Laos groundwater expertise reaching new heights

Groundwater is important for helping communities in Laos deal with climate change, grow food, and improve their lives and livelihoods. Since 2021, the Australian Water Partnership has been working with officials in Lao PDR to come up with better ways to manage their groundwater.

In Laos, leaders understand that groundwater is key for dealing with climate challenges, improving farming, and making life better in rural areas.

From left to right: Keomanivone Phouthakhanty, Chithtavanh Keolasy, Souksakhone Phouthaamath and Sounipha Xaiyakeo mapping hydrogeomorphological features.

To make sure we handle this unseen but vital water resource well, experts from Flinders University, the Department for Environment and Water South Australia (DEW), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) have been working alongside local advisors to help develop local knowledge on groundwater management.

Following a February workshop, officials from the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Provincial Offices of Natural Resources and the National University of Laos joined a two-day groundwater training session in Vang Vieng. The training was aimed at improving participants’ skills in gathering, using and analysing data for groundwater management.

Participants joined a field visit to Tha Xang in the Vientiane Plain, where groundwater irrigation supports high value organic vegetable farming. National University of Laos students presented their work on risk analysis of pesticide pollution from a nearby banana plantation. This provided an opportunity to showcase discussed concepts of groundwater flow and pollution transport.

From left to right: Lammome Sayavong, Ounakone Xayviliya, Latsamee Kinglattana, Pockkham Sinthavong and Sithong Ketsana identifying potential aquifers

Trainers Professor Okke Batelaan, Dr Eddie Banks (Flinders University), Steve Barnett, Simone Stewart (DEW), Dr Paul Pavelic, Dr Somphasith Douangsavanh and Mathieu Viossanges (IWMI) delivered highly interactive, hands-on sessions.

“The participants discovered the sometimes surprising hydrogeological concepts and they worked on real Laos context scenarios from having ‘no data’ to ‘initial data’ and ‘detailed data’,” said Professor Batelaan.

Mathieu Viossanges added, “having the training tailor-made for the participants, with examples grounded in day-to-day groundwater issues and learning-by-doing, ensured a high involvement and commitment of trainees.”

Ms Keomanivone Phouthakhanty of the Groundwater Management Division of the Department of Water Resources reflected: “The training provided me great lessons from all the experts and made me have a deeper understanding of groundwater, its flow direction, etc. This is very useful for applying in my work and for groundwater management in Lao PDR.”

The Australian Water Partnership project ‘Support for the management of groundwater resources in Lao PDR’, led by Flinders University and supported by IWMI and DEW, works closely with the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Lao PDR.

Featured image: All participants received a certificate of attendance during a ceremony with the amazing Vang Vieng karstic landscape in the background and balloons passing by! Source: Flinders University.
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