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GloWAL: A New Global Water Resources Initiative


Perito Moreno, a glacier in Argentina. (Photo: L. Ortega/IAEA)

A new global laboratory network is empowering countries around the world to generate the data needed to manage their water resources effectively, participants heard at a side event of the 67th IAEA General Conference taking place in Vienna this week. The Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network was set up in response to the water crisis caused by climate change and experienced through worsening floods, rising sea levels, shrinking ice fields, wildfires and droughts. Global warming is redistributing water around the world, with some areas becoming drier and others wetter. Water resources are becoming more scarce, more unpredictable and are also under increasing pressure from pollutants and contaminants.

With these challenges in mind, six months ago the IAEA launched the GloWAL Network at the UN 2023 Water Conference, enabling collaboration and communication amongst laboratories around the world and assisting countries in generating their own chemical, biological and isotopic data from water samples. With enhanced water data, policymakers can make informed decisions enabling them to manage their water resources effectively. The network also aims to strengthen water management capacity through training fellowships and exchanges of staff. 

“GloWAL assists Member States in addressing water scarcity, quality, and hydrological extremes, challenges being accelerated by climate change.” said the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, in his opening speech of the General Conference on Monday.

The UN 2023 Water Conference found that in many countries inadequate monitoring and reporting systems and insufficient resources were leading to a lack of credible and timely data for decision-making. This in turn was impeding progress on the attainment of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, on Clean Water and Sanitation. The IAEA is bringing its considerable resources and expertise to countries to improve their water analysis capabilities through the GloWAL network.

The GloWAL network plans to drive innovation, disseminating technical and scientific advances in analysis, instrumentation and data usage. It will encourage partnerships between developed and developing countries in regional sub-networks in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and Central Asia, to support the network members in building their capacities to serve their country or region through designated laboratories. These laboratories form different types of nodes depending on their level of development and the support they need to become strong and innovative water analysis laboratories.

Innovation is a key component of the GloWAL Network, both in a science and technical analysis capacity. At the GloWAL side event, Botswana announced that the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is ready to host the first noble gas laboratory in Africa. Isotopes of the noble gases can be used to determine the age of groundwater – providing information that is essential to evaluate the sustainability of groundwater sources and their resilience in the face of climate change.

“Innovative approaches must be accelerated and scaled up for transformative change, utilising technology and customising innovation to local contexts” said Otlogetswe Totolo, Vice Chancellor of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology.

Partnership, investment and resource mobilization

Several donor countries have already pledged their support towards GloWAL.

“Australia firmly believes that the GloWAL Network will play an indispensable role in ensuring all Member States, including developing and least developed countries, have access to isotope hydrology techniques for secure and sustainable water management” said Australian ambassador Ian Biggs, who represents the Permanent Mission of Australia to the IAEA. Australia also made an extrabudgetary contribution of AUD $400 000 to support the development and growth of the GloWAL Network.

Sustainable financing is a key accelerator for the GloWAL Network and the IAEA is focussed on forging new, diverse and exciting partnerships for funding. Partners and interested donors can support the initiative through various avenues including direct financial contributions and education grants, provision of training and expert support, as well as laboratory facilities and equipment.


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