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 issue of water scarcity is intensifying across the Asia Pacific region, posing significant challenges for sustainable agricultural production and water resources management. The Water Scarcity Program (WSP), designed by FAO-RAP and partners, aims to bring agricultural water use within sustainable limits and prepare the sector for a productive future with less water. The program aims to assess the ongoing issue of water scarcity in the region, evaluate potential management options, and assist partner countries to implement adaptive management in the agriculture water sector using innovative tools and approaches.
As part of the WSP, FutureWater will design and deliver a two-phase water accounting training program in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, respectively. The first phase of the training will primarily focus on introducing and better understanding the concept of water accounting, its components and approaches. Participants will also work with tools such as REWAS and Follow the Water (developed by FutureWater in collaboration with FAO) to conduct water accounting in agricultural systems at different scales. Through the use of these tools, participants will be able to estimate real water savings at system and basin scale, and also analyze the impact of different irrigation schemes on the overall water availability in the system. The second phase will consist of participants working on the selected basin in each country to develop a detailed water account. Given the data availability and accessibility issues in the region, the participants will learn how to access, process and analyse remotely sensed datasets using Google Earth Engine.
In addition to the trainings, FutureWater will also provide technical inputs for the regional WSP events on water scarcity and highlight the technical challenges of implemeting water accounting and allocation in south-east Asia for the WSP High Level Technical Meeting to be held in June 2024.
The Mekong State Of the Basin Report (SOBR) is published by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) every five years, in advance of the cyclic updating of the Basin Development Strategy. The SOBR plays a key role in improving monitoring and communication of conditions in the Mekong Basin, and is MRC’s flagship knowledge and impact monitoring product. It provides information on the status and trends of water and related resources in the Mekong Basin. The 2023 SOBR is based on the MRC Indicator Framework of strategic and assessment indicators and supporting monitoring parameters, which facilitates tracking and analysis of economic, social, environmental, climate change and cooperation trends in the basin.
FutureWater was hired by MRC to perform the following tasks in support of the 2023 SOBR development:
Data collection on the Extent of Salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta and the conditions of the Mekong River’s riverine, estuarine, and coastal habitats
Analyses of the extents of 2010, 2015, and 2020 LMB wetlands
Analyses of the extents of key fisheries habitat areas in the LMB, and
Data collection for all Assessment Indicators of MRB-IF for the Upper Mekong River Basin (UMB), including reporting and extracting key messages
Implementation of tasks 1 – 3 is achieved by using state-of-the-art remote sensing tools, such as the Google Earth Engine, building on the methods developed in the preceding project.
Task 4 builds on the findings of FutureWater’s contribution to the 2018 SOBR regarding the status of the UMB in China and Myanmar, more details can be found here.
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 irrigated agriculture options to save water tend to focus on improved irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. These irrigation techniques are promoted as legitimate means of increasing water efficiency and “saving water” for other uses (such as domestic use and the environment). However, a growing body of evidence, including a key report by FAO (Perry and Steduto, 2017) shows that in most cases, water “savings” at field scale translate into an increase in water consumption at system and basin scale. Yet despite the growing and irrefutable body of evidence, false “water savings” technologies continue to be promoted, subsidized and implemented as a solution to water scarcity in agriculture.
The goal is to stop false “water savings” technologies to be promoted, subsidized and implemented. To achieve this, it is important to quantify the hydrologic impacts of any new investment or policy in the water sector. Normally, irrigation engineers and planners are trained to look at field scale efficiencies or irrigation system efficiencies at the most. Also, many of the tools used by irrigation engineers are field scale oriented (e.g. FAO AquaCrop model). The serious consequences of these actions are to worsen water scarcity, increase vulnerability to drought, and threaten food security.
There is an urgent need to develop simple and pragmatic tools that can evaluate the impact of field scale crop-water interventions at larger scales (e.g. irrigation systems and basins). Although basin scale hydrological models exist, many of these are either overly complex and unable to be used by practitioners, or not specifically designed for the upscaling from field interventions to basin scale impacts. Moreover, achieving results from the widely-used FAO models such as AquaCrop into a basin-wide impact model is time-consuming, complex and expensive. Therefore, FutureWater is developing a simple but robust tool to enhance usability and reach, transparency, transferability in data input and output. The tool is based on proven concepts of water productivity, water accounting and the appropriate water terminology, as promoted by FAO globally (FAO, 2013). Hence, the water use is separated in consumptive use, non-consumptive use, and change in storage (Figure 1).
