Water Resources Management

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 429–455 | Cite as

Water Resource Models in the Mekong Basin: A Review

  • Robyn JohnstonEmail author
  • Matti Kummu


Development of the water resources of the Mekong Basin is the subject of intense debate both within the Mekong region and internationally. Water resources modelling is playing an increasingly important role in the debate, with significant effort in building integrated modelling platforms to describe the hydrological, ecological, social and economic impacts of water resource development. In the hydrological domain, a comprehensive set of models has been effective in building understanding of the system, and in identifying and describing the issues and trade-offs involved in basin-scale water planning. In the ecological and social domains, quantitative modelling has not progressed very far; geo-spatial analysis and qualitative frameworks remain the most commonly used tools. Economic models have been used to assess the costs and benefits of water resources development and to describe the trade-offs between different sectors and users. These analyses are likely to play an important role in the policy and planning debate, but are hampered by uncertainties in valuation of ecosystem services. Future efforts should focus on optimising the use of existing model platforms for the Mekong, including structured comparison of multiple hydrological models to quantify errors and identify an optimum set of modelling tools for different applications. A comprehensive research effort is needed to incorporate groundwater into hydrological models for regional planning. Options for social impact assessment should be reassessed before major investments are made in complex modelling platforms, and participatory social survey methods evaluated as part of an integrated assessment framework.


Hydrological modelling Water resources modelling Impact assessment Mekong River Basin 



This study forms part of the M-POWER project “Improving Mekong Water Allocation” (PN 67) supported by the CGIAR Challenge Programme on Water and Food. Authors would like to acknowledge the input of the PN67 team and particularly Kate Lazarus, John Dore, François Molle, Chu Thai Hoanh, Patcharee Thunnipat, and Marko Keskinen. The paper draws on a discussion forum that was conducted at the Mekong Program on Water Environment and Resilience (M-POWER) Annual Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in February 2010 (M-POWER 2010). The contribution made by all the participants is gratefully acknowledged. PN67 was financially supported by the European Commission. The first author also received funding from core funds of the International Water Management Institute and the M-POWER network; and the second from the postdoctoral funds of Aalto University.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Water Management InstituteColomboSri Lanka
  2. 2.Water & Development Research GroupAalto UniversityEspooFinland

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