Managing Hydropower Under Climate Change in the Mekong Tributaries

  • Thanapon PimanEmail author
  • Tom A. Cochrane
  • Mauricio E. Arias
  • Nguyen D. Dat
  • Ornanong Vonnarart
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


The Mekong Basin is threatened by accelerated hydropower development and extreme events from climate change. The transboundary Srepok, Sesan, and Sekong (3S) basins contribute the largest discharge of Mekong River’s tributaries, providing critical ecosystem services to the Tonle Sap and the Mekong delta downstream, including sediments, biodiversity, and fish production. This study aims to assess the potential impact of climate change and hydropower development scenarios on flow patterns and hydropower production in the 3S through multi-general circulation models (GCMs), hydrological simulations, and reservoir operation models. Full hydropower development coupled with energy-focused operations will increase dry season flows by 96 % and reduce wet season flows by 25 % at the basin outlet as compared to historical baseline conditions. Climate change is likely to decrease dry season flows by 6–24 %, but projections of wet season and annual flows using different climate change scenarios and GCMs are relatively uncertain. Energy production in the 3S is not likely to be affected substantially by climate-driven changes in flows; only minor changes resulting from either A2 and B2 climate change scenarios and different GCMs. Predicted climate change, however, will result in significant changes in the magnitude and frequency of extreme flood events, which will undoubtedly impact on future dam design and operation rules. Coordination of hydropower operations within the 3S basin will be critical to maximise development benefits within the basin and reduce negative environmental impacts at the local, national, and transboundary levels.


Mekong Climate change Hydropower Southeast Asia Reservoir operations 



The authors wish to thank the Mekong River Commission for providing the databases used in this paper. Funding for this project was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through a project entitled “Critical Basin at Risk: Assessing and managing ecosystem pressures from development and climate change in the 3S basin”.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thanapon Piman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Tom A. Cochrane
    • 2
  • Mauricio E. Arias
    • 2
  • Nguyen D. Dat
    • 3
  • Ornanong Vonnarart
    • 3
  1. 1.Climate Change and Adaptation InitiativeMekong River CommissionVientianeLao PDR
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Natural Resources EngineeringUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.Information and Knowledge ManagementMekong River CommissionPhnom PenhCambodia

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