WISDOM: Water-Informationsystem for the Mekong-Delta

The WISDOM project’s function is to support the development of IWRM strategies in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam through the development of an Information System. This system will contain data from numerous research disciplines – such as hydrology, sociology, demography, and earth observation. The integration of this data will enable the end-user of the system to perform analyses on specific questions; and thus will supply a tool for regional planning. Sixteen German and Vietnamese partners collaborate for this purpose. A further focus of the project is an internal PhD programme coordinated by the United Nations University in Bonn.

Challenges in the Mekong Delta area

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam offers natural resources for several million inhabitants.

However, a strong population increase, changing climatic conditions and regulatory measures at the upper reaches of the Mekong lead to severe changes in the Delta.

Therefore, decision makers, planners and local authorities have to face new challenges.

Extreme flood events occur more frequently, drinking water availability is increasingly limited, soils show signs of salinization or acidification, species and complete habitats diminish. All these problems call for an optimized, integrated resource management.

For this purpose detailed knowledge and hydrologic,-, hydraulic-, ecologic-, and sociologic factors must be available. Furthermore, the cooperation of national institutes as well as national, regional and local authorities need to be strengthened.

Goal of the project



It is the goal of WISDOM to jointly (Vietnamese and German partners) design and implement an Information System for the Mekong Delta, containing information from the fields of hydrology, sociology, information technology and earth observation. The integration of such data will enable the end-user of the system to perform analyses on very specific questions; and thus will supply the end-user with a tool supporting regional planning activities.

Method of resolution

The design of the system puts the focus in the constant integration of available and newly generated data from all different disciplines. This enables user-oriented analyses and custom designed querying to develop sustainable solutions in the field of resource management. Possible applications of the system are:

  • Monitoring of floods and droughts
  • Evaluation of flood and drought risk, damage potential and actual damages
  • Analyses of water quality, pollution and sediment load
  • The improvement of flood prediction via remotely sensed precipitation information
  • Detailed adaptation of surface and sub-surface discharge models
  • Information of landcover- and landuse changes
  • Observation of settlement development, surface sealing and population growth

A thorough integration of natural and social sciences is of utmost importance for the development of the Water Information System, since it has to depict not only changes in the natural sciences- or bio-physical field affecting the water household, but also changes of socio-economic processes affecting the people living in the Mekong Delta.

A further – and the most important – bases for the project’s success is the close collaboration between Vietnamese and German scientists within the bilateral cooperation. For later decision makers it is crucial that all information gathered within the project will be available in an interrelated and easy to access way. Furthermore, education and capacity building is a key to grant the usage of the information system after the project’s end.

The WISDOM project has been triggered through a joint initiative of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Vietnam and the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany in August 2005. After a first initial preparation phase, which lasted until summer 2006, the joint proposal was then submitted in July 2006. Project work started in spring 2007 and will – at present – last until spring 2010.

The Vietnamese-German project consortium consists of eight partners on the Vietnamese and nine partners on the German side.

Altogether, over 60 scientists from Germany and Vietnam and 15 PhD students from Vietnam and Europe are working within the WISDOM project. The work of the PhD students is coordinated by the UNU-EHS in Bonn – however, the individual PhD students are working at different German partner organizations, such as ZEF, GFZ, INRES, etc. The overall project is coordinated by the DFD-DLR, and on the Vietnamese side by the SIWRR. An increased linkage between the consortium members on both sides shall be reached through joint field campaigns, capacity building activities, annual meetings and joint publications.

Transfer to other regions

An Information System is a software-architecture, which allows to feed in data of any kind (remote sensing data, GIS data, digital maps, in-situ data, interpolated point measurements etc,), to organize and maintain this data and – most important – to query the data in a problem-oriented way. An Information System thus consist of a data entry portal, a database in which the data is stored and organized, a visualization tool to display the data and a query mask, which allows for sophisticated analyses with respect to a certain question.
One example: the database contains flood masks, which were derived from remote sensing data. Furthermore, the database contains a landcover/landuse classification of the same region. A query that could be performed now is e.g.: How much of the agriculturally used land has been flooded? Or: How many percent of the settled area were affected?

Depending on data availability very complex queries can be performed, which allow fort he solving of planning-relevant questions and which thus can support decision-making. An Information system can be transferred to other regions as well with relatively simple adaptations. Provided that the database is fed with data from another area and that some querying algorithms are slightly modified the System can also support planning in other regions of the world.

TerraSar-X radar

TerraSar-X radar satellite image (left image) and flood mask automatically derived from the data (right image). In the left satellite image water bodies and flooded areas occur in dark tones, while dry areas are relatively bright. In the map product on the right the Mekong River and flooded areas are presented in blue, dry areas not affected by water are presented in white. The TerraSar-X Stripmap mode dataset has a spatial resolution of 3 meters and data is available all 3-4 days. Thus, a near real time generation of such flood maps is possible if data is available directly after the satellite’s data acquisition.

Areas affected by flood

Excerpt of a statistical report automatically generated from the WISDOM Information System. In the present case a flood mask, automatically derived from TerraSar-X Radar data has been intersected with a landuse classification provided by a Vietnamese partner institute. From this intersection a diagram and statistical report has been generated, which shows how much of the landuse class’ are has been flooded. As expected many irrigated rice paddy area are affected by “flood” (here the algorithm can of course not differentiate between natural flooding and man made flooding). However, also some areas, which should not be flooded (fruit tree plantations etc.) are currently affected by intruded water.

Video about the Project

The IWRM Project created a Movie, where Technologies and Instruments for the sustainable use of Water are introduced:

Language Versions


  • Dr. Claudia Künzer

    • Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Deutsches Fernerkundungs-datenzentrum (DFD)
    • 82234 Oberpfaffenhofen-Weßling
    • Telephone: +49 8153 28-3280
    • Email Address:
    • Homepage: