Countries of the Lower Mekong region are turning to groundwater resources to meet the growing needs for irrigation, industrial use and household drinking water. In the highlands, for example, groundwater resources are pumped to irrigate high-value coffee plants, while in the lowlands, groundwater provides supplementary irrigation for rice growing. Yet groundwater is “invisible” and is often taken for granted.

Groundwater is needed to produce the coffee crop in some parts of the Lower Mekong Basin.
Image: T.K. Tan / Pixabay

Due to the impacts of climate change, population growth and the needs of agriculture and industry, groundwater management has become an essential skill for water resource managers. Water resource managers need to assess how much groundwater is available and plan how much of it can be used, while ensuring that underground aquifers remain in good condition.

To build capacity for groundwater management in the region, the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership (SIP) is partnering with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to build capacity among water resource professionals in the region.

Learning to use groundwater modeling software

From 26-28 April 2023, the SIP team worked with the MRC secretariat to support a training workshop for 12 technical staff from the relevant ministries in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam to gain hands-on experience in the use of the Groundwater Vistas software, which is used for developing groundwater models. SIP has previously worked with geologists and water resource planners from Thailand’s Department of Groundwater Resources (DGR) to acquire skills for groundwater management through a customized training course led by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in 2021. This time around, five resource persons from Thailand’s DGR delivered the training in Pattaya, Thailand, coordinated by the SIP team from Bangkok. Participants listened to lectures and observed demonstrations of how to use the software, before taking up the opportunity for hands-on practice.

In their post-workshop evaluations, trainees gave positive feedback. Some requested longer training time and the development of video guides. Other suggestions were to hold national-level workshops in addition to regional ones, organize site visits for groundwater assessment and use site-specific data in project simulations.

The Groundwater Vistas training was organized in response to a request from the MRC Secretariat for assistance to achieve the groundwater objectives set out in the its 2021-2025 strategic plan for the Lower Mekong Basin. A further stage of MRC’s strategic plan will focus on the development of guidelines for sustainable groundwater management in the Lower Mekong Basin, and the dissemination and promotion of the guidelines to its four Member Countries in 2024.

See the MRC’s social media post and more photos from the workshop, and click through to see the whole agenda.

Participants and trainers at the Groundwater Vistas workshop in Pattaya