IAEA Bulletin September 2011


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IAEA Bulletin September 2011

  1. 1. IAEA BULLETIN INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY September 2011 | 53-1 | www.iaea.org/bulletin too little, too hard to findWater for Santa Elena • Farming When the Rains Fail • Protecting Coastal Waters
  2. 2. The International Atomic Energy Agency servesas the world’s foremost intergovernmental forumfor scientific and technical cooperation in thepeaceful use of nuclear technology. Established asan autonomous organization under the UnitedNations in 1957, the IAEA carries out programmesto maximize the useful contribution of nucleartechnology to society while verifying its peaceful use.The IAEA helps its Member States pursue theirdevelopmental goals by supporting the responsibleplanning and use of nuclear science and technology.The IAEA facilitates the transfer of the knowledgeand technology needed by developing MemberStates to utilize these technologies peacefully.By developing nuclear safety standards, the IAEApromotes the achievement and maintenance of highlevels of safety in nuclear energy applications, as wellas protecting human health and the environmentagainst ionizing radiation.The IAEA also verifies through its inspection systemthat Member States comply with their commitmentsunder the Non-Proliferation Treaty and othernon-proliferation agreements to use nuclearmaterial and facilities only for peaceful purposes.The work is multi-faceted and engages a wide varietyof partners at the national, regional and internationallevels. IAEA programmes and budgets are setthrough decisions of its policymaking bodies — the35-member Board of Governors and the GeneralConference of all Member States.The IAEA is headquartered at the ViennaInternational Centre. Field and liaison offices arelocated in Geneva, New York,Tokyo and Toronto.The IAEA operates scientific laboratories in Monaco,Seibersdorf and Vienna. In addition, the IAEAsupports and provides funding to the Abdus SalamInternational Centre for Theoretical Physics,Trieste.
  3. 3. IAEA BULLETINCONTENTS INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY September 2011 | 53-1 | www.iaea.org/bulletinIAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011Why Water Matters 2by Yukiya AmanoToo Little, Too Hard to Find 3 too little,by Sasha HenriquesSidebar: Assessing Water Needs too hard to findTackling the Water Crisis 6by Mollie Rock ZuccatoSidebar: Optimal Results Water for Santa Elena • Farming When the Rains Fail • Protecting Coastal Waters IAEA BULLETINComplex Science Saving Lives in Bangladesh 10 is produced by theby Sasha Henriques Division of Public Information International Atomic Energy Agency P.O. Box 100, A-1400 Vienna, AustriaIAEA Helps Parched Santa Elena Find Water 12 Phone: (43-1) 2600-21270by Maureen MacNeill Fax: (43-1) 2600-29610 IAEABulletin@iaea.orgTreasure Maps 14by Peter Kaiser Division of Public Information Editor-in-Chief: Peter KaiserAll About Water 17 Assistant Editor/Design: Ritu KennFacts and figures on the water crisis IAEA BULLETIN is available online atImproving Farming with Nuclear Techniques 21 www.iaea.org/bulletin Past editions are archived on-line atby Sasha Henriques www.iaea.org/bulletinarchiveSidebar: Making the Most of itFarming When the Rains Fail 23 Extracts from the IAEA material contained in theby Louise Potterton IAEA Bulletin may be freely used elsewhere providedSidebar: Seeing Through Soil acknowledgement of their source is made. If the attribution indicates that the author is not an IAEA staff member, permission to republish other than forIf I Had Water... 26 the use of review must be sought from the author orby Louise Potterton originating organization.No Rain, No Food 29 Views expressed in any signed article appearing inby Louise Potterton the IAEA Bulletin do not necessarily represent those of the International Atomic Energy Agency and theSustainable Management of Coastal Waters 32 IAEA accepts no responsibility for them.by Rodolfo Quevenco Cover Photo: A young boy from KishoreganjDetecting a Killer Toxin 38 District in central Bangladesh carries water throughby Rodolfo Quevenco his village. Kishoreganj is one of several areas in Bangladesh which has been affected by theProtection From a Toxic Menace 41 presence of arsenic in its groundwater supply.by Sasha Henriques To learn more, turn to page 10. (D. Sacchetti/IAEA, August 2011)An Ocean of Knowledge 43by Peter Kaiser IAEA Bulletin is printed in Vienna, Austria.Sidebar: Unlocking Rain’s Secrets IAEA Bulletin 49-2 | March 2008 | 1
