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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Improved management of water and sediment yield in 3S basin – upper part of Mekong River Basin

PI: Duong Bui (, National Center for Water Resources Planning and Investigation, in partnership with the National University of Civil Engineering
U.S. Partners: Venkataraman Lakshmi, University of Virginia, and Hyongki Lee, University of Houston
Project dates:  December 2019 - November 2020

Project Overview:

Through the project, the PI and his colleagues at the National Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation of Vietnam (NAWAPI) seek synergy with the NASA-funded project “Improved hydrologic decision support for the Lower Mekong River basin through integrated remote sensing and modeling, (2016-2019)” and the World Bank project “Understanding land use planning for the Vietnam Delta (2016-2019),” both of which are led by U.S. partner Prof. Venkataraman Lakshmi of the University of Virginia. In addition, the NAWAPI team will be working with another U.S. partner, Dr. Hyongki Lee of the University of Houston, who is leading two other NASA-supported projects. The ultimate goal of the new PEER partnership is to scale up the beneficial impact of state-of-the-art research in water management for the Mekong Delta residents of Vietnam, one of the regions most vulnerable regions to various climate change and water-induced challenges today. More specifically, the project aims to build capacity in water and sediment yield management agencies of Vietnam to independently use tools recently developed tools by the U.S. partners’ universities to address some of the most critical current questions in the region. Once all the new mainstem dams built by upstream countries on the Mekong become fully operational, how will they impact freshwater inflow downstream, as well as food production and the nutritional status of the population? Which regions within the Mekong will be more vulnerable to adverse impacts of upstream reservoir construction? These questions would apply similarly for ongoing and planned dam development, with critical impacts on downstream water, food, and energy in the region.

The Mekong River Basin is one the world’s most productive and diverse ecosystems. The Vietnamese Mekong Delta is a “rice bowl” for the country, providing more than one-half of the country’s rice yields, and the river is second only to the Amazon in terms of its diversity of freshwater fish species. However, due to the operational dams, the hydrologic flow changes and sediment trapping could have severe consequences to the river’s floodplain, reducing the sediment transport and nutrient loads for the Mekong Delta and threatening food security for the region. NAWAPI has recently completed a water planning project for the Srepok River, part of the 3S Basin. However, the results were limited only to water allocation planning and included only initial results from a field survey on water quality for the Srepok portion of the 3S Basin only. Meanwhile, given that there are more than 40 upstream hydroelectric dams in this basin, the evolution of the total amount of sediment will be a very important issue because it directly affects rice farming, fisheries, and other related industries in the downstream area. Therefore, the main purpose of this project is to build on the outcomes of the previous project to develop the next step for calculating the amount of sediment yield in the basin. Combined with socioeconomic development factors and climate change scenarios, a modelling tool could simulate streamflow and sediment for various scenarios to optimize dam operations to balance economic development and ecosystem requirements. Project results should support the capabilities of key government stakeholders in making decisions on the sustainable management of water and sediment yield for the Vietnamese people.  

Summary of Recent Activities:

8-14 Mekong Training
The project team conducts a training in the summer of 2020 (photo courtesy of Dr. Bui).
In the third quarter of the project from July through September 2020, the PI and his colleagues continued with the following activities: (1) dissemination and review of project outcomes and forecasting newsletter; (2) organization of a training workshop; (3) communication and development of guidelines on how to use forecasting information for the local community (farmers, households, fishers, etc.); (4) preparation of project documentation and reporting; and (5) development and maintenance of project website. In particular, they have also conducted several additional activities aimed at supporting policy formulation and operational management works in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), including contributing to their water forecasting circular, improving the forecasting skills of Ministry staff using precipitation bias correction; identifying reservoir boundaries and operational patterns (i.e. area/storage changes) using space observations; carrying out nowcasts and short-term and seasonal forecasts; producing high resolution soil moisture data; and building a template for the forecasting newsletter.

During this quarter of the project, the PI and his group maintained connections and collaborations with several parties who are interested in implementing the results of their project, including USAID staff, government agencies, community groups, and nongovernmental organizations, or private companies. They have contacted the USAID Mission to ASEAN and the ASEAN Foundation in Jakarta for feedback on technical design, possible opportunities to showcase the usefulness of the project, and promotion of potential exchanges between this and other ongoing projects funded by USAID. The researchers also contacted two intergovernmental organizations, the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP) and the Mekong River Commission, to discuss exchanges of data and institutional linkage building. As for Vietnam-based organizations, Dr. Bui and his colleagues also contacted the Office of Surface Water Use Management (OSWUM) at the Water Research Management Department (the government water agency responsible for monitoring and supervising the operation of reservoirs according to the inter-reservoir operation regulation on all river basins over the country) and the Vietnam National Committee on Large Dams and Water Resources Development (VNCOLD). The PI reached out to OSWUM to introduce his project outcomes for their daily inter-reservoir operation and regulation work in the 3S river basin, while he hopes to engage VNCOLD as a project partner to help in exchange and networking with private companies, especially dam owners and irrigation companies who are beneficiaries of the project.

During the last quarter of 2020, the PI and his colleagues will continue their productive collaboration with their three U.S. partners as they work to incorporate high-resolution soil moisture and altimetry water level data into their water operation portal. The 1-km resolution data on soil moisture is downscaled from NASA’s 9-km resolution data by Prof. Venkat Lakshmi’s group at the University of Virginia, while altimetry water level data are developed by Prof. Hyongki Lee’s group at the University of Houston. At the same time, in order to improve the quality of forcing data and obtain reservoir data for the catchment model, the PEER team is applying the bias correction approach and reservoir assessment tools developed by Prof. Faisal Hossain at the University of Washington. The “learning by doing” approach is particularly helpful for the young staff members from the PI’s various local partners (NAWAPI, CEWAFO, the National University of Civil Engineering, Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment, etc.) in building their capacity to use the tools and methods. On September 9, 2020, the PEER team organized a training workshop for 22 participants (10 female, 12 male) from these partner organizations to train them on the catchment model and various satellite data-based tools.

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