Two rivers, one partnership
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Mississippi River Commission and the Mekong River Commission renewed its five-year Memorandum of Understanding to promote safer, more economical and environmentally sound water resource development and management. (Photo courtesy-- Mekong River Commission) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Two rivers, one partnership
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Mississippi River Commission and the Mekong River Commission watched the sun set over the Mekong River. The partners gathered to share best practices in water and river management.

Photo Credit- U.S. Embassy Vientiane (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
Two rivers, one partnership
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Mississippi-Mekong delegation converses with local government officials and communities in Kampong Chhnang's Chhnok Tru and Kampong Thom's Phat Sandai floating villages to learn about their livelihoods and appreciate how they cope with changes during the rise and fall of water levels during flood and drought seasons.

Photo Courtesy of Mekong river Commission (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

Leaders from the Mekong River Commission and Mississippi River Commission completed a two-country engagement July 10-16, 2022, as part of a collective effort to address global water challenges and share best practices for international river sustainability.

Throughout the visit, leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission toured sites along the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia. Mississippi River Commission President, Maj. Gen. Diana Holland highlighted the valuable collaboration and increased understanding of the common challenges and opportunities presented by the respective river basins.

“Together, the world faces new and evolving challenges," Holland said. "Climate change—and it’s anticipated effects like prolonged droughts, changing weather patterns, and food insecurity—will create new barriers for vulnerable and at-risk communities to access clean drinking water and sufficient food sources. It is essential that we work together, across national and regional boundaries, to confront these emerging challenges."

While similarities between the Mekong and Mississippi rivers may not be obvious at first glance, they share many likenesses. In addition to both rivers representing a significant watershed in their respective regions, the rivers share similar challenges such as saltwater intrusion, riverbank erosion, evolving hydrology, and climate change.

By pairing the Mekong River Commission, which includes four member countries from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, with the Mississippi River Commission, the program joins expert teams from the United States and Mekong River Commission countries to share best practices regarding water management in order to address these shared challenges.

“At its core, the partnership offers a platform for both commissions to learn from each other and to join together to promote sustainable water management,” Holland said.

During the visit, leaders witnessed the importance of the Mekong River and its value to the community in Laos and Cambodia. The delegation also conducted seven official engagements that included the Mekong River Commission Secretariat and several ministries in member countries. The key moment in the trip included the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding, committing the two commissions to continue the partnership and exchange visits for the next five years.

Mekong River Commission Secretariat CEO, Dr. Anoulak Kittihoun who attended the signing ceremony said, “This kind of cooperation is invaluable to us, considering the challenges we face today. They (U.S.) have much experience with river and water resource management, especially with the operation of dams and adapting designs, that the Mekong countries and the public can definitely benefit from these areas. Through this exchange of lessons learned – then the technical cooperation that results from the MoU – we can also learn what shortcomings were made in the past, which we can consider and avoid repeating here in the Mekong.”

Holland echoed similar sentiments saying, “I look forward to continued collaboration with our Mekong partners, and I eagerly await the opportunity to warmly welcome our friends from the Mekong River Commission and National Mekong Committee members to visit the Mississippi River for the next Sister River Partnership exchange.”

In addition to the Sister River Partnership exchange, USACE is providing Laos with in-person Dam Safety expertise for 90 days and a week-long training in Vietnam for watershed modelling practitioners from across the Mekong. This training is in partnership with NASA and the Republic of Korea to help build Mekong River Commission capacity in conducting real-time flood management operations. USACE has also partnered with the Mississippi River Commission and Mekong countries to further develop a web tool that supports the implementation of the Mekong Basin Development Strategy and Plan.

For more than a decade, this partnership has served as one of the U.S. flagship initiatives resulting in the sharing of best practices in water management, that enhance transboundary river governance, disaster risk mitigation and sustainable development.

Partnerships are critical to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ success in delivering vital engineering solutions to solve the nation’s toughest challenges, and in their collective ability to meet complex global challenges.