25 March 2014
We all know that water is essential for life. Water not only nourishes the Earth’s human and animal inhabitants, but it’s also important for energy generation, whether in turbines or in cooling towers. Emphasizing the close relationship between water and energy is the aim of this year’s World Water Day, marked by the IAEA and other UN organizations on March 22.
Since its inception, the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme has implemented hundreds of projects to identify, manage and protect water sources around the world. Wherever they take place, these projects encourage economic development, stave off water scarcity and contribute to poverty eradication.
A recent and ongoing example of our work is taking place in Georgia. As the deterioration of shallow aquifers became more evident in Georgia’s water-scarce lowlands, the implementation of a TC project was requested by the Member State. With the help of local researchers and experts, the IAEA is helping to increase Georgia’s capacity for isotope hydrology, a technique that uses isotopic data to map aquifers, identify pollution sources and ultimately provide data that can contribute to decision-making on national water-use policies.
Afghanistan offers another example of how the TC programme is helping to conserve and improve water resources. Droughts due to low annual precipitation are a regular challenge in Afghanistan. In partnership with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Water and Energy, a TC project was established in January 2014 to address the salinization and contamination of groundwater systems. The project results are expected to serve as an input to the planning of future dams and the management of water resources.
In Bangladesh, the livelihoods of more than 40 million people depend on the availability of water—not just for sustenance, but for municipal and industrial uses. For years, salty water has found ways to penetrate the precious groundwater sources in the Khulna, Barisal and Chittagong regions. In tandem with local public health and water authorities, the IAEA is establishing a national database and using isotopic techniques to examine the country’s water basins.
An ongoing technical cooperation project in the Sahel region not only underscores the value of water management, but also of regional cooperation. 13 African Member States, who share many of the same underground water sources, have joined this large-scale project. Its objectives are three-fold: Capacity building, shared aquifer analysis and public awareness. By using the appropriate nuclear techniques, the IAEA can support the rational and sustainable use of the communal groundwater resources.
Water and energy are intimately connected. Whether that energy is derived by cooling power plants or by drinking a glass of water, the connection remains strong. By using isotopic techniques and by cooperating across national boundaries, we can ensure that there’s enough water to meet all our needs, and then some.