Collaboration, knowledge sharing and embracing the latest technology and tools are important elements for developing effective and sustainable water resource management solutions, concluded experts during the 14th International Symposium on Isotope Hydrology held this week at the IAEA headquarters. The symposium brought together more than 400 professionals who explored water and climate issues, current developments in isotope hydrology and how isotopic techniques can be widely applied.
“There is virtually no area of human activity that does not depend on water. It is vital for human health, for agriculture, for industrial production, and for technological development,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano during his opening remarks. “The need for scientifically rigorous evidence to support policy planning and the allocation of water resources has never been greater. Nuclear science — and the techniques of isotope hydrology, in particular — have a key role to play in developing the scientific evidence that Member States need in order to manage their water resources and to respond to the effects of climate change.”
Isotope hydrology is an area of hydrology, the scientific study of water, that measures isotopes — chemical elements with atoms that have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons — to estimate the geographical origin of water and water movement on, above and below the surface of the Earth. This technique is used for understanding water availability under the present and future climates, the source and monitoring of contaminants in water, and for effectively assessing and managing water resources.
“Isotope techniques contribute a lot and complement existing techniques that we have been using,” said Callist Tindimugaya from the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda and the chair of the steering committee for an IAEA-supported Nile groundwater project. Isotope techniques are very useful in many areas, such as studying how groundwater and surface water interact, he said. “Isotope hydrology is probably one of the rare techniques that can help with identifying this interaction.” Hear more about Uganda’s project on Nile groundwater here.
The symposium, entitled Revisiting Foundations and Exploring Frontiers, was held from 11 to 15 May and featured presentations, plenary and poster sessions, and roundtable discussions on a range of topics related to, among others, isotopic tools and local, regional and global water assessments and studies; groundwater dating and palaeohydrology; water balance and hydrological processes; analytical methods and modelling approaches; new develops and tools in isotope science; global water and climate challenges, including water scarcity, water quality, food security and energy resources.