Water abstractions

 Agriculture is responsible for most of the water abstraction from the Mekong River and its tributaries, while industry and domestic water supply abstractions are minor.  About half the population in the Mekong Basin (30 million) are involved in agriculture and over10 million hectares of the total cultivated land in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) is used to produce rice.

Irrigation in the LMB covers approximately 27% of its area and consumes an estimated 41.8 billion m³ of freshwater. In contrast, the estimated present water demand for domestic and industrial uses in the LMB is only about 2.9 billion m³ and 80% of this amount is used in Thailand and Viet Nam.
There are 4 main types of irrigation schemes:
  • Large-scale public paddy irrigation systems
  • Smaller community-managed (and -built) systems.
  • Commercial privately managed systems, producing for local and export markets
  • Farm-scale individually managed systems, producing for local markets, often around towns

More than half of irrigation water use takes place in the Mekong Delta (26.3 billion m³), followed by Thailand (9.5 billion m³), Lao PDR (3.0 billion m³), Cambodia (2.7 billion m³) and the highlands of Viet Nam (0.5 bil­lion m³). Locations of  existing and proposed irrigation projects are displayed in the figure. The largest irrigation area is in the Viet Nam Mekong Delta while most irrigation projects in Thailand are medium and small scale due to limitations in available water storage and rainfall.  Many irrigation projects are planned for Lao PDR, but few proposed projects have been identified for Cambodia.  


 Map data source: MRC irrigation database 2010.


References and further contacts:

Molle, F. 2005. Irrigation and water policies in the Mekong region: Current discourses and practices. Colombo, Sri Lanka: IWMI. 43p. (Research report 95)