Lao Department of Water Resources staff visit South Australia for training in groundwater

In a recent visit to Australia by the Lao PDR Department of Water Resources (DWR), staff travelled to Adelaide for practical training in groundwater science and management.

Groundwater use in Lao PDR is steadily increasing across all sectors, yet groundwater management is still very much at a nascent stage. South Australia’s experience in this area provides valuable insights as Lao PDR takes important steps forward in refining and implementing its groundwater policies and plans. In this sense, Lao PDR is taking the opportunity to learn from the experiences of groundwater allocation and management in other jurisdictions and how best to avoid issues in their own planning.

DWR is currently preparing groundwater management plans for priority areas within the country, such as the Sekong, and developing a national database for groundwater.

The visit comes as part of an AWP-supported project, providing technical assistance to prepare a national groundwater profile and pilot Sustainable Groundwater Management Plan for the Sekong Basin.

Hailing from the Groundwater Management Division of DWR, the representatives from Lao PDR joined members of the SA Department for Environment and Water (DEW), Flinders University’s National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

To provide training that can help advance these efforts, a program was prepared collaboratively. It included:

  • Interactive sessions on topics of interest to DWR, including calculation of a groundwater budget and sustainable yield, geogenic pollution (e.g., risks of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater), groundwater database management, and groundwater use for industry
  • Field visits to two key groundwater management areas in the Adelaide region: Willunga Basin and the Lower Murray
  • Scientific exchange with other NCGRT researchers and DEW staff
  • Shared case study presentations on integrated water management in Sub Saharan Africa and the Adelaide Plains that Flinders University/NCGRT and IWMI had previously undertaken to illustrate some of the challenges in groundwater management
  • Detailed discussions on the project activities, progress that has been made on the project outputs and identification of future opportunities for continued engagement.

National groundwater experts and other team members joined the meeting online from Lao PDR.

Following training, the Lao guests confirmed they had gained new skills and knowledge that would benefit them and help serve the mandate of DWR.

Wrap-up meeting at the Department for Environment and Water in Adelaide. Front row left to right: Ounakone Xayviliya (DWR); Daophaphone Bounphakhom (DWR); Simone Stewart (DEW), Back row: Paul Pavelic (IWMI); Okke Batelaan & Eddie Banks (FU/NCGRT), Steve Barnett (DEW).

Mr Ounakone Xayviliya, Deputy Director of the Groundwater Management Division of DWR, observed, “Lao PDR and Australia are very different in the way they use and manage water, yet there are also areas that they have in common.”

Future training opportunities in groundwater science, management and policy are planned for the Department, utilising existing training programs provided by NCGRT.

During the visit, time was spent workshopping the current Lao PDR groundwater database for the Sekong Province on how to improve management of the data, and also how it can be used to inform the management of the resource. Emphasis was placed on the utmost importance of data collection and monitoring of resources. Efforts of this nature do take considerable time; DEW has been incrementally revising the database for South Australia for several decades whilst DWR are just at the starting line.

A reciprocal visit by staff from the Department of Environment and Water to Lao PDR is planned for early 2023.

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