Assessment of groundwater potential in data scarcity situation in southern Laos

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Water is a vital natural resource that is needed for the sustainability of the hydro-environment and also for socio-economic development. In many developing nations, however, data necessary for assessing the available water resources and for planning the sustainable utilisation of these resources are lacking. Arising from increased population pressures in the Sukhuma District of Southern Laos, there is a need to assess the available water resources. Of particular concern is the interaction between surface water and groundwater together with the implications of this interaction on assessing sustainable water usage. The focus of the research presented herein is the utilisation of available data to assess the seasonal interaction of surface water and groundwater in the Sukhuma District. In addition, a water balance model was developed to enable the assessment of the sustainable water resources available for anthropogenic activities. These research activities can be expressed as data-mining of the available data for information. The available field data comprised short-term rainfall records, streamflow records, and groundwater levels collected over non-consistent time periods; in other words, no period contained data from all three sources. This limited field data was supplemented by remotely sensed data. However, the scales of the remotely sensed data and the field data differed, requiring down-scaling of the remotely sensed data. Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) database were used for this purpose. It was found that the remotely sensed data could be down-scaled to be consistent with the region of interest. Additionally, it was found that there was good agreement between the characteristics of the interaction between the surface water and groundwater predicted by both the water balance model and the remotely sensed data. Arising from the analysis of this interaction, it was found that groundwater recharge in Sukhuma District was 3 – 4% of annual rainfall with a lag of two to six weeks (average 3 weeks) between the wet season start and a rise in groundwater levels. As shown in this research, non-traditional and traditional data sources can be combined in a manner leading to extraction of the available information in an efficient manner.
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