Supporting Thailand’s Water Data Reform

On 23-24 May 2019, Thailand’s Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) and national partners held a workshop in Bangkok on ‘Information Governance and Adaptation M&E in the Thai Water Sector’.

About 40 mid-level professionals attended the two-day workshop with expertise in water, meteorology, forestry, agriculture and information management.

At the request of the ONWR to provide an Australian expert, the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) mobilised Prof Rob Vertessy (Global Change Advisory) to share Australia’s experience in water data management and participate in the workshop.

Prof Vertessy presented on the Good Practice Guidelines for Water Data Management Policy and the Bureau of Meteorology’s water information services. He was accompanied by DFAT’s Lead Regional Water Specialist, Dr John Dore, who presented on Australia’s involvement in water issues in the Mekong region.

“I was impressed by the calibre of the workshop participants, their eagerness to learn from the Australian experience and the progress that they have already made in developing water information services,” said Prof Vertessy.

“It is clear that the ONWR have significant government backing, effectively championed by the Secretary-General Somkiat Prachamwong. It is also evident that the ONWR have employed some of Thailand’s most capable water professionals to progress the country’s water reform agenda.”

The ONWR has expertise in water informatics and is supported by the Hydro-informatics Institute (HII), a specialist institute established for research and development in the field of science, technology and databases in water resource information management.

A presentation by an HII researcher demonstrated the existence of fairly sophisticated water information services for flood forecasting in Thailand. This involved clever integration of diverse data sets from multiple institutions and the effective rendering of that information for various clients at different levels within government.

To date, much less emphasis has been placed on developing services to support water resource management and policy and this is where the Thailand Government is now seeking assistance. Water information and water pricing are Thailand’s highest priorities and focus for collaboration with Australia.

Photo: Secretary-General Somkiat Prachamwong (center) with Dr John Dore (to the left) and Prof Rob Vertessy (to the right).

Feedback on Australia’s contribution to the workshop has been extremely positive, strengthening future Australia-Thailand water cooperation, with workshop participants reporting a much better appreciation of water information services and how to best develop them to strengthen water management and governance.

“I believe they can see more clearly how water information can and should underpin evidence-based water policy and management decisions,” said Prof Vertessy.

The ONWR have recently drafted an agenda for developing water information services that support objectives and actions outlined in their 20-year master plan on water resource management.

The DFAT Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Paul Stephens, will continue supporting the relationship via strategic engagement with the ONWR Secretary-General.

Feature photo: Sakon Nakhon, Thailand (credit: Adobe Stock / Alex)
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