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NEW CRP: Isotope-enabled Models for Improved Estimates of Water Balance in Catchments (F31005)


Hillslopes such as these in the Bale Mountains, of South-Eastern Ethiopia are often the sources of runoff and recharge processes. (Photo: Dagnachew L. Belachew, 2016)

When managing water resources, one of the fundamental activities is assessing the flows in-and-out of specific freshwater sources (for any particular source, the net of these flows is known as its ‘water balance’). A new IAEA coordinated research project—intended to span four years—seeks to develop tools for Member States to improve their ability to perform such assessments on a variety of freshwater flows, such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater.

This project is a follow-up from an earlier CRP (F31004), which used isotopic measurements to compile reams of data on isotopes in precipitation, and applied them to evaluating mechanisms that control isotopic signatures in tropical regions. The new idea is to integrate these data with methods designed to assess the water balance in various catchments.

Many such methods exist, but they have not yet been sufficiently integrated with isotopic information. Doing so would offer better methodological and analytical precision, significantly improving the effectiveness of assessment methods. In particular, techniques using the stable isotopes Oxygen-18 and Deuterium (2H) will be developed and honed.

As freshwater sources reshape due to climate change, the improvements in water conservation methods that result from integrating isotopic data with existing management strategies could be significant. After the CRP is completed, new assessment and management techniques can be applied in Member States via Technical Cooperation (TC) projects initiated by the IAEA.

CRP Overall Objective:

This CRP aims to help Member States use environmental isotopes to better assess the impacts of climate change on the sustainability and availability of their water resources. Through increased capacity and expertise, potential impacts can be better understood, enabling the design of more effective adaptation strategies.

Specific Research Objectives:

  • Create/consolidate stable water isotope database for precipitation, vapour, rivers, shallow groundwater, and wetlands
  • Develop improved methodology for integrating environmental isotopes in climate and hydrological models to improve model outputs and scenario analyses
  • Improve the capacity of Member States to apply advanced modelling techniques for water resources management through collaboration and knowledge transfer

How to join the CRP?

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by 31 March 2018 directly to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the form templates on the CRA web site (preferably via email). For further information related to this CRP, potential applicants should contact Dagnachew Belachew or Luis Araguás, Technical Officers in the Isotope Hydrology Section, Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences, Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications.


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