In recognition of its world class performance in water supply and self-sufficiency, the Cambodian Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) under the leadership of General Director Ek Sonn Chan has been named the winner of the Stockholm Industry Water Award 2010.
Historically, the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, thrived by the rivers of Tonle Sap and the Mekong. However, decades of conflicts left the water supply system running low until the 1990s. In 1993 Mr. Ek Sonn Chan was appointed as General Director of the city’s Water Supply Authority (PPWSA). Together with his team, he managed to refurbish the whole supply system, introduce cost-effective billing and payment collection methods, as well as world class management to provide water to almost all of the city’s residents.
“The PPWSA has successfully fought corruption and shown this can be achieved in a developing country on a large-scale basis using simple but effective management techniques that are based on well-accepted business principles and strategies. As a self-sufficient company, operating without subsidies from the state, PPWSA today provides 24-hour service and 90 per cent coverage to a city of 1.3 million and fully recovers its costs as it continues to develop both its infrastructure and management,” said the International Award Jury in its citation. The PPWSA will receive the award during the World Water Week in Stockholm 2010, September 5-11.
A new drive towards a better future
Accepting the award on behalf of PPWSA, Mr. Ek Sonn Chan said the Stockholm Industry Water Award puts his organisation in the same league as other world class water industry organisations, reinforcing their drive towards achieving future objectives. “My team is encouraged by this prestigious award to carry on our mission to increase our collection efficiency, improve water regulation, and deliver affordable water to the poor. We will continue to work to provide water continuously for a price affordable by our society through good management and cost-recovery practices and despite increases in electricity and other costs,” he said.
In 1998, the PPWSA provided clean drinking water to all households in the city area. Water losses due to leakages in pipes and pumps declined from 72 per cent in 1993 to 6 per cent by 2008, which is very low in an international comparison. Meanwhile, the bill collection ratio reached over 98 percent – which improved the PPWSA’s costs-recovery. Today, the authority meets international standards as it provides leading edge services to its customers.
According to Mr. Ek Sonn Chan, the road ahead is full of ambition. “Our future goals pave a challenging road ahead, as we aim to expand water provision at the same rates and standards to Phnom Penh’s suburban areas and surrounding regions. We’re working on reducing water loss from current 5.9 percent to 4 percent by 2020, which would place us in the same league as Singapore and Tokyo. We will continue to improve the efficiency of our staff and revision practices as we work towards providing water at a cheaper price.”
Developing nations can achieve more
The PPWSA was supported by international donors in its efforts to reach where it is today. However, it managed to become entirely self-sustainable as it benchmarked itself against the best operators in both developing and developed nations. PPWSA’s work has contributed to visible improvements in public health and a reduction of constraints to industrial, social and economic developments in Cambodia’s capital.
“The PPWSA has a strong commitment to social and environmental responsibility. It has shown the developing world as a whole that large cities can expect continuous access to clean water. It stands as a role model for those committed to improving their business practices and increasing their level of service to customers. The PPWSA has now taken on the challenge to improve Phnom Penh’s sanitation system, and is also scheduled for an initial public offering on Cambodia’s new stock exchange later this year,” said the Jury in its citation.
Mr. Ek Sonn Chan is proud of the PPWSA’s achievement. “We provided an important role model for the development of our nation, Cambodia, which helped improve the country’s image internationally after decades of strife and conflict. Developing nations must believe in their own people’s capabilities to achieve their own goals,” he said.
Water revenues rise with customer increase
PPWSA revenues grew by 11 percent during the first five months of the year compared with the same period in 2009, Mr. Ek Sonn Chan said. The water authority generated 10 million U.S. dollars in unaudited revenues in 2010 to the end of May.
“The increase is the result of a rise in new customers as Phnom Penh recovers following the world economic crisis,” he was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.
The authority generated an average of 2 million U.S. dollars per month since January from supplying water in Phnom Penh, an 11 percent rise from the 1.8 million averaged per month during the first five months last year, PPWSA statistics showed.
The PPWSA vends water at 0.25 U.S. dollar per cubic meter, kept cheap by maintaining a low loss rate around 6.3 percent, Ek Sonn Chan said.
It plans to expand production by building a third 80 million U. S. dollars water treatment station in late 2010, he said, able to produce some 130,000 cubic meters of water per day once complete.
Presently the PPWSA has two main water treatment stations able to produce a combined 300,000 cubic meters of water a day, distributed to customers through a 1,783-kilometer-long pipe network, according to information provided by the authority. The stations are located in Prek village and Chroy Changvar commune.
The authority plans to produce 430,000 cubic meters of clean water per day by 2015, distributed through a 2,300-kilometer -long network. It aims to distribute 560,000 cubic meters through 2,800 kilometers of pipeline by 2020.
To learn more about the PPWSA’s success story read the 2007 article by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) “An Exemplary Water Utility in Asia” and watch the ADB documentary “The Connection”