Socio-hydrologic modeling of the dynamics of cooperation in the transboundary Lancang-Mekong River

You Lu, Fuqiang Tian, Liying Guo, Iolanda Borzì, Rupesh Patil, Jing Wei, Dengfeng Liu, Yongping Wei, David J. Yu, Murugesu Sivapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transboundary Lancang-Mekong River basin has experienced dynamics of cooperation over the past several decades, which is a common emergent response in transboundary coupled human-water systems. Downstream countries rely on the Mekong River for fisheries, agriculture, navigation and ecological services, while upstream countries have been constructing dams to generate hydropower. The dam construction and operation in upstream countries have changed the seasonality of streamflow in downstream countries, affecting their economic benefits. More recently, cooperation between upstream and downstream countries has been enhanced throughout the river basin. In this study, we introduce a quantitative socio-hydrological model to simulate hydrological processes, reservoir operations, economic benefits, policy feedbacks and therefore dynamics of cooperation within the Lancang-Mekong River basin. The model reproduces the observed dynamics of cooperation in the basin revealed by sentiment analysis of news articles. Hydrological variability such as droughts and human activities associated with reservoir operations affect dynamics of cooperation between the riparian countries, with importance attached to indirect political benefits of upstream playing an important role in the enhancement of cooperation. In this way, our study generated understanding of emergent cooperation dynamics in this transboundary river basin, and the socio-hydrological model used here provides a useful new framework to investigate and improve transboundary water management elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1883-1903
Number of pages21
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 9 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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