the impact of their work first hand! Of course, for those unable to volunteer, you can still support the project through donations!