The MRC’s State of the Basin Report (SOBR) is a flagship product of the organization and an integral part of the MRC’s strategic planning cycle. Compiled about every five years based on the available data and information, the report assesses conditions and trends within the basin and the impacts that development and use of water and related natural resources are having. The SOBR provides a statement of past trends and current conditions, and seeks to highlight and provide guidance to Member Countries on significant transboundary issues that require cooperation among basin countries to address. The SOBR 2023 is structured around the Mekong River Basin Indicator Framework, consisting of 5 dimensions: Environment, Social, Economic, Climate Change, and Cooperation.
As a longstanding collaborator of MRCS, FutureWater was engaged to support the development of the Economic and Climate Change chapters of the SOBR 2023 and perform the related activities of data analyses, advisory on data gaps and SOBR content, attractive presentation of key results, and communication with Member Countries and specialized MRCS staff to address their comments and suggestions.
The Mekong River and its tributaries are critical waterways that support the economy and food supply chains of both Cambodia and Lao PDR. However, these waterways also present a significant risk. Flooding and drought events are becoming increasingly erratic, longer, and more intense as a result of the compounding effects of anthropogenic climate change. In support of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in the Mekong River basin, appropriate data collection, integrated management of data and proper analysis are crucial as a basis for decision-making and policy development. There have been numerous efforts in data collection, analysis, and monitoring by relevant key stakeholders such as MRC, MoWRAM, NCDM and other development partners. Those systems have been developed to track climate information, provide basic data for risk-informed technical planning at the national and local level. However, data availability and the ability to contextualize information at local level remain a big challenge for Cambodia, which leads to the persistence of misinformation and misunderstanding of risks associated with living near the Mekong River and its tributaries.
In 2021, UNDP received funding from Ministry of Environment the Government of Republic of Korea for the project “Enhancing Integrated Water Management and Climate Resilience in Vulnerable Urban Areas of the Mekong River Basin”. This project looks to address gaps in data collection management and analysis, enhance institutional and technical capacity at the subnational level for integrated climate and flood risk management, enhance availability of resources for investment in water-related risk reduction, and aid the flow of risk knowledge and coordination across the borders of Cambodia and Lao PDR. Key outputs include (i) technical studies on flood propagation models, hydrometeorological disasters forecasting models, capacity assessment, and improvement of risk monitoring systems and early warning system (EWS), (ii) capacity building design for climate change risk assessments, and hazard/vulnerability mapping using open source software, and (iii) design and piloting of disaster risk management initiatives at the community level.
FutureWater was hired by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Cambodia to provide strategic and technical support to the successful delivery of Mekong urban resilience project on its current and further initiatives to promote climate risk informed integrated water resource management in the target 3S and 4P river basins in Cambodia. This includes a close collaboration with the project team to design project intervention strategies through building alignment with existing efforts and ensuringe that the project is part of a bigger system of disaster risks informed water resources management in the target river basins.
The MRCS regularly undertakes periodic regional and basin-wide studies on behalf of Member Countries to assess potential effects of increasing development, growing population and uncertainty in climate variability in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). Recent basin-wide assessment and reporting were found to be hampered by data limitations across a range of areas. With the basin undergoing rapid and extensive change, tracking changes in conditions, analyzing the potential implications, and working cooperatively to leverage the benefits and avoid the problems are seen as critical to achieving the objectives of the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
To provide a greater strategic direction to the monitoring and assessment effort, the Mekong River Basin Indicator Framework (MRB-IF) was developed and approved aiming at providing a consistent and streamlined approach to data collection, analysis, and reporting. Through the MRB-IF, the MRC Member Countries and stakeholders can be alerted to the key issues and trends across five core dimensions (environment, social, economic, climate change and cooperation). Included in the MRB-IF are (i) the extent of salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta (MD) – Assessment Indicator 14 and (ii) the condition of riverine, estuarine, and coastal habitats – Assessment Indicator 16. A systematic process of collection and analysis of the data for status and trends evaluation regarding these indicators is currently missing.
