Southeast Asia

Thailand

Water challenges in Thailand

Water management challenges in Thailand are becoming increasingly complex due to growing demand, rapid urbanisation, land use change, aging infrastructure, exacerbated by the impacts of a changing climate.  Water scarcity is a major issue across large parts of Thailand, particularly in the centre, north and northeast. A severe drought in 2020 was the country’s worst in 40 years, worsening existing overuse issues and crippling farmers who rely on rice, rubber and sugar production for their livelihoods. During periods of drought, existing water access and quality issues escalate as saltwater intrudes on the rivers relied upon for freshwater, and groundwater becomes further polluted and depleted.

On the other hand, parts of the country also experience frequent periods of severe flooding as a result of relentless, heavy rainfall, bringing with it a set of challenging water quality impacts. The variability of water here is an ongoing challenge. Monsoonal rainfall patterns restrict water availability during the dry season, leaving communities to rely on what is stored within reservoirs.

As one of the countries in the lower part of the Mekong Basin, Thailand is also impacted by water use decisions made upstream. Not only do reduced flows impact livelihoods by reducing farming and aquaculture productivity, but fragile ecosystems are damaged too.

AWP’s support for sustainable water in Thailand

AWP has supported important knowledge exchange activities between Australia and Thailand, including working with the Office of the National Water Resources on mitigating the impact of extreme events through early warning systems. This builds on earlier work with Thailand’s Royal Irrigation Department on the requesting and sharing of water resources as a strategy to address increasing water scarcity. Reservoir water quality management has been another priority area for Thailand, and AWP is contributing to water quality monitoring manuals and processes for ongoing measurement and mitigation.

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