According to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) Impact and Adaptation Study for the Lower Mekong Basin, Kok Klang Village, Sakon Nakhon in Northeastern Thailand is projected to experience an increase in annual rainfall of about 13 percent. However, Kok Klang also faces greater variability in rainfall and dryer dry seasons. The community is already experiencing water shortages during several months of the year. Under USAID Mekong ARCC, IUCN is working with Kok Klang villagers to improve their water management practices and increase their resilience in the face of future changes.
Villagers identified water shortages as the number one priority in the vulnerability assessment. Therefore, IUCN conducted a water analysis to identify current water sources and analyse the water demand in the village.
Where has all the water gone?
Kok Klang lies at an elevation of approximately 260 meters above sea level. The climate is characterized by a strong dry season from November to April. Soils in the village are sandy, and extensive rubber, sugarcane and cassava monocultures dominate the landscape surrounding the village.
The village is located adjacent to Phu Pha Yon National Park and has several mountain spring water sources. These sources increasingly dry out in the dry season. The village also has rainwater tanks and groundwater wells. In the dry season, the sub-district administration delivers water to several tanks in the village.
Kok Klang villagers report that in the past they had enough water. “When there is groundwater, water in the well can support the villagers. But the well has totally dried out. How did the water disappear from the ground? It has never happened before,” says Mrs Yupin Chotruen, Kok Klang villager.
The villagers suspect that the decrease in water availability is at least partly due to the decreasing forest area as a result of the conversion of forest land to agricultural uses. The village’s rapidly increasing population also plays a role. With climate change expected to exacerbate existing water shortages, Kok Klang is looking for solutions to their water problem.
Tapping local wisdom to increase resilience
In the past, the village implemented several different systems to try to solve the water problem; however, the water shortages remain unsolved. USAID Mekong ARCC and IUCN now aim to set up a water committee in the village to establish rules and regulations on water management, while working with the local administration to improve the water supply system.
“I hope that, although water is scarce, the villagers will exercise discipline in water usage. Water usage should be equitable. The government clearly understands that there is a serious water demand in Kok Klang village. Yet the water system still needs to be properly established, then we will help with the management,” says Mr Saksiam Skulpon, Kok Klang village headman.
USAID Mekong ARCC seeks to tap local wisdom by building on existing mechanisms in the village or in neighbouring communities. In addition, with USAID Mekong ARCC’s support, the villagers also plan to improve forest management and protect the community forest area surrounding the village. These measures, combined with the introduction of more integrated forms of agriculture, will hopefully lead to increased resilience of the community.
Citizen journalists reporting in Kok Klang
A citizen journalist training was organised by IUCN and its partner Thai PBS in Sakon Nakhon in May 2014. Watch video.