  4. 4. by Yukiya Amano Why Water Matters give over a quarter of a million people continuous access to fresh water for the first time. I saw this successful project myself in July 2011. Together with our partners, we investigate and measure the aquifers so that wells can be drilled in the right places and long-term sustainability of water supply is assured. The IAEA is working with partners in Bangladesh to mitigate contamination of groundwater by natural arsenic, the worst such case in the world. The use of nuclear techniques made it possible to locate safe alternative supplies of water quickly and cheaply. In Africa, where many farmers are confronted with arid growing conditions, water is becom- ing a rare commodity. The IAEA is working with 19 African countries to teach farmers to use appro- priate, small-scale irrigation technology, sup- ported by nuclear techniques, to make sure that every drop reaches the crops to produce greater yields. The IAEA’s experts also use nuclear techniques to protect the marine environments. Pollution threatens many of the world’s seas and oceans, on which countless people depend for their liveli- Nuclear techniques can help countries hood. In 12 countries that ring the Caribbean, forto manage their freshwater supplies and example, the IAEA is helping to establish a labora- protect the environment. tory infrastructure to identify sources of pollution and better protect seas and coastlines. In order to raise awareness among the world’s decision-makers about water issues, and about T he world faces acute water shortages. The the enormous benefits of using low-cost nuclear current African drought is just the latest techniques to address them, I decided that the tragic example. One billion people have no September 2011 IAEA Scientific Forum should access to adequate drinking water. Five million focus on this subject. — mainly children — die each year due to water– borne diseases. Those numbers are expected to This issue of the IAEA Bulletin highlights the bene- rise. fits of nuclear techniques in tackling global water challenges. It also describes our work with many For over half a century, the IAEA has been doing national and international partners to improve everything it can to help, deploying its unique global access to sustainable supplies of clean expertise in using nuclear techniques to under- water and to protect the environment. I hope you stand and manage water. In more than 90 coun- will find it interesting and informative. tries, our experts work with national counterparts to find, manage and conserve freshwater sup- plies and protect our oceans. In the Santa Elena province in Ecuador, for exam- ple, the IAEA has worked with local partners to Yukiya Amano is Director General of the IAEA.2 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  5. 5. by Sasha Henriques too little, too hard to find Addressing the Global Water Crisis (L.Potterton/IAEA)O Water Crisis nly 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh, not salty. Less than 1% of that tiny fraction is available for us to use. The rest is frozen in This issue of management—understandingice caps and glaciers, or occurs as soil and atmos- where water is available, who needs it, how to getpheric moisture.  it to them, and water’s equitable and responsible distribution—is the crux of the problem.Almost all of that precious resource, the earth’saccessible fresh water, is located underground When asked if there is a water crisis, Pradeep— water that is hidden in the earth’s crust and is Aggarwal, head of the IAEA’s Isotope Hydrologyoften hard to access. This vital resource is poorly Section, said ‘yes and no’. understood and poorly managed. IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 3
  6. 6. Too Little, Too Hard to Find But there are technological developments which are leading to less water consumption, while maintaining or improving crop yields. These developments include genetic and non-genetic crop modification and drip irrigation. “If there were to be further developments in agricultural technology, and if these were to be adopted more quickly, there might just be enough water to grow food to feed a growing world population.” Beyond expanding urban populations and more demand for food, there is the issue of climate change, which leads to too much rain at one time, causing flooding, rather than sufficient water going into the ground to recharge aquifers. “Also, poor distribution mechanisms; inadequate protection of water sources to ensure they remain clean; and financial strain all conspire to increase governments’ inability to provide sufficient pota- ble water to their populations,” said Aggarwal. The need to understand and manage water is becoming more urgent for many countries. The IAEA, knowing how much water matters, is help- Understanding where In high demand places, like urban areas and the ing them do just that, using isotope hydrology. water is available, who arid and semi-arid areas of Asia and Africa, thereneeds it and how to get it often isn’t enough water. But many low demandto them is the crux of the places have quite a lot. Detective Work problem. Isotope hydrology helps scientists and (Photo: N.Ahmed/BAEC) “If we all begin to use water more conservatively governments get a handle on just how much however, there will be enough for everyone,” he water is in a particular location, where it’s coming said. from and where it goes, what it picks up along the way and how it changes from liquid to gas, pristine to polluted. Cities, Farms and Climate Change Using its experience in nuclear technology, the IAEA has been involved in this type of research “Nearly half of the world is going to be living for more than 40 years. The Agency helps scores in urban settlements in the next decade or so. of Member States better understand their water Because a lot of people are living in a relatively resources. small area, we need to provide water, all of which may not be available from nearby rivers or aqui- fers. Therefore, the urban water crisis results from Pollution the inability to provide a lot of