A complete training package is developed which includes a training manual and an inventory of possible field level interventions. The training manual includes the following aspects: 1) introduce and present the real water savings tool, 2) Describe the theory underlying the tool and demonstrating some typical applications, 3) Learn how-to prepare the data required for the tool for your own area of interest, 4) Learn when real water savings occur at system and basin scale with field interventions.
Emerging markets and low-income countries continue to need large investments in infrastructure to remove constraints on growth; create job opportunities; respond to urbanization pressures; and meet crucial development, inclusion, and environmental goals. In 2009, ADB estimated that an infrastructure investment of $8 trillion would be required during 2010–2020 to maintain current levels of growth in Asia.
Infrastructure for transport and communications, energy generation and transmission, and the supply of water and sanitation are critical for development. These types of infrastructure usually have long service lives, which renders both the region’s existing infrastructure stocks and its future infrastructure investments vulnerable to changes in climate conditions that may take place in the near and medium terms. One of five overarching reasons for concern cited by the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014 was the existence of systemic risks “due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.”
The Technical Assistance study focusses on “building climate change resilience in Asia’s critical infrastructure”. The expected impact of the study is scaled-up support for effective climate change adaptation. The expected outcome of will be an enhanced knowledge base on climate change risks to critical infrastructure in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Specifically, by the end of the study it is expected that Asian Development Bank (ADB) and its Development Member Countries (DMC) will have a fuller understanding of the actions and innovation needed to make critical infrastructure in South Asia and Southeast Asia more resilient to climate change.
The study will focus on 11 countries in South and South-East Asia with three countries in specific: Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre (RFMMC) has been established in Phnom Penh, Cambodia under the umbrella of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). The Centre plays an important role in maintaining the national and regional availability of important flood-related tools, data, skills and knowledge; producing accurate regional forecasts with suitable lead time, and a timely and effective dissemination of it; in providing accurate, well documented and consistent tools for basin-wide flood risks assessment and trans-boundary impact assessment.
The main objective of the RFMMC at present is to establish an improved, robust and reliable flood forecasting system for short and especially medium-term forecast periods. This system is identified as the new MRC Mekong Flood Forecasting System (MRC Mekong FFS).
By far the largest source of error in the Mekong system is the inconsistency of accurate precipitation inputs. These errors can accumulate over a season and lead to modeled basin conditions that drift from reality. Previous MRC consultants recommended the RFMMC should investigate methods to use observations from rain gauge measurements to adjust satellite rainfall estimates (SRE) prior to being input to the forecasting system. Implementing this recommendation would allow significant improvements in accuracy for the MRC Mekong flood forecasts.
Taking into account the required and expected performance of the new MRC Mekong Flood Forecasting System (FFS), this project responds to these recommendations and the following outputs were delivered during this assignment:
The scientific basis for adjusting the bias of NOAA SRE with rain gauge information available for the Mekong Basin, considering its unique properties
A proposed operational methodology/tool to implement rain gauge-based bias correction to NOAA SRE into the MRC Flood Forecast operations
Implementation of rain gauge-based bias correction to NOAA SRE into the MRC Mekong FFS (Mekong-FEWS).
In November, NL EVD International commissioned a call to write a proposal for an ‘Early Deliverable’ to be presented in Vietnam. The goal of this ‘Early Deliverable’ was to demonstrate to the people in Vietnam what the Dutch water sector can offer to Vietnam, with respect to Water & Climate related services. This project was performed in collaboration with the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) and the Netherlands Water Platform (NWP).
Drought is a serious threat to the people and the environment of Vietnam. Especially for Vietnam, there are some typical examples of the impact of droughts. During 2003-2005 there was a drought which costed over 60 million USD. Another drought occurred in June 2010, which affected 40,000 households. Besides these past droughts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in their latest Assessment Report that low rainfall and higher temperatures will intensify drought in Vietnam substantially.
FutureWater has developed a Drought Monitoring and Impact Assessment Toolbox (DMIAT), which can be seen as an integration of four types of drought: meteorological drought, agricultural drought, hydrological drought, and socio-economic impacts. A DMIAT is a combination of remote sensing, models, and decision trees. For this ‘Early Deliverable’ for Vietnam, FutureWater showed some applications of the DMIAT for a small region in Vietnam. These results were finally presented during the Water & Climate Services workshop in Ho Chi Minh City.