The aim of this project is therefore to develop a basin-specific systematic approach to periodically assess the extent of salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta and the conditions of the riverine, estuarine, and coastal habitats across the LMB. Methodologies to evaluate both indicators are developed relying on integration of satellite remote sensing data, GIS databases, and station data. The project involves an elaborate review of existing methodologies tested in the LMB and other river basins, an assessment of these methods regarding technical, economic and institutional aspects, and the development of a recommended methodology for adoption by MRCS, including guidance documentation for its stepwise implementation.
In 2017, AFD approved to finance the Water Resources Management and Agro-ecological Transition for Cambodia “WAT4CAM” Program Phase 1. This program will contribute to reduce poverty, develop the economy and reduce the vulnerability of rural populations to climate change by implementing a hydro-agricultural infrastructures rehabilitation program through an integrated approach, targeting the whole chain of water resources management, water services and agricultural production.
The strategy is to achieve intensification of cropping, modernization and climate smart practices to provide farmers with secure access to water. This is a challenging objective and a good understanding of the hydraulics of water flows in dry and wet season is needed. A consortium led by FutureWater was hired to perform WAT4CAM subcomponent 3.1, which concentrates on providing this understanding of both flood and dry season flows, demands and balance in the Preks intended for rehabilitation.
The initial stages of the project include the identification of current data, models and previous work, as well as a field survey with stakeholders. This information will be used to create an accurate and reliable modelling ensemble that makes maximum use of existing capacity in Cambodia. In addition, the consortium will use satellite-derived data products to (i) provide input to the simulation models, and (ii) calibrate and validate model results. Various sources of satellite imagery will be explored to map floods and irrigation practices, to implement an integrated “space hydrology” approach.
The modelling and knowledge generation from this study must support the other WAT4CAM components for the successful implementation of the Prek irrigation system improvements. The modelling itself is thus not the ultimate purpose, but rather the understanding and knowledge imparted to MoWRAM and the other components of the WAT4CAM program.
FutureWater’s role in the project is the overall project coordination and administration, as well as the implementation of satellite remote sensing and climate change analyses in support of the modelling components.
Cambodia is currently improving in economic standing, however the benefits of this are largely contained to urban areas. As a major contributor to GDP, ensuring the sustainability of Cambodia’s agricultural sector is highly important, especially when coupled with the increasing awareness of the dangers of climate change. Access to water for agriculture, fisheries and domestic supply is an issue, with many rural communities competing for resources. Coupled with the effects of flood and drought activity in recent years, the need for adequate and reliable water resource management in rural, agricultural areas is prominent. This project focuses on the North- Western Cambodian provinces of Oddar Meanchey (OMC) and Banteay Meanchey (BMC) and the neighbouring North-Eastern Thai provinces of Surin and Sisaket.
In order to protect rural livelihoods and maintain agricultural production, communities must be supplied with permanent and regulated water year-round. Analysis of recent flood and drought histories and their effects in the provinces are first necessary to determine the most vulnerable areas both in terms of agriculture and households. In addition, water resource assessments of supplies and demand will identify the most crucial areas to ensure supplies are increased and sustained both for crops and domestic use. Socio-economic studies will also ensure ‘cross- cutting’ issues are considered in WR planning, such as: gender, economic vulnerability and cultural factors related to WRM. Furthermore, meetings with stakeholders at multiple levels can address issues in water infrastructure, alongside assessment of the capacities of those managing monitoring systems for example. From this, future recommendations for improvements in infrastructure can be made with an awareness of the necessary knowledge capacities to ensure proper maintenance and sustainability.
Initially, an analysis of the current water resource situation in the study area will be conducted through collection of available data on water resources, flood and drought histories and socioeconomic issues in the area. Following this, areas for more detailed analysis will be established and strategies to improve WRM supporting agricultural livelihoods can be developed. FutureWater is involved in the implementation of the WEAP model, for evaluation of various water resources management strategies in the catchments under baseline and projected future conditions.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) Technical Assistance (TA) 7610-CAM supports the preparation of MOWRAM’s Roadmap and Investment Program for Irrigation and Water Resources Management, 2019-2033. This investment program provides a comprehensive and strategic framework for the country’s investment in the water resources and irrigation sector.
