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Environmental research in Amazon Basin in Brasil

Collecting water samples from an artesian well in Morocco. (Credit: IAEA)

Sustainable Water Management

A unique partnership focuses on water resource and coastal zone management in developing countries

Staff Report

By 2025, an estimated two-thirds of the world's population could live in countries with moderate or severe water shortages. To avoid this situation, action to improve management of our finite water resources must be taken now. But good management decisions require sound information and knowledge about the source of the water itself.

To address the need for information and knowledge on water sources, the IAEA is teaming up with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to facilitate the use of advanced methodologies, including traditional hydrological methods and isotope hydrology. The goal of this four year partnership is to increase the coordination among experts working in hydrogeology, oceanography, and coastal zone management, while at the same time building the capacity in national scientific and technical institutions to use these advanced methodologies to collect data and information that will drive informed decision making.

In addition to the IAEA and UNESCO water programmes, the partnership will draw on the technical expertise of such organizations as the International Association of Hydrogeologists, the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, and the International Oceanographic Commission.

"A unique aspect to this partnership is the link between groundwater and coastal zone management," said Pradeep Aggarwal, Head of the IAEA Isotope Hydrology Section and focal point for the partnership. "The study of the influence of groundwater discharge on coastal zone ecosystems will not only improve how groundwater is managed in these areas, but also improve the sustainability of coastal zones themselves for aquatic life and commercial use."

The partnership will focus its activities in strategic locations in the developing nations of Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Middle East. It will assess the non-renewable groundwater resources globally; use isotopes to quantify the underground discharge of water in coastal zones; examine the dynamics of aquifer recharge, particularly urban water problems in the region; and study the effects of global changes on ground water recharge in arid and semi-arid regions with respect to sustainability of groundwater use.

An international symposium, "Low-Lying Coastal Areas: Hydrogeology and Integrated Coastal Zone Management" is also being organized in Bremerhaven, Germany in September 2002 through the partnership.

A final report will be completed in 2004.