water in a small Essentially, isotopic techniques are used to under- area,” said Aggarwal. stand how water moves. So countries also use iso- topes to find out the source of water pollution. Freshwater’s use in agriculture is also a major con- tributor to the problem. Pollutants in water come from three main sources: agriculture, industry and human waste. “Agriculture uses almost 75% of all fresh water, A community might think its problems stem from most of which comes from groundwater systems lack of proper sanitation, when the real trouble and aquifers,” he said. “If agricultural demand for lies with agricultural runoff into streams and riv- water continues to grow at the rate at which it has ers. Isotope hydrology helps them pinpoint and grown in the past several decades, it will be diffi- eventually solve their problems. cult for us to provide enough water.” 4 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  7. 7. Too Little, Too Hard to FindLet’s Take Nitrogen as an Because these isotopes decay over time, their concentrations decrease as the years go by.Example Higher concentrations mean “younger” water and lower concentrations mean “older” water. ForNitrate is a common pollutant. Nitrogen has two example, groundwater with lots of tritium may beisotopes: N-14 which is lighter than N-15. The ratio less than 50 years old, whereas groundwater withof N-15 to N-14 in fertilizers is different from the no tritium must be older.ratio in human or animal waste. Many fertiliz-ers are made using nitrogen from the air, while Tritium works for groundwater younger thanhumans and animals absorb nitrogen and change about 50 years, carbon-14 for waters up to severalits isotopic ratio, through a biological process. By tens of thousands years old, and krypton-81 iden-looking at the N-15 to N-14 ratio, a scientist can tell tifies waters that can be a million years old.the source of the pollution. Understanding water’s age gives scientists and governments a good idea of how quickly newMovement water is getting into aquifers.Other pressing problems countries face includeunderstanding where fresh water comes from, Knowing if one’s water source is being replen-how much there is at any given time, and some- ished, and how quickly, helps governments plantimes, most importantly, will this source continue how best to use the water that is now, and will be,to provide freshwater. Isotopes are used as trac- available in the future.ers, providing the answers to these questions.Radioactive isotopes such as tritium, carbon-14,and krypton-81 can be used to figure out how old Sasha Henriques, Division of Public Information.groundwater is. E-mail: S.Henriques@iaea.orgAssessing Water Needs by Sasha HenriquesIAEA Water Availability Enhancement Project to Assess Global WaterManagement and ResourcesAs industrialisation and urbanisation increase, and the demand for food rises,fresh water stores are being depleted more ject, which should build on, and complement, other interna- tional, regional, and national ini-quickly. Comprehensive information about water tiatives to provide decision mak-quality, how much there is, where it’s located, as ers with reliable tools for betterwell as how this water is replenished, will prove management of their waterinvaluable when determining how best to allo- resources.cate water resources to meet the needs of citydwellers, farmers and industry. “By becoming more knowledge- able about your own resources,The IAEA Water Availability Enhancement Project not only do you improve your(IWAVE) will help Member States identify and fill water use and availability, butgaps in existing hydrological information, ena- you are also better able tobling national experts to conduct independent deal with and cooperate withassessments, as well as continually update hydro- your neighbours who sharelogical information. your resources,” said Charles Dunning, Water ResourcesIWAVE will also help countries interpret water Advisor in the IAEA’s Isotoperesources data, and use advanced techniques to Hydrology Section.simulate hydrological systems for resource man- Comprehensive information aboutagement. Sasha Henriques, Division of water quality, will prove invaluable Public Information. E-mail: when determining how best to allocateOman, the Philippines and Costa Rica are now S.Henriques@iaea.org water resources to meet the needs ofparticipating in the pilot phase of the IWAVE pro- city dwellers, farmers and industry. (Photo: P.Pavlicek/IAEA) IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 5
  8. 8. by Mollie Rock Zuccato Tackling the Water Crisis IAEA Technical Cooperation Delivers Know-How in Sustainability (Photo: D. Sacchetti/IAEA) In a world facing severe challenges to water The IAEA’s technical cooperation programme resource availability, nuclear technology helps Member States to achieve their develop- helps manage and make the most of ment priorities while monitoring and protecting natural resources. Environmental degradation the air, earth and oceans. and a lack of clean water pose fundamental challenges to sustainable development. Socioeconomic advances cannot be sustained without clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, Managing Groundwater healthy soils for crops and livestock production Groundwater is the primary source of drink- and a clean and stable environment to support ing water for half of the world’s population. It is work and life. important that developing countries can pro-6 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  9. 