Climate Adaptation through Sustainable Urban Development, Can Tho Vietnam


Map showing Vietnam study regionCSIRO is using a sustainable urban development approach to increase Vietnam’s capacity to develop and plan for an effective and sustainable urban water system for Can Tho city.

The development challenge

Can Tho City is located on a major branch of the Mekong River about 170km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The river and its tributaries are fundamental to life in the region: underpinning the local economy and livelihoods, and providing freshwater. During the past two decades the economic growth and urbanisation of the region have increased at a very high rate including the development of residential, commercial, and industrial areas, and it is anticipated that this growth will continue into the future.

The sustainability of freshwater resources, water and wastewater services, and local water environment in Can Tho are under pressure from a range of challenges, including increases in population and urbanisation, socio-economic development, and potential impacts of climate change. As a consequence, Can Tho is now struggling to meet some of the basic public services that are essential for a city, such as access to clean water and adequate sanitation.

Our approach

The focus of this project was to put into practice sustainable urban development principles to adapt to climate change. Specifically, the project investigated the use of Integrated Urban Water Management principles to improve the planning of urban water services as a means to enhance the resilience of Can Tho City to climate change. The project demonstrated an approach that is effective in building local capacity for government agencies and communities in the Mekong Delta to adapt their water systems to a changing climate.

The project had three focus areas that aimed to provide the city with evidenced-based options for future development of urban water systems. These focus areas were:

  • Building a shared understanding – through a participatory approach with local researchers and stakeholders, the project team developed a detailed understanding of the local urban water context, the likely influence of planned future urban development, and the regional climate change impacts on local water resources and the environment.
  • Strategic Planning – the project team established a portfolio of effective, feasible and action-supported strategic options for adaptive and sustainable urban water management in Can Tho City. The strategies were supported with science-based outcomes from integrated system assessments of the effectiveness and feasibility of the options.
  • Demonstration – pilot testing in the local context for key options which were identified as no-regret adaptation measures. The options selected for demonstration were rainwater harvesting systems, and the design of sustainable water service provision in a peri-urban area.

The research team undertook:

  • An extensive survey of households on issues of urban water services and climate change: this provided a good understanding of the interplay between level of access to water services and socio-economic data across Can Tho City. Analysis of the survey revealed that households on the peri-urban fringe have the poorest access to adequate water supply and sanitation, leading to adverse impacts in terms of health outcomes and economic opportunities.
  • An extensive sector review of the urban water system in Can Tho and related environmental management challenges. This review helped understand the institutional context, identify available data sources, and assess the Water Needs Index – a spatial analysis tool for water issues across the city’s landscapes.
  • An analysis of the poverty dimensions of water and sanitation, and climate vulnerability for Can Tho City. This highlighted that poor households, which have to actively manage their water systems, are particularly vulnerable to the likely impacts of climate change.
  • Co-developed with stakeholders a set of strategic adaptation options for the sustainable development of the city’s water system, and analysed the desired and unintended impacts, implementation pathways and project risks associated with the developed strategies. This set of strategic options and associate integrated assessment tools will assist the city in planning and investment decisions to improve the city’s water services, environment, and people’s livelihoods.
  • Two demonstrations to initiate detailed assessment of adaptation options, through providing hands-on training to local research partners to enable them to assess and implement sustainable water services that are appropriate to the local context.

Project achievements

The project has:

