Safe Drinking Water in Cambodia

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Problem Statement:

During the rainy seasons in Cambodia there is an abundance of water available falling from the sky which is relatively safe to drink, should it be properly captured and stored. However, in the dry season, improper sanitation, sources, storage and practices contribute to the abundance of water-borne disease causing bacteria that make individuals, families and communities, sick. Contaminated water from well, ground-source, rivers and lakes can be tested and rated for consumption based on levels of nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, manganese, iron, fluoride, arsenic, total Coliforms, E. coli, V. cholerae, turbidity, color and pH, to name a few.

There currently are filters being distributed throughout Cambodia. However, Tonlé Sap, a boating community in Central Cambodia, has a hard time using these filters because of their weight. The floating houses in the community cannot uphold the heavy filters. A new design for a lighter and more efficient filter needs to be installed to bring clean drinking water to this community.

Project Goals:

As over 40% of the rural Cambodian population does not have access to safe drinking water, our goal is to:

  • build upon current sanitation practices
  • explore new possibilities
  • pin-point unaddressed issues regarding clean drinking water in Cambodia to aid the communities in need

We want to specifically address the boating communities in Cambodia who have limited access to successful water sanitation stations such as BioSand filters, as they are currently too heavy and immobile to accommodate a floating home.


In addition to an alternative design to the current BioSand filter in use in the rest of Cambodia, we have looked into ceramic water filters as they are a significantly lighter alternative that maintains filtration quality. Ceramic filters may be useful to be integrated into the water communities of Cambodia where weight is an issue. See our summary of a study done by Unicef here. We are still in the research phase of our project and expect to soon be in the design phase.

However, we have ultimately decided to go with an improved BioSand filter design. This system that is lighter in weight and has a better possibility of working in a floating boat community.

View our most recent design here

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Cambodia Demographics:

  • Total Population:
    • 14,138,000
  • General Age Distribution:
    • (0-14) – 31.9%
    • (15-64) – 64.3%
    • (65+) – 3.8%
  • Religion:
    • Buddhism: 95%,
    • Islam: 1.6%,
    • Christianity: 0.2%,
    • Others: 3.2%
  • Official language:
    • Khmer
  • Ethnic Groups:
    • Khmer (90%)
    • Vietnamese (5%)
    • Chinese (1%)
    • Other (4%)

This Gapminder graph shows the relation of child mortality and access to clean drinking water across the globe. Cambodia shows a significantly low percentage of people who have access to improved water sources compare to the U.S., and roughly a 50% higher child mortality rate. This correlation conveys that if a country has more access to an improved water source, then children could have a higher expectancy of living.

“Longitudinal prevalence of diarrheal disease in children has been shown to be a powerful predictor of mortality in children in developing countries” – (Morris et al. 1996)

The Lake Clinic – Cambodia:

We have contacted The Lake Clinic, an organization that aims to provide medical and health care to the boating community of Tonlé Sap in rural Cambodia. We hope to team up with them to design a BioSand or ceramic filter that can provide clean and safe drinking water to this community. Therefore, we have decided to focus in on this community specifically.

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A map of Tonlé Sap, a boating community in central Cambodia

Facts about our community, Tonlé Sap:

  • Fish stocks and catch are dropping, deforestation is widespread and sewage & other waste are polluting the lake, which provides drinking water for thousands.
  • The largest threats to the flooded forests are the clearing of forests to make way for agricultural land, collection of firewood, and collection of wood for fish traps.
  • 12 percent of children die before the age of five due to tough living conditions including lack of medical care, contaminated drinking water, and malnourishment.
  • Providing over 3 million people with fresh fish means that fishermen are always needed. In total, 80,000 people live on the water permanently occupying over 170 floating villages.
  • About 70 percent of the villagers earn only the equivalent of 70 cents to $1.90 a day

Read more about Tonlé Sap here

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Our Interviews:
In order to further our understanding of not only the communities we are trying to work with but also our understanding of successes and failures with similar projects going on, we have contacted other organizations that focus on bringing clean drinking water to communities to ask them about our questions and concerns for the project. Here are the interviews we have conducted so far.

Kickstarter Video:


Water For Cambodia
Cambodia NGOs Sheet.pngPhone: (401) 783-7030

The Lake Clinic

Potters for Peace

The Water Project
Phone: (603) 369-3858

pAge Paper
Teri Dankovich

Water Aid
Phone: (212) 683-0430

Water and Sanitation Program
Phone: +1 (202) 473-5977

Life Water
Phone: (888) 543-3426


(Top – From left to right) Taylor, Blake, Caleb; (Bottom) Violet, Sarah

Contact the team for questions:

Caleb Ostgaard

Taylor Johnson

Blake Motal

Sarah Rayburn

Violet Tylock


Move all my comments in red to the very bottom of your website so I can refer to what I wrote, but the reader won’t be inconvenienced by my comments. Lots of information. Please organize and wrap up what you will do. At present, this would receive a “B+“, but I recognize that you are not finished.
Please start with an introduction, problem statement, or short summary…. why don’t the people in Cambodia get fish from the ocean?
We switched the sections around to include our introduction at the top. We included information about fishing in the lake to show how people are living in the community we are working with.
Please fix formatting. Also please put short statement beneath each image.
Please make the website full screen on your computer. We have edited to make it look nice as a full page, and it looks different when you have a smaller window open. The platform we are using to make a website doesn’t translate very well from desktop to desktop.
We also added captions to all images on our website besides the very first image. It is more of an opening image to the website; it is not a picture we wish to be explained.
I’ll be looking for a plan and recommendations for what we might do next.

Are there any people involved that you can refer to, or a community? Can you address individual NGO’s that you might want to work with? Is Ryan Walter a Stakeholder? I think you state that the scale is 1-5, but it seems you use 1-10, is this true?