CKS – University of Chicago
Lower Mekong water sustainability WorkshopUniversity_of_Chicago_Modern_Etched_Seal_1.svg

12-14 June 2013
CKS Headquarters, Wat Damnak
Siem Reap, Cambodia

The 2-day workshop at CKS on June 12-13 has 2 basic objectives:

1. To invite participants to help formulate research questions and perhaps participate in a research proposal that will be submitted to the National Science Foundation this coming September for funding to study Mekong water sustainability and its potential impacts and implications.

2. For participants to consider opportunities to collaborate on possible publications related to this topic.

Lower Mekong Water Sustainability Project abstract:

This project establishes a framework necessary for understanding the interactions, connectivity and interdependence of humans and a changing water system in the lower Mekong River Basin of Southeast Asia. The cross-disciplinary team of experts creates future scenarios of change, develops an innovative and integrative modeling framework, and defines the data collection efforts needed to evaluate how sustainability of the water system affects human welfare. This question is how to promote human well-being in a region dependent on a changing water system. The Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake of Cambodia are connected through a flood-pulse hydrology and river-floodplain connectivity upon which humans are dependent for rice farming, fish production, and social lifeways. Current rapid changes in land use, hydropower development, human activity, and climate will all have significant impacts on the predictability of the flood-pulse system and the availability of water in the future. This research connects the natural and human system through the study of the ecosystem services provided by the water system, which in turn support and sustain human life. Through the assembled team, the research focuses on all dimensions of the region’s ecosystem services including the provision, adaptation, valuation, and response mechanisms. The results of this project will set the stage to measure and explain critical interactions and impacts of a social-ecological system on the brink of profound transformation driven by demographic shifts, rapid economic growth, hydropower installations and climate change.

This research develops a framework to answer the central research questions: (1) What is the set of likely future land-use and climate scenarios for the region and how will they affect the hydrological system? (2) What is the relationship between the hydrological system and the generation of the ecosystem services necessary for sustainable agricultural production? (3) How do human populations depend on the ecosystem services provided by the hydrological system and respond to changes in the provision of these ecosystem services? and, (4) What are the tradeoffs associated with alternative choices for water sustainability?

This project will serve as a precursor to a more significant NSF WSC Category 2 proposal, in which the data and modeling framework will be implemented to assess the physical and economic ecosystem service tradeoffs associated with alternative approaches to ensuring water sustainability in the region. This research develops a set of plausible future scenarios based on climate change, land use, and human activity in the Lower Mekong Region. A cross-discplinary team of experts develops integrative ecological-economic models to assess the consequences of changes on human well-being. While ecosystem services provide a useful and innovative way of understanding the linkages and feedback of natural systems and humans populations, measuring and quantifying the value of these services is challenging. The models developed are adaptable to other ecosystem service applications.

Also available from the National Science Foundation (NSF) website: CLICK HERE