  • Developed and improved the local capacity for climate adaptation in the urban water sector, in part through introducing systems thinking, which encouraged local stakeholders to depart from traditional ‘silo’ management to a more integrated collaborative approach
  • Provided the city with various science-based evidences, tools, and solutions that are assisting the relevant authorities to identify critical urban water challenges and to target segments of the community most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in planning and investment.
  • Integrated and transformed various sets of data into information and knowledge that are useful to local stakeholders; and created a City Water Atlas that includes 30 GIS-based maps depicting current issues and challenges in the urban water systems and environment of the city. The Atlas and the associated WebGIS has become an effective communication tool and platform for collaborative actions among local stakeholders.
  • Demonstrated locally suitable rainwater tanks to augment safe water supply with two on-site demonstrations that provided an understanding of rainwater quality and trialled cost effective options for improving quality of water harvested from roofs.. The results are being adopted by NGOs to implement for poor households in the region.
  • Demonstrated a procedure of planning and designing sustainable water service options for a pilot study area, using a CSIRO Award-winning sustainability assessment framework. This tool considers sustainable planning and design options for water and sanitation service in peri-urban pilot areas, in terms of life cycle costs, environmental impacts and institutional capacity.
  • Built a new capacity in Urban Water System Engineering to local research partners and conducted trainings of the project’s outputs to more than 50 staff from local agencies and communities. This was undertaken through an innovative 3-stage inclusive and hands-on ‘train-the-trainer’ approach to ensure the knowledge and skills transfers and to overcome the barrier of the language difference.
  • Achieved strong collaborative partnerships with in-country research partners & local stakeholders; and received a Can Tho City Award in 2012 for contribution to the development of Adaptation Action Plan of Can Tho City, Vietnam.

Key lessons

  • The water system in Can Tho City is highly fragmented. Households on the peri‑urban fringe have the poorest access to adequate water supply and sanitation, currently using various sources of water for different purposes, and having inadequate access to sanitation. These led to adverse impacts in terms of health outcomes and economic opportunities. In particular, poor households are vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate.
  • Inclusive engagement and developing partnerships with local partners and stakeholders underpinned activities across all three focus areas. The engagement is not only through conducting workshops, but also through delivering tangible outputs with pilot demonstrations. This ensures that the partners and stakeholders have benefits, buy-ins, and ownership in the outputs; and the developed solutions are locally suitable and socially acceptable.
  • There is a need of capacity building for the local institutions, to allow them not only to effectively participate, but also to maintain any knowledge and technology developed in the project. The hands-on training by collaborative working on practical demonstrations is effectively inclusive and vital to the successful ‘train the trainers’ approach.

Project outputs

The project has produced the following tangible outputs:

  • A set of strategic adaptation options and recommendations to the city for improved water services and environment, which has been referred as a science-based evidence for the city development planning and investment.
  • A Rainwater Harvesting Guidebook for Mekong Delta: this is the first of its kind in Vietnam, currently being used by various local and international agencies in the Mekong Delta.
  • A City Water Atlas in the forms of a Mapbook and a WebGIS with 30 maps on current issues and challenges in the urban water. The WebGIS have been officially transferred to the responsible agencies, who are coordinating the application of the WebGIS by a number of the city agencies.
  • A sustainable design procedure for planning of integrated water service provisions, which provides the city with a very practical tool for sustainable development of its water services
  • A new R&D capacity of Urban Water System Engineering to local research partners; demonstrations and trainings of sustainable development practices to local agencies and communities.
  • multiple research reports, journal and conference papers, models and data sets

Project partners

  • Can Tho University (CTU)
  • University Technology Sydney (UTS)
  • Can Tho Climate Change Coordination Office (CCCO)
  • Water Supply and Sewerage Company (WSSC)
  • Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through its Centre of Rural Clean Water and Environmental Sanitation (CERWASS)
  • Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE)
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)


Evaluation of project – Download PDF file 2-page fact sheet

Evaluation of project – Download PDF file 8-page brochure

Synthesis report – Planning for sustainable urban water systems in adapting to a changing climate – a case study in Can Tho City Vietnam

Report – Urban water systems in Can Tho, Vietnam: Understanding the current context for climate change adaptation

Workshop – Water Risk Index Workshop in Can Tho, Vietnam

Scientific publications

Nguyen Hieu Trung, Dinh Diep Anh Tuan, Nguyen Xuan Hoang, Le Quang Tri, Minh N. Nguyen (2014), Rainwater Harvesting Guidebook for the Mekong Delta, Agriculture Publishing House, ISBN: 978-604-60-1606-9, Vietnam. Link.