9. Tackling the Water Crisistect and optimize what limited groundwaterresources they have. Groundwater that has beencontaminated due to land use activities affectspublic health and the environment. Industry isthe greatest source of water pollution for devel-oping countries. Rain runoff, especially floodwater, is another major polluting agent becauseof the many different substances that it carriesinto freshwater systems.IAEA technical cooperation projects promotethe use of isotopic techniques to understand thesource, extent and behaviour of water resources,as well as their vulnerability to pollution. Isotopehydrology also helps to identify the origin andextent of pollution or saline water intrusion, andprovides valuable inputs for sustainable waterresource management.IAEA projects support the development of com-prehensive national and transboundary waterresource plans for domestic, livestock, fishery, Improving Crop Growth Harmful algal blooms inirrigation and other water uses, and help Member oceans can severely affectStates to develop regulations, procedures, stand- To be certain that every drop of rainwater or irri- local and internationalards, minimum requirements and guidelines for gation water reaches crops, isotopic techniques trade. The IAEA helps insustainable water management. Regional moni- are used to optimize soil-water-cropping prac- finding quicker and moretoring networks and databases on isotopes and tices and fertilizer technologies. This research accurate means of detect-the chemical constituents of surface water and improves the soil’s fertility and quality to grow ing the presence of toxinsgroundwater can also help to improve water more nutrient-rich and higher-yielding crops. in marine life. (Photo: D. Sacchetti/IAEA)resource management. Carefully dosing and placing fertilizers reduces waste, protects the environment and cuts costsAdditionally, radiation processing technology, while increasing plant production.in combination with other techniques offersimproved environmental safety through effec-tive treatment of wastewater, and supports thereuse of treated wastewater for urban irrigation Monitoring and Protecting theand industrial purposes. Oceans Marine pollution is a serious threat to marine creatures and habitats. Pesticides, toxic chemi-Conserving Agricultural Water cals and heavy metals that enter the marine foodNearly three-quarters of the freshwater used web can lead to mutation, disease and behav-annually is consumed in sustaining agricul- ioural change, and eventually end up in the foodture. In forty years, that consumption will need we eat. Trade in fish and seafood depends on ato increase by 50% to meet rising food demand. country’s ability to determine the quality of food-At the same time, indiscriminate use and ever- stuffs.more frequent extreme weather events, suchas droughts, shrink our access to freshwater. IAEA technical cooperation projects help MemberEffective conservation is thus an urgent prior- States to establish or strengthen analyticality for both rain-fed and irrigated farming sys- laboratories that can measure environmentaltems. IAEA technical cooperation projects apply radioactivity and pollutants in the oceansnuclear technology to develop efficient and cost- or in marketable foodstuffs. Other projectseffective irrigation methods that improve yields build national capacities to carry out marineand the effectiveness of soil and water conser- environmental studies using nuclear analyticalvation strategies in retaining water and applied and radiotracer techniques that can track thenutrients for food production under both rain fed movement of heavy metals and pollutants in theand irrigated agricultural systems. marine environment. By using such techniques, Member States can enhance their understanding IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 7
  10. 10. Tackling the Water Crisis Training and fellowships prepare local person- nel to take over the responsibilities of soil-water- crop management, air quality and water resource assessment, and freshwater/marine water envi- ronmental impact evaluation in Member States. Conferences, symposia and seminars are designed for the exchange of ideas between scientists from various countries. Equipment and materials provided by the IAEA are used to establish or enhance sustainable envi- ronment, water resource assessment and land and agricultural water management. Partnerships Technical cooperation projects involve collabo- ration between governments, IAEA partners and Member States, keeping in mind priority national Isotopic techniques of the earth’s oceans, and their ability to manage developmental needs where the IAEA has a also identify soil-water- and protect marine resources. unique role to play, where nuclear technology cropping practices and has a comparative advantage or where the IAEAfertilizer technologies that can add value to services from other develop-improve soil fertility status ment partners. The IAEA strives to establish part- and soil quality for more Identifying Harmful Algal nerships and working relationships through con- nutrient-rich and high- Blooms sultations and