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A Matter of Good Taste

PRESS RELEASE: Cambodian preferences for drinking water

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – A survey published by Cambridge Journals this week finds people in Cambodia consider taste to be one of the most important attributes of their drinking water and are sensitive to the taste of chlorine disinfectant.

More than 900 households in two Phnom Penh suburbs took part in the survey led by Duke University in partnership with WaterSHED, a local water, sanitation and hygiene organization. Less than a quarter of households surveyed had a piped water connection in their home and most (82%) relied on rainwater as their primary source for drinking water for much of the year

According to the survey, participants “generally identified taste acceptability as the most important attribute in their decision about which alternative [water treatment options] to select, followed by effectiveness of treatment [against disease], price and finally the quantity of water”

During a blind taste test, nearly half (48%) of participants preferred bottled drinking water over chlorinated options such as Aquatabs or taste-masked Aquatabs; this preference grew larger as the concentration of chemical treatment increased. Conversely, more than 80% of participants identified a chlorinated option as their least favourite.

WaterSHED partnered with Duke University to further its understanding of consumer preferences for safe drinking water.

“For many years we’ve suspected Cambodians didn’t like the taste of chlorine but this is the first time it has been explored scientifically,” said Geoff Revell, WaterSHED’s Regional Program Manager. “This is informative for the Cambodian government and NGOs in the water sector to have some hard evidence for planning future interventions related to household drinking water.”

Authors of the survey conclude that “a more successful approach to encourage consumption of drinking water treated with chlorine – and which would perhaps take advantage of the fact that taste preferences may evolve over time – might be to deliver it directly through piped water networks or automatic dispensers outside of the control of users. “

“Look at Phnom Penh water supply,” Revell explains. “It has been really successful at developing a chlorinated system over the years that provides reliable, safe drinking water right out of the tap.”

To view the full study go to:

For more information contact:
Julia White, WaterSHED Communications Manager
+855 (0)77 530 815