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 (see Figure).

Separation of water use according to the FAO terminology.

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.

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
  • Flood and drought data
  • Climate change covering greenhouse gas, extreme events, temperature, rainfall
  • Navigation

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.

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.

Four types of climate monitoring systems and their time horizon, availability and overall accuracy
Four types of climate monitoring systems and their time horizon, availability and overall accuracy

In 2011 the Vietnamese and Dutch government signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a Government to Government (G2G) programme for improved integrated planning and monitoring of water resources for transboundary water management and disaster risk management. Special attention within this cooperation is given to the use of remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for improved monitoring and modelling of (transboundary) water resources. The current project was formulated as part of the G2G trajectory towards implementation of an operational decision support system for water resource management and disaster risk management at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE).

With the infrastructure to be developed, information services based on remote sensing, models and ground observations can be delivered to end users in a clear and visually attractive way. Its functionality will be demonstrated with a pilot project on Basin-wide Multipurpose Reservoir Management (BMRM) for the Da River. The scope of the project is explained in the below figure. The parts with solid lines (e.g. remote sensing, ground data) will be part of this project. A Delft-FEWS platform is implemented that manages the dataflow from Remote Sensing or ground data as well to ensure that available models will run with up-to-date data. Furthermore, a visualization tool is developed for selected end-users.

The main foreseen project results include:

  • Infrastructure for integrated water management and disaster risk management implemented at NRSD.
  • Integrated model ensemble (hydrological, hydraulic and reservoir) installed in the infrastructure and ready for operation by NRSD.
  • Model for creating daily rainfall maps installed in the infrastructure and ready for operation by NRSD.
  • Knowledge transferred on operating and managing the infrastructure and using the implemented models.
  • First steps taken towards Cooperation between institutions of Vietnam in sharing and applying new technologies in optimizing data acquisition, access to data, and use of data standards.

FutureWater is the leader of the work package on data collection and validation, and will implement its SPHY model for simulating Da River basin hydrology and inflow to reservoirs.

The Government of Vietnam is challenged to make adequate decisions to adapt to climate change and sea level rise through an integrated approach (agriculture, industry, environment, urbanization and infrastructure). In Vietnam many meteorological stations collect the actual weather conditions. Due to changing weather conditions these historical data are not very reliable for future projection in design of water infrastructure, dikes, etc. There is a need for advanced models in the water sector where space borne imagery and state of the art water models support on predicting future behaviour of the water resources. This is important to support the government of Vietnam in their decision making on how to manage their water resources, design adequate structures (water storage, dams, infrastructure) and safety (dikes, barriers, etc). Planning is even more complex due to the fact that the water resources in Vietnam highly depend on how neighbouring countries manage their water resources. Regional monitoring systems supported by remote sensing can provide important information to the Government on water quality, water quantity, sediment load, water distribution and monitor impacts of the hydropower dams upstream/cross-border. It needs no explanation that these data support Vietnam in regional dialogue on the international rivers and support in its own improved water management.

In November 2011 during a first workshop on ‘Water and Climate Services for transboundary water management and disaster risk management’ it was decided to design a Government to Government (G2G) programme outline with emphasis on capacity development, innovative (hydrologic) models, financial engineering, business development and partnership building regarding RS and GIS technology. Against this backdrop, FutureWater was asked to perform the following activities:

  • Capacity building and training of experts of NRSD in Vietnam in remote sensing for rainfall and drought monitoring;
  • Identify suitable technologies in remote sensing, rainfall, and drought models for the monitoring and management of transboundary water and disaster risks;
  • Demonstrate the use of open software for rainfall and drought monitoring;
  • Demonstrate the use of free remote sensing data for Red River Basin transboundary water management.
Drought Hazard Index map of the Red River Basin, as computed by the FutureWater DMIAT.
Drought Hazard Index map of the Red River Basin, as computed by the FutureWater DMIAT.

Based on different remote sensing data sources, open geodata and ground-based observations, FutureWater demonstrates the applicability of the in-house developed Drought Monitoring and Impact Assessment Toolbox (DMIAT) and HiP2P rainfall downscaling methodology for the Red River Basin in Vietnam. The Red River Delta is most suitable for piloting a multi-purpose approach in order to cover the aspects of water management and disaster risk management, including transboundary aspects.

During this pilot project, FutureWater and other Dutch partners take the first steps in developing an integrated product for transboundary water management in the Red River Basin. It is envisaged that this will lead to operational implementation and organizational embedding at the relevant Vietnamese government agencies in the coming years.

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.

Rice harvesting

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.

Mekong Delta

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).


The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has its Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI), which 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. The CCAI is developing its first “Status of Climate Change in the Lower Mekong Basin” report. An important component of this report will be to provide information on trends in the past climate. For this a detailed and homogenous climate data set is required. Such a data set can also be used for other purposes like hydrological modeling and related assessments.


The need of a climate trend analysis over the past is clear. There is still a lot of uncertainty on the direction of climate change in terms of magnitude as well as spatial distribution. Not only the annual trends, but even more importantly are shifts in seasonality and changes of extremes. So far, no harmonized climate database covering the entire Mekong river basin exists.

The number of reanalysis data products is increasing rapidly. Some of these products are strong in one region, while other performs better in other regions. Although reanalysis products are based on observations, differences might occur. The main reason is that not all observational data is included in the reanalysis datasets. Using an extensive database of meteorological observations, correction factors will be applied to the reanalysis data.

In general, reanalysis products with a high spatial resolution have a low temporal resolution and vice versa. Based on proven interpolation techniques it is possible to effectively combine these sets of reanalysis data, which will result in high spatial as well as high temporal resolution.

The overall objectives of this work are:

  • To develop a baseline climate database over the period 1900-2010.
  • To undertake a trend analysis on this database.

The impacts of flash floods, droughts and the effects of climate change have become a topic of strong political and public interest in Vietnam. Studies have shown that the Mekong Delta is very vulnerable to floods and droughts, which will intensify due to climate change. With more extreme weather events such as typhoons, the delta is more vulnerable to floods and droughts, affecting people’s livelihoods and reducing agricultural productivity. The past year’s floods and droughts have cost the government of Vietnam millions of dollars.

Currently, these threats are not adequately monitored and information on such threats is inconsistent and only scattered available. As a result, no nationwide policy is made and mainly local measures are taken. Therefore Vietnam is in need of data sharing systems and advanced models in the water sector, where space borne imagery and state of the art water-models support on predicting future behaviour of the water resources. Vietnam has selected the Mekong Delta as one of their four main priority areas and is investing in (international) knowledge and products to resolve this urgent problem.

The objective of this project is to develop, implement, and demonstrate an integrated information portal of the river basins in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. It will supply an integrated approach to water management. The pilot project aims to improve water management in a pilot area in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta by providing a web-based information portal and decision support system for flood control and water resources management. The system gives access to scattered information, analyses and various monitoring data on the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. Because of its online access and real-time modelling possibilities, the platform is not only a valuable instrument to support policy development in water management, but at the same time it can be used as a decision support system during calamities and other operational conditions.

Nelen & Schuurmans takes the lead in this project. FutureWater will develop a Drought Monitoring and Impact Assessment Toolbox app as part of the integrated information portal.