Viet Nam: Closing the Smart Water Gap


Introducing the New Viet Nam

Did you know that the average age among the 90 million people living in Viet Nam is 29.6 years old and 40% of the population is under 25 years old? [3] Two thirds of the country’s population were born after Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh City) fell in 1975 and have no direct experience of the war that devastated their country and the region.

Today’s Viet Nam is a dynamic, thriving country looking optimistically to the future. Its increasingly affluent population is traveling abroad and more than 21,000 Vietnamese students attended American universities in 2016–the sixth largest number of foreign students in the US. [6]

Viet Nam GDP

Close to 3,000 start-ups operate in Viet Nam and, as shown in the chart to the right (based on CIA Factbook data), its economy is among the fastest growing in Asia and is growing between two and three times faster than the more developed economies.

Viet Nam’s Water Challenges [2], [5]

Viet Nam mapViet Nam is a narrow country with a long coastline on its eastern and southern sides. Most of its 332,000 km2 territory consists of hills and not very high but steep mountains that create a complex network of rivers and streams. The humid tropical climate and plentiful rainfall form ample but unevenly distributed water flows. In the Midland and mountainous areas, there are places that are short of water in the dry season but flooded in the rainy season. The plains have plentiful water resources throughout the year but suffer from flooding in the rainy season.

With the present population, the water volume per capita is about 4,000 m3 per year, which is exactly the threshold between water security and water shortage as determined by the International Water Resources Association. With population growth, climatic changes, dam construction, urbanization and industrialization, Viet Nam must carefully steward its water resources if it is to avoid a water crisis.

Meeting its Water Targets [1]

In the 1990’s only 3 out of 5 people in Viet Nam had access to improved sources of drinking water – tap water and protected wells — and to improved sanitation facilities. As a result, child mortality rates were high and outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea and typhoid were common.

After decades of hard work implementing international water safety guidelines across all levels of government, as of mid-2015 98% of Viet Nam’s residents had access to improved drinking water sources and 78% had access to toilets and latrines that meet international standards.  At this rate, it is expected that by 2030 all Vietnamese will have access to safe drinking water.

Smart Water Innovation

Companies with state-of-the-art water solutions such as Arad have been active in Viet Nam for more than a decade–helping the country achieve its water management goals with advanced, smart solutions. It is also encouraging to see that “homegrown” smart water innovation is beginning to flourish in Viet Nam.

For example, during the first half of 2016 the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi ran the first Smart Water Innovation Contest, with the aim of inspiring Vietnamese university students to think innovatively about how to tackle water-related problems. [3] The winners were announced in June 2016, with the first prize going to three students from HCM City University of Technology who developed a GPS-based crowdsourcing app to report water leakages with only a tap on the smartphone screen– even quicker and easier than sending an email. [4] The students got to attend World Water Week that was held in Stockholm August 27-September 2, an exciting opportunity to participate in the leading annual global event for concretely addressing the planet’s water issues.

Here’s wishing Viet Nam continued success on its high-growth journey, transforming itself from one of the world’s poorest nations to a country that can provide its citizens with high quality infrastructures and services in all aspects of life, including universal access to safe drinking water.


[1]   WHO, Viet Nam: Closer to bringing drinking water and sanitation to all, July 2015
[2]   Tan Qiuyi, Water crisis developing in drought-hit Vietnam: UN, 04 Apr 2016
[3]   Smart Water Innovation Contest in Vietnam, April 1, 2016
[4]   Joakim Persson, Smart Water Innovation Contest winners, June 14, 2016
[5]   To Trung Nghia, Vision of Viet Nam’s Water, Life and Environment in the 21st Century, FAO
[6]   Jessica Meyers, Their parents’ lives were defined by war. Now Vietnam’s youth are pushing the country toward a new identity, Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2017


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