The current project under TA 7610-CAM concerns (i) rapid water resources assessment of the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Delta river basin groups (24 basins); (ii) ecological assessment of these two river basin groups to identify areas for development and conservation; (iii) detailed surface water resources assessment for five river basins within these groups.
The overall project objective is to support MOWRAM to make more informed, evidence-based water resources management and irrigation investment decisions through better understanding of water resources and ecosystems of two river basin groups: the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Delta and at least five selected river basins within these groups. These river basins are to be selected based on their current and projected level of water stress. The health of high-priority ecosystems and their water demands are assessed in relation to basin hydrological characteristics and foreseen development of water resources.
Outputs of the project are:
A comprehensive knowledge base on water resources and eco-hydrology in 24 river basins
Hydrological characterization of 24 river basins
Quantification of environmental flow requirements for 24 basins
Selection of the five most water-stressed basins
Recommended options for efficient and equitable water allocation
Targeted investment options in the irrigation sector
Coupled set of calibrated hydrological / water allocation models
Geospatial data on (eco-)hydrology compatible with the national Water Resources Information System (WRIS) currently under development
FutureWater is the lead firm in the assignment and executes the water resources modelling components of the project.
Focus is on the following sections:
Flow condition at Phnom Penh, Tan Chau and Chau Doc
Salinity intrusion in Delta
River bank erosion, river channel condition and sediment transport, sand mining
Climate change is likely to pose major challenges for the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). Therefore, information on climate change, its impact and climate change adaptation are required to enable decision-making to develop and implement appropriate response measures. A monitoring and reporting system on climate change and adaptation can help to track changes and to store relevant data for assessing status and impacts of climate change in the LMB for supporting adaptation planning.
With this study, the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (CCAI) of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) offers a review of existing monitoring systems and indicators to improve the understanding of riparian governments, relevant line agencies and others on the status and impacts of climate change. The report should inform the establishment of a database and monitoring system by the CCAI, to build knowledge on climate change and adaptation in the LMB and support information to other activities of the CCAI and MRC programmes.
The review suggests indicators to measure climate exposure, climate impact and climate adaptation activities within the LMB focusing on the thematic areas hydrology, land, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity, hydropower, food security, and poverty as well as employment. Based on this comprehensive review, recommendations are developed on how to improve baseline data and the sharing of data, what tools are needed for the establishment of the basin wide CCAI monitoring system and what capacity building activities can be useful to this end.
The Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI) is a collaborative regional effort of MRC Member Countries (Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam) to support processes of adapting to the new challenges posed by climate change in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). The main focus is a basin wide integrated approach to adaptation planning consistent with Integrated Water Resources Management principles and within the Framework of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The specific aim is to make adaptation a permanent part of development plans and planning process, and to have tools as well as institutional and specialist capacity in place to implement them.
The CCAI focuses on the following Outcomes: (1) climate change impact and vulnerability assessment, adaptation planning and implementation in priority locations within the LMB; (2) building knowledge and capacity at different levels (institutional, technical and managerial capacity); (3) regional adaptation strategy supporting national frameworks; (4) regional partnership and collaboration. Currently, the CCAI is developing its first “Status of Climate Change in the Lower Mekong Basin” report. An important component of the Status Report will be the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector and the projected food situation in the LMB.
Analyses on changes in crop production and food demand and supply have clear transboundary dimensions. Changes might be important in the context of imports and exports of agricultural products. Irrigation is an important consumer of water and changes in irrigated areas can have basin-wide consequences. A clear overview of expected changes in crop production and food demand and supply in the LMB is missing. Earlier initiatives are restrictive in terms of: local specific, encompassing only climate change, often based on old climate scenarios, and, most importantly based on different and not comparable approaches and assumptions.
FutureWater will contribute to the before mentioned report, by providing an explorative outlook on crop production under climate change, and on food requirements and production under climate change. The analsyis will be carried out for the 15 principal sub-basins of the Lower Mekong Basin, and for three future situations (foreseeable, long-term and horizon).