A Study on Water Resources in Vietnam: Current Status, Problems and Solutions for Sustainable Consumption

Minh Thi Vu, Hoa Thi Hoang Nguyen


In this paper we discuss the current situation and issues of water resources in Vietnam, and also provide suggestions to improve this status.

Vietnam has 2360 rivers with differently small and big sizes. Annually, flow of surface water is estimated to be about 830 billion m3 in total, of which 63% is water originated from other foreign countries. In terms of water use, the total use volume in a year is about 80 billion m3 with 82% used for agricultural production. The proportions of water used tend to increase for industry, fishery and domestic purposes.

The current main problems of water resources in Vietnam are the pollution of surface water, the decrease in quality of groundwater’s quality, and water salinity in coastal areas. Irrational exploitation of water resources is believed to be one main reason for these. In fact, there are 154 industrial and large scale processing zones in the whole country but only 43 of them are equipped with concentrated wastewater treatment systems.

The management models of centralized water supply systems include state-owned enterprises, private enterprises, joint-stock companies, centers for rural water supply and sanitation and co-operatives under management of People’s Committees or of communities. The responsibility for state management on water resources at national level belongs to the Government, Ministries and ministerial-level agencies with the major duties belonging to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The responsibility also belongs to the People’s Committees at provincial and lower levels. There have been about 24 issued legal documents related to water resources. The law on water resources was composed in 1998 and ratified in June 21, 2012.

In order to protect water resources from depletion for future’s sustainable consumption, Vietnamese Government has been trying to improve water use’s management systems, to reform institutions, to set up law, to plan schemes, to raise people’s awareness of the water’s role water’s role, as well as to educate them to use water economically and reasonably.  However, the current management is still facing many difficulties, containing technical, managerial, policy and institutional problems. These problems are believed to mainly come from five reasons. First, the information and communication are weak and inefficient. Second, people have not been aware of saving water. Moreover, there is almost no standard for the use of water in economic sectors and water has not been reasonably priced for each production zones and each types of using. Another reason is the lack of sanctions to penalize those who pollute water resources. Finally, it is seen that citizens have not proactively taken part in water management activities such as irrigation management.

As an effort to tackle these problems, Vietnamese Government has presented a number of solutions in the National Strategy for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation until 2020. These include solutions concerning water resources management, institution and policy, planning and schemes, financial policy and economical solutions, multimedia tools and education on efficient water use. As a support for the Government’s solutions, this paper will present and suggest the application of South Korea’s Integrated Water Resources Management System to Vietnam. This system consists of identifying, collecting and analysing data for different water resources in order to find the most suitable management schemes afterwards. Since water is considered as “economic goods”, the responsibilities of stakeholders such as the government, manufacturers, suppliers, comsumers and water-exploiting enterprises will also be discussed as an essential part of this management system.           


water resources, sustainable consumption, integrated management system, Vietnam