Water Matters: Making a Difference with Nuclear Technniques

23 September 2011
© IAEAMore than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion. IAEA Environment Laboratories support Member States to study our common oceans during marine expeditions …… collecting data on oceanographic and climate processes from tropical areas …… to the ice covered poles, analysing water and sediment samples. IAEA Environment Laboratories help Member States to understand the impact of ocean acidification on marine species, including commercial fish stocks such as sea bass, sea bream, prawns, cuttle fish, squid and sea urchins. Support is also provided through expert advice, fellowships, workshops and training courses.These approaches help to build local expertise and strengthen networking by bringing together researchers and technicians from across the developing world.In El Salvador, an IAEA technical cooperation project is helping fishing communities to identify harmful algal blooms early and accurately.These harmful blooms, also known as ‘red tides’ can severely affect human health, and local and international trade.The IAEA is helping Member States to set up early warning programmes that provide important information about harmful algal blooms to fishermen and consumers.Around 30% of the world's freshwater is stored underground in the form of groundwater. This constitutes about 97% of all the freshwater that is potentially available for human use. The IAEA works with Member States and partners, using scientific methods based on isotope tracing, to improve the management of freshwater resources. By identifying the size, origin, flow and age of a particular water source, planners can manage ground and surface water.IAEA projects support the development of comprehensive national and transboundary water resource plans for domestic, livestock, fishery, irrigation and other water users.The IAEA has been using isotope techniques to help Bangladesh mitigate the impacts of arsenic poisoning. In Chapai Nawabganj, isotope analysis revealed that groundwater in the eastern part would provide a source of arsenic-safe water.It is essential that countries like Bangladesh can protect and optimize the limited groundwater resources that they have.1 billion people in developing countries do not have access to safe drinking water. Women farmers produce 80-90% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of inefficient watering practices, particularly in developing countries, 60% of fresh water used for irrigation in agriculture is lost to evaporation or is returned to rivers and groundwater aquifers.In Kenya, drought forces the Maasai to range farther and farther afield to find forage for their cattle. An IAEA drip irrigation project is helping communities to grow foodstuffs and cattle fodder ……improving income, nutrition and educational opportunitiesAn IAEA project is helping Thailand to establish an isotope hydrology laboratory …… that will address drought and water table problems that affect water availability.Agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use.Improving water management supports food security and improves farmers' livelihoods.
Last update: 16 October 2014