A professor at the Cullen College of Engineering will continue serving as the lead PI for a NASA project that examines land subsidence, flood forecasting and groundwater management in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia.
Hyongki Lee, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, has received about $692,410 in additional funding for a three-year extension of his research work, “Strengthening Regional and National Capacity for Operational Flood andDrought Management Services for Lower Mekong Nations via Mekong River Commission and SERVIR-Mekong.”
Faisal Hossain, John R. Kiely Endowed Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington, and Thanapon Piman, a Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, are Lee's co-PIs on the project. Their project was one of 20 chosen, from a field of Step-2 49 proposals.
According to the proposal summary submitted by the group, this builds on research done the past three years, which has resulted in the developed of two systems to monitor flooding in Mekong.
The first tool, the Operational Reservoir Assessment Tool (RAT)-Mekong system, was officially adopted by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to support their Strategy on Flood Management and Mitigation (FMM) 2021 to 2030 and Drought Management Strategy (DMS) from 2020 to 2025. RAT-Mekong is now operational in MRC’s portal over 13 selected reservoirs in MRC countries, providing bi-weekly reservoir states including reservoir inflow, storage change and outflow observed from space.
The second tool, Operational Forecasting Inundation Extents using REOF analysis (FIER)-Mekong system, is as a timely tool for 2-D (inundation extents) and 3-D (inundation depths) flood management service needs. FIER-Mekong provides daily hindcast and forecast (up to 18-day lead time) of inundation extents and depths in about 20 seconds over Lower Mekong. Their recent study found that FIER-Mekong tool could have prevented rice damages due to floods up to $87 million and $53 million U.S. dollars during the harvest time of 2020 and 2021, respectively.
“These recent successes have identified more time-sensitive institutional and societal priorities of Lower Mekong countries when it comes to floods and droughts in the context of an increasingly impounded Mekong river,” the researchers wrote.
The research team has proposed four more areas of improvement for evaluating flood risks.
“We propose to expand and integrate the skills of current RAT-Mekong and FIER-Mekong as an individual and integrative operational decision support systems. Our proposed services are expected to be a unique and highly scalable decision support system for holistic water management with and without existing and planned upstream reservoir operation, and provide important recommendations for basin-wide reservoir operation policies toward sustainable allocation and management of water resources across time, space, and sectors of water-energy-food nexus. We will work closely with the SERVIR-Mekong Hub and various stakeholders in Mekong including MRC to build their capacity toward operational usage of the tools for better water resources management and disaster prevention.”
The extension of the work will cover another three years of research. Funding will also be provided for a graduate student at the University of Houston and the University of Washington.