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IAEA Isotope Hydrology Symposium Spotlights Water Resource Solutions for Climate Change


The 16th IAEA International Symposium on Isotope Hydrology is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 3 to 7 July. (Photo: IAEA)

The 16th IAEA International Symposium on Isotope Hydrology is taking place at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna this week. “This symposium is a chance to share knowledge and find actionable solutions to the enormously important issue of sustainable water management,” IAEA Director General, Mr Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his opening video remarks.  

More than 300 participants from 90 countries are attending this week’s symposium from 3 – 7 July 2023, to review the state-of-the-science, practical applications, and research trends and needs in isotope hydrology.

Director of the Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences in the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Melissa Denecke, said the symposium was more timely than ever. “The pace of climate change is accelerating, glaciers are melting faster, surface water bodies are rapidly shrinking and at least around 1.5 billion people have been severely negatively impacted by drought and the same number by flooding. This puts people, the environment and their well-being at risk.”

Isotope hydrology contributes to a better understanding of the water cycle and has applications in water resources assessment and management, the study of past and future changes in the Earth’s climate as well as of climate impacts on the water cycle, and in forensic areas such as ecological, wildlife and food source traceability.

The IAEA supports Member States in achieving Sustainable Development Goal Number 6’s targets for clean water using isotope hydrology techniques to improve hydrological understanding, and guide water resource management.

“For 62 years the Isotope Hydrology Section has been compiling and managing the IAEA’s Global network of Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) and global network of isotopes in rivers (GNIR), Denecke said. “Both of these databases are important for hydrological and climatological studies, the data they contain are one of the indicators we have that the pace of hydrological change is accelerating. GNIP and GNIR data are increasingly being used in Machine learning-based approaches for predictive modelling of climate change and environmental impacts,” she said.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, this year’s symposium offers participants an opportunity to visit 13 scientific sessions including more than 70 presentations and six workshops.

At the UN 2023 Water Conference the IAEA launched the Global Water Analysis Laboratory Network (GloWAL). This network will empower countries to generate their own chemical, biological and isotopic water to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 and deliver on the Water Action Agenda. At a side event during the Isotope Hydrology Symposium, experts will discuss the GloWAL Network benefits for countries who wants to join.

The IAEA has been assisting countries in water measurement and protection through science-based methodologies and technical training for more than six decades. Currently, the IAEA has more than 70 technical cooperation projects globally focused on water and water resource management.

“Today, the IAEA is helping more than 60 countries around the world to protect and manage their water resources through national technical cooperation projects,” Hua Liu, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation said. “Even more are participating in regional and interregional projects that address transboundary water issues. These important projects are not only building capacities in water management that will help to ensure national water availability, they are also helping countries to make decisions together on sustainable and equitable access to this vital resource.”

See here more details about the symposium and watch the sessions online.

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