interactions with United Nations yielding crops. system organizations and other potential part- (Photo: L. Potterton/IAEA) In the ocean, harmful algal blooms (HABs), often ners. Collaborative work ensures the coordina- referred to as red tides, can severely affect local tion and optimization of complementary activi- and international trade. The IAEA helps Member ties and informs relevant UN organizations of the States by finding quicker and more accurate developmental impacts of the TC programme. means of detecting the presence of toxins in marine life. Early warning programmes provide Many activities are carried out in partner- important information about HABs to fishermen ship with international organizations, such as and consumers. the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Maritime Organization, the Global Environment Fund, the Food and What the IAEA Technical Agriculture Organization, the Consultative Cooperation Programme Does Group on International Agricultural Research, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Training courses and workshops cover topics Agriculture, Alliance for a Green Revolution in such as marine contamination analysis, the dis- Africa, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic tribution of contaminants, soil fertility and crop Commission and the United Nations Educational, nutrition, soil and water conservation, soil-water Scientific and Cultural Organization, National salinity management, the establishment of per- Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and manent regional monitoring station networks the United Nations Industrial Development and equipment use and methods customized to Organization. regional needs. Expert assistance makes available on-the-spot training in a developing country by a recognized expert. When complex equipment is supplied to a country, the project usually includes the visit of Mollie Rock Zuccato, Department of Technical an expert to train the staff in the operational and Cooperation. technical aspects of the instrument. For more information, visit: tc.iaea.org 8 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  11. 11. Tackling the Water CrisisOptimal Results by Juanita Perez-VargasIAEA Supports Water Research in Latin AmericaJane Gerardo-Abaya, Programme Management Officer for Latin America in the IAEA’s TechnicalCooperation Division discusses in this interview the Agency’s support in handling waterchallenges in Latin America and the Caribbean:Gerardo-Abaya: The IAEA extensively studies thisproblem because the region is severely affectedby inadequate safe water supplies. The region haslarge water resources, however, most populationcentres are located in coastal areas where wateravailability is limited or vulnerable to contamina-tion due to seawater intrusion into aquifers whenthere is excessive water extraction.The population is heavily dependent on the useof groundwater which is generally limited. Andwhile a small portion of the urban population hasno access to water, a large portion of rural areashave no access to drinking water.This also has to do with water which, although at Juanita Perez-Vargastimes available, is contaminated. Access to sanita-tion is a problem for the region, especially wherewastewater remains untreated, and can reach thegroundwater, contaminating this scarce resource.In addition, agriculture can be a problem becausepesticides and fertilizers eventually flow into the Specifically, the IAEA provides both laboratorygroundwater or surface water. It is important to and field training. The IAEA teaches best practicenote that agriculture uses water largely for irriga- in sample collection, analysis, and data interpre-tion, livestock and aquaculture production, com- tation to be certain we can understand the pro-prising 70% of global water consumption. cesses at work. The IAEA also provides expert assistance and supports upgrades for MemberHow does the IAEA help Member States State laboratories to help them achieve optimumaddress water supply problems? performance in research.Gerardo-Abaya: The IAEA enhances Member What kind of results have these projectsStates’ ability to acquire a scientific understand- achieved in Latin America ?ing of the occurrence, flow and water dynamicsand to understand the mechanisms of contami- Gerardo-Abaya: Seven coastal aquifers andnation. This is achieved by using isotope hydrol- their characteristics are now under study by theogy that adds value in obtaining conclusive authorities, nuclear institutions and universi-results, which are not normally achievable with ties in Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, andtraditional hydrological techniques alone. Uruguay. Our specific achievements have been to increase the number of qualified specialists inThere is a growing need for scientific information groundwater management, as well as increasingamong decision makers to support effective pol- research capacity in laboratories and in the fieldicy formulation and resource management. In thanks to equipment provided by the IAEA.this area, the IAEA’s support for Member States’scientific research is very valuable. Juanita Perez-Vargas, Division of Public Information. E-mail: J.Perez-Vargas@iaea.org IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 9
