The lowland floodplains of the Lao PDR experience prolonged dry seasons characterized by pronounced and common water scarcity, with water supplies increasingly offset with groundwater. Groundwater assessment is still at a very rudimentary stage in Laos, making it difficult to ensure that new water supplies are developed successfully and managed sustainably. The goal of this study was to apply a variety of field hydrogeophysical techniques to this problem, and in the process, help build and strengthen human and institutional capacity with various stakeholder groups from government, university and the community. The study area focused on a cross-section of the Vientiane Plain in the Lower Mekong Basin in central Lao PDR to identify and characterize the hydrogeology and groundwater quality. The research collaboration built and strengthened stakeholder capacity by developing and progressing the hydrogeological field mapping of the Vientiane Plain. It provided local undergraduate and postgraduate training opportunities using several different near-surface geophysical and hydrogeological techniques; some previously untested in Lao PDR. At one of the survey sites, the geophysics showed the spatial extent of the shallow aquifer, and in the process identified an extensive conductive zone, interpreted as more saline groundwater. Any groundwater development within this or similar zones is likely to be unsuitable as sources for drinking and irrigation water. Engagement with the local village authorities supported local community members and government to expand groundwater development for rural water supplies. Access to groundwater as a reliable, safe and secure resource provides an opportunity to strengthen the resilience of farmers to changing climatic conditions. Participatory research collaboration of this kind can positively enhance data and build capacity, which is a required precursor for improving knowledge and management of poorly understood groundwater resources.
- dry seasons