Nguyen Hieu Trung, Minh Nguyen, Stephen Cook, Magnus Moglia, Luis Neumann (2014), Approach for Climate Adaptation & Sustainable Development of Urban Water Systems – A Case Study in Can Tho City, Vietnam, Journal of Science and Technology, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Vol. 52, No. 3A, 2014, Sep 2014, pp. 343-348.

Minh Nguyen (2014), Approach for Climate Adaptation & Sustainable Development of Urban Water Systems – A Case Study in Can Tho City, Vietnam, Invited presentation, International Conference of Water Utilities and the Challenges of Climate Change in the Mekong Delta, Can Tho, Vietnam, Nov 2014.

Nguyen Hieu Trung, Nguyen Thanh Tuu, Trinh Cong Doan, Lam Van Thinh, Dinh Diep Anh Tuan, Minh Nguyen (2014), Application of GIS to Support Urban Water Management in Adapting to a Changing Climate: A Case Study in Can Tho City, Vietnam, International Symposium on Geoinformatics for Spatial Infrastructure Development in Earth and Allied Sciences, Da Nang, Vietnam, Dec 2014

Stephen Cook, Dinh Diep Anh Tuan, Lam Van Thinh, Minh Nguyen, Luis Neumann, Ashok Sharma, Nguyen Hieu Trung (2014) Assessment of Water Servicing Options for a Peri-Urban Area: A Case Study in Can Tho, Vietnam, International Conference on Peri-Urban Landscapes: Water, Food & Environmental Security (Peri-Urban 2014), Sydney, July 2014

Dinh D.A. Tuan, Nguyen H. Trung, Nguyen X. Hoang, Le Q. Tri, Minh Nguyen, Stephen Cook, (2014) Rainwater Quality – Harvesting and Use in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, International Workshop on Environmental Protection toward Sustainable Development, Can Tho, Vietnam, Sep 2014.

Neumann, LE, Moglia, M, Cook, S, Nguyen, MN, Sharma, AK, Nguyen, TH, Nguyen, BV. 2013. Water use, sanitation and health in a fragmented urban water system: case study and household survey, Urban Water Journal, 11 (3), 198-210. DOI:10.1080/1573062X.2013.768685

Moglia, M, Nguyen, M, Neumann, L, Cook, S and Nguyen, T. 2013. Integrated assessment of water management strategies: framework and case study, In Piantadosi, J., Anderssen, R.S. and Boland J. (eds) MODSIM2013, 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 2013, pp. 2262–2268. ISBN: 978-0-9872143-3-1.

Tuan, DDA, Nguyen, H, Trung, NH, Le, QT, Nguyen, M, Cook, S, Neumann, L. 2013. Research on assessment of rainwater quality and harvesting solution, Conference of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, Can Tho City, Vietnam, 22 August 2013.

Tuan, DDA, Le, QT, Nguyen, XH, Trung, NH,  Nguyen, M, Cook, S, Neumann, L. 2012. Rainwater harvesting: a solution for domestic water in rural and coastal areas of Mekong Delta, Rural Development for Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Mekong Delta Workshop, Ca Mau province, Vietnam, 22 November 2012.

Trung, NH, Nguyen, M, Le, QT, Tuan, DDA, Lam, VT, Trinh, CD, Nguyen, HL, Neumann, L, Cook, S, Moglia, M. 2012. A mapbook of water system and environment of Can Tho City, AusAid, CSIRO, Can Tho University and Can Tho Water Supply and Sewerage Co. Ltd, 28pp.

Moglia, M, Neumann, LE, Alexander, KS, Nguyen, MN, Sharma, AK, Cook, S, Trung, NH, Tuan, DDA. 2012. Application of the Water Needs Index: Can Tho City, Mekong Delta, Vietnam, Journal of Hydrology, 468-469, 203-212. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.08.036