Sustainable groundwater management for the Sekong Basin

Since March 2021, AWP has been supporting the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) to better manage and plan for the future of its groundwater resources.

Laos is undergoing rapid development that heavily relies on its natural resources including groundwater. The resource is mainly accessed through shallow wells and boreholes in lowland areas for domestic use and market gardening, but the Government of Laos realises that there is significant scope for expansion in high-value economic sectors such as irrigation and industry. There is also the potential to utilise groundwater to secure domestic water needs—but insufficient knowledge on the resource is impeding the ability to make strategic decisions on groundwater management.

An experienced, interdisciplinary team from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) based at Flinders University, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the South Australian Department for Environment and Water (DEW), alongside national groundwater management specialists, is collaborating with DWR to develop a National Groundwater Profile and a pilot Sustainable Groundwater Management Plan (SGMP) for the Sekong Basin.

The development of reliable hydrogeological maps and databases that can help to delineate the groundwater development potential in the major aquifer systems of Laos will form a crucial part of the Groundwater Profile. To advance this, a series of online meetings and workshops between Australian and Lao partners have fostered stakeholder engagement and facilitated support and guidance for DWR in hydrogeological surveying and secondary data gathering.

When the Groundwater Profile is complete, the pilot SGMP for the Sekong Basin will evaluate the potential for expanding irrigated agriculture, food production, and supplying local communities with sufficient water to enable sanitation and hygiene practices to support livelihoods in the long term. It will also help to strengthen the country’s resilience to climatic uncertainties.

Feature image: Staff of the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (left) and the International Water Management Institute (middle) monitoring a domestic well in Pakxong district in the presence of the owner (right). (credit: Mathieu Viossanges / International Water Management Institute)
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