Water scarcity and degradation are growing concerns for countries around the world. Global demand for fresh water is doubling every 21 years according to the FAO. And as industrial, agricultural and domestic pollution threaten finite supplies, water is becoming an increasingly precious resource.
Across the world today, renewable water resources available per person are roughly half what they were in 1960. This figure is expected to drop by half again by the year 2025 according to estimates of the World Bank (Click here for figure 1). Clearly, if water resources are not better managed, they could present a burden on economic growth as well as a potential danger to human health and the environment.
To help address this pressing need, nuclear science has developed a set of specific analytical tools - isotope techniques - that can improve, when used with non-nuclear techniques, the development and management of water resources wherever they are located.
Isotope techniques provide invaluable information on the sources, movement and quantity of water in different environments, including rivers and lakes. They are particularly effective in investigating water reserves below the earth's surface, or groundwater. Isotope hydrology provides insights into water's behaviour and helps to build the foundations for rational utilization of this precious resource.