Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Access to clean water is under threat in many parts of the world due to pollution, overuse and climate change. Through IAEA support, more than 90 countries have used nuclear and isotopic techniques to find, study and protect water resources, which helps policymakers develop water protection and management strategies and plans. These efforts contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation for ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

Finding, studying and protecting water resources

By using isotopic techniques, scientists can study the quality and quantity of water resources. They use naturally occurring isotopes in water to determine the water’s origin, age, vulnerability to pollution, as well as how water resources move and interact with each other both above and below ground. They also use isotopic techniques to better understand and adapt to the impact of climate change and to map out the size of water resources, including groundwater reservoirs hidden underground.

Fighting water pollution

The quality of water is often compromised by human activities and infrastructure, making the very source of life a threat to life. Water sources can be polluted by heavy metals, complex organic compounds such as petroleum by-products or pharmaceuticals, radioactive isotopes and trace elements. This can affect not just humans, but all forms of life.

Through IAEA support, scientists use nuclear and isotopic techniques to detect and analyse pollutants and track their movement. They can also use techniques, such as irradiation with electron beams, to destroy certain pollutants from wastewater generated from industrial processes. This makes the water cleaner and safer for the environment.

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