Southeast Asia


Water challenges in Lao PDR

Situated almost entirely within the Mekong River Basin, Lao PDR has abundant freshwater resources. The mountainous country accesses water from a number of Mekong tributaries and smaller water bodies, supporting irrigation, hydropower and fisheries as well as water supply for urban and rural communities.

However, water use in Lao PDR has increased to support rapid social-economic development, which has impacted the availability, quality, and sustainability of the resource. The majority of GDP and employment in Laos PDR is from subsistence agriculture, which relies heavily on rainfall and Lao’s rivers. Of the 80% of people who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, only 20% have access to water for irrigation, and available irrigation schemes are often underutilised or underperforming.

Moreover, Lao PDR is frequently exposed to extreme weather events like typhoons and floods, making it highly vulnerable to climate-related economic shocks that can impact the economy, environment and human health.

To manage water effectively in Lao PDR with adequate provisions for the future, there is a critical need for strong governance that integrates river basin planning, environmental flows and sustainable groundwater management—which is still very much in the nascent stages.

AWP’s support for sustainable water in Lao PDR

Since its inception, AWP has supported a range of water management initiatives in Lao PDR. Our recent activities have focused on skills development for water modelling, the sustainable management of groundwater resources, river basin planning and supporting national level policy development for water resource management. 

In Lao PDR, AWP provided technical input at the national government level to support the drafting of ministerial agreements, to help implement Lao PDR’s Water and Water Resources Law. Australian technical experts worked alongside counterparts from the Department of Water Resources in Laos PDR to prepare a national groundwater profile and pilot sustainable groundwater management plan for the Sekong Basin.

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