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Posted 8/25/2016

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By Steve Rochette
USACE Philadelphia District


A team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led a three-day groundwater modeling workshop for Cambodian government officials, representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and local non-governmental organizations from Aug. 9-11. 

The workshop was designed to provide an overview of groundwater principles and modeling tools that can help engineers, planners, and water resources managers make more informed decisions. Steve England, a hydraulic engineer from the USACE Philadelphia District, and Jon Fenske from the USACE Hydraulic Engineering Center in Davis, CA led lectures, technology demonstrations, and interactive discussions.  

The workshop included a site visit to the Kampong Cham Province in Cambodia where participants were able to examine groundwater pumping wells, observe flow direction at a former mine pit, and discuss methods for determining the groundwater table and quantifying water extraction rates among other topics. 

“This workshop was a first step to introduce a variety of groundwater topics to participants,” said England. “We envision a more advanced workshop to teach practitioners how to run modeling programs.”

England said they hope to develop a model in an area of interest for the Cambodian government and use it as a teaching tool. One idea is to model part of Tonle Sap Lake where a number of extraction wells have resulted in lower groundwater levels, which may cause subsidence and damage to historic infrastructure.

Participants included representatives from the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Water Resources & Meteorology, Mekong River Commission, Open Development Cambodia, Centre d’Etude et de Developpement Agricole Cambodgien, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and USAID.  

“The participants were engaged, open, and asked very good questions,” said England. “Overall, I think the workshop was well-received.”

England noted several lessons learned, including the difficulty of translating technical terminology and managing a wide range of experience and expertise among participants. Another outcome of the Cambodia visit was a meeting to discuss opportunities to assist with groundwater-related issues in draft environmental laws for the country.

In September, England and Fenske are visiting Mongolia as part of work on a model for the Tuul River basin in the vicinity of Ulaanbaatar as well as a visit to Vietnam to discuss saltwater intrusion in the Ben Tre Provence. USACE participation in these visits was developed through coordination between the USACE Pacific Ocean Division and the U.S. Pacific Command.  

"This workshop was a positive first step towards more valuable interactions in the future," said Fenske.