Vietnam’s Water Challenges

Vietnam is confronted by a host of water challenges that risk jeopardizing the economy and the environment. Rapid industrial development and urbanization are placing great pressure on the country’s water resources, as only 12.5% of urban wastewater and 71% of industrial wastewater is treated before discharge. Under a business-as-usual scenario, pollution-related impacts may lead to a 3.5% reduction of the national GDP by 2035.

Water resources are already coming under stress, manifesting in gaps between supply and demand in certain locations and seasons. Rising demand for water from the urban, industrial, and hydropower sectors is competing with the agriculture sector, which currently uses 80% of water in the country. Vietnam could also experience severe freshwater shortfalls in some river basins unless action is taken to improve efficiency now. In particular, the river basins generating 80% of Vietnam’s GDP are all expected to face water stress in the dry season by 2030. Additional water-related challenges, including deteriorated water infrastructure, emerging water-use conflicts, and increasing drought and flood events, are posing threats to socio-economic growth.

Approach and Results

Vietnam is a relatively new country engagement for 2030 WRG. A hydro-economic analysis and a series of stakeholder dialogues have been held to identify key water sector challenges and gauge public, private, and community perspectives on the gap in water resources management and potential solution areas. Work is being prioritized under two workstreams: Agriculture Water Productivity Enhancement and Urban and Industrial Water Pollution Management.

In the agriculture sector, 2030 WRG has highlighted a need to shift to horticultural practices, higher-value crops, and more efficient water technologies. Other critical areas include supply chain-driven water stewardship in key value chains, such as rice, coffee, pepper, and sugarcane and a need for better financing and implementation models for irrigation infrastructure.

Discussions with water utilities, industrial park developers, and textile businesses have centered on the need for incentives and mechanisms to promote water conservation, wastewater treatment, and reuse. Specific opportunities to improve governance and incentives for industrial water systems include a greening of eco-industrial parks initiative, enabling and incentivizing centralized effluent treatment plant (CETP) operations, and supporting appropriate wastewater pricing for PPPs.


The Urban and Industrial Water Pollution Management workstream is chaired by the Vietnam Environment Administration, with support from the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In addition to the participation of government departments, multiple stakeholders have participated in planning and dialogue with 2030 WRG, including agribusinesses, textile brands, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, water utilities, and others.