Nuclear Science Offers Innovative Solutions to Combat Desertification and Drought

For sixty years, the IAEA has supported researchers globally by gathering and analyzing water samples, establishing the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation.


Devdiscourse News Desk | Updated: 18-06-2024 12:30 IST | Created: 18-06-2024 12:30 IST
Nuclear Science Offers Innovative Solutions to Combat Desertification and Drought
The IAEA is enhancing water cooperation through its Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network, launched at the UN 2023 Water Conference. Image Credit:

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought highlights the urgent need to halt land degradation through global cooperation and innovative solutions like those offered by nuclear science. One such solution is isotope hydrology, a powerful tool for mapping and protecting water resources, thereby building drought resilience for future generations.

Isotope Hydrology: Building Drought Resilience

Isotope hydrology, a nuclear technique, tracks the movement of water through the land, ocean, and atmosphere. By analyzing the isotopic "fingerprint" of water, scientists can determine its origin, age, quality, and movement, providing critical insights into the water cycle.

Ricardo Sánchez-Murillo from the National University of Costa Rica, in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has used isotope hydrology to understand Costa Rica’s rainfall patterns. "We now know exactly which areas need special attention, and we know how to protect them to ensure our water supply for now and the coming decades," said Sánchez-Murillo.

The Role of the IAEA in Isotope Hydrology

For sixty years, the IAEA has supported researchers globally by gathering and analyzing water samples, establishing the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation. This network provides long-term, large-scale data essential for understanding climate processes at local, regional, and global levels. The data helps countries meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and advance the Water Action Agenda.

The Impact of Isotope Hydrology

Since 1962, water samples have been sent to the IAEA's laboratories in Vienna, where detailed information on the origin and age of water is analyzed and entered into the largest online isotopic hydrology database. "This large amount of data allows researchers to better understand the water cycle globally and locally, such as when, where, and how groundwater is recharged," explained Lucia Ortega, IAEA Isotope Hydrologist. This understanding is crucial for decision-makers managing water resources, especially in the face of climate change.

GloWAL Network: Promoting Water Cooperation

The IAEA is enhancing water cooperation through its Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network, launched at the UN 2023 Water Conference. GloWAL empowers countries to independently generate chemical and isotopic water data, fostering collaboration, best practices, knowledge-sharing, and capacity building among laboratories. The network aims to reduce technical disparities, attract financial investment, and promote scientific innovation in water analysis.

The first coordination meeting of the GloWAL Network is set to take place in Vienna from June 18-20, 2024. Jodie Miller, Head of the IAEA’s Isotope Hydrology Section, emphasized the significance of the IAEA’s work: "The IAEA’s work in promoting the use of nuclear technologies in water resource management is instrumental in advancing global efforts towards achieving water security and sustainability. Through continued research, technical cooperation, and collaboration, we can harness the full potential of nuclear science to protect our precious water resources for a better and sustainable future."

The IAEA's efforts in isotope hydrology and the GloWAL Network underscore the critical role of innovative scientific solutions in addressing global water challenges and building resilience against desertification and drought.

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