Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 291–302

Land Use and Water Quality Along a Mekong Tributary in Northern Lao P.D.R.

Authors

    • Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UPS (OMP)—CNRS—UMR 5563 LMTGUniversité de Toulouse
  • Juliette Cuny
    • International Water Management Institute, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute
  • Phonexay Sengsoulichanh
    • International Water Management Institute, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute
  • Claire Mousquès
    • International Water Management Institute, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute
  • Bounsamai Soulileuth
    • International Water Management Institute, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute
  • Alain Pierret
    • International Water Management Institute, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute
  • Sylvain Huon
    • UMR 7618 BIOEMCOUniversité Pierre and Marie Curie
  • Oloth Sengtaheuanghoung
    • Agricultural Land Research CentreNational Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute Nongviengkham
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-010-9593-0

Cite this article as:
Ribolzi, O., Cuny, J., Sengsoulichanh, P. et al. Environmental Management (2011) 47: 291. doi:10.1007/s00267-010-9593-0

Abstract

Improving access to clean water has the potential to make a major contribution toward poverty reduction in rural communities of Lao P.D.R. This study focuses on stream water quality along a Mekong basin tributary, the Houay Xon that flows within a mountainous, mosaic land-use catchment of northern Lao P.D.R. To compare direct water quality measurements to the perception of water quality within the riparian population, our survey included interviews of villagers. Water quality was found to vary greatly depending on the location along the stream. Overall, it reflected the balance between the stream self-cleaning potential and human pressure on the riparian zone: (i) high bacteria and suspended load levels occurred where livestock are left to free-range within the riparian zone; (ii) very low oxygen content and high bacteriological contamination prevailed downstream from villages; (iii) high concentrations of bacteria were consistently observed along urbanized banks; (iv) low oxygen content were associated with the discharge of organic-rich wastewater from a small industrial plant; (v) very high suspended load and bacteria levels occurred during flood events due to soil erosion from steep cultivated hill slopes. Besides these human induced pollutions we also noted spontaneous enrichments in metals in wetland areas fed by dysoxic groundwater. These biophysical measurements were in agreement with the opinions expressed by the majority of the interviewees who reported poor and decreasing water quality in the Houay Xon catchment. Based on our survey, we propose recommendations to improve or maintain stream water quality in the uplands of northern Lao P.D.R.

Keywords

Water quality-related hazardsRiparian zoneMixed land-use environmentUplandsWastewater dischargesLow flowStorm flowSuspended sedimentsCommunity-level perceptionPeri-urban areas

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010