  12. 12. Complex Science Saving B Employing a traditional angladesh’s arsenic crisis came to light in Because there is no easy way to remove or stop the technique, these men 1993, after a number of people in villages pollution, scientists sought to find out where the dig a shallow tube well. across the country fell ill, and it was con- arsenic is, how it´s getting there, and how old the However, since many of firmed that their main source of drinking water — water is. This way they could identify the arsenic- Bangladesh’s shallow groundwater from the deltaic basin — was con- free aquifers. In collaboration with the Bangladeshwater supplies are affected taminated with arsenic. Atomic Commission, the IAEA provided the scien- by arsenic, this water is tific analysis to support the project. unsafe to drink. In the early 1970s, most of Bangladesh’s rural pop- ulation got its drinking water from surface ponds Isotope hydrology, which is used to track the and nearly a quarter of a million children died movement of water, played a significant role in each year from waterborne diseases. The provi- understanding and addressing the problem. sion of tube well water for 97% of the rural popu- lation brought down the high incidence of diar- Since 1999, the IAEA has supported arsenic miti- rheal diseases and halved the infant mortality gation projects at the local and national level by rate. Paradoxically, the same wells that saved so helping institutions use isotope techniques to many lives were later found to pose a threat due get accurate information on arsenic contamina- to the unforeseen hazard of arsenic. tion much more quickly and cheaply than is pos- sible with non-isotope techniques. The arsenic contamination in Bangladesh has nat- ural causes: arsenic is mobilized into the ground- The data also offers a precise assessment of water by geological and biological processes, groundwater and aquifer dynamics. Thus help- rather than human activity. ing to determine if deep aquifers will remain 10 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  13. 13. Lives in Bangladesh by Sasha Henriques arsenic free over the long term, if they are devel- able to develop the isotope measurement facility Left: Using training and oped as alternative sources of freshwater, and here in Bangladesh,” said Ahmed. equipment provided by how other deep aquifers may have been con- the IAEA, the Bangladesh taminated through mixing of deep and shallow In the past ten years, 12 scientists/engineers were Atomic Energy reservoirs. trained through 7 fellowships, 5 scientific visits Commission (BAEC) and 6 regional training courses. analyzes water samples “When arsenic was identified in Bangladesh’s in its laboratory. Isotope groundwater, the IAEA helped us to start our iso- Isotope hydrology is still being used in hydrology can help tope hydrology project to find solutions to mit- Bangladesh to determine the movement reveal the age, location igate the arsenic problem,” said Nasir Ahmed, of groundwater, where aquifers are being and movement of safe head of the Isotope Hydrology Division of recharged and therefore the rate at which drinking water. the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. it can be sustainably used, how complex Right: Nasir Ahmed, “Through this collaboration with the IAEA, we aquifer systems connect and mix with other head of BAEC’s isotope were able to determine where safe water could water bodies, and how vulnerable they are to hydrology laboratory, be found.” contamination. conducts a full analysis of water taken from a well. To conduct isotopic analysis independently, the Sasha Henriques, Division of Public Information. Ahmed’s team works to IAEA worked with Bangladeshi counterparts to E-mail: S.Henriques@iaea.org. help decisionmakers find build new laboratory capacity. “Through our IAEA Photos: Dana Sacchetti, Division of Public safe drinking water. Technical Cooperation project, we have been Information. Water Fingerprints topes than sea water. When the resulting clouds release water, the heavy isotopes fall out first. W ater from different places acquires a dis- tinctive ‘fingerprint’ that nuclear tech- niques, so-called isotope hydrology, can make As clouds move inland, their isotopic composi- tion again changes, and the water acquires indi- vidual and characteristic ‘fingerprints’ in different visible. When water evaporates and condenses environments. There are other isotopes in rain- the concentration of oxygen and hydrogen iso- water whose concentration decreases with time. topes in water changes. These isotopes in surface or groundwater can be measured to determine the “age” or residence Isotopes are naturally occurring atoms of differ- time of water within a particular water body. ing atomic weight. Water vapour rising from the oceans carries a lower concentration of heavy iso- IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 11
  14. 14. IAEA Helps Parched Santa T he thirsty residents of Manglaralto on the The problems facing the Santa Elena Peninsula Santa Elena peninsula on Ecuador’s south- and the 250 000 inhabitants of the area — 100 000 ern central coast have been feeling a gush in the countryside are particularly hard hit — are of relief. A joint IAEA project to find water in the not uncommon in many parts of the world. The area has led to an abundant water flow where study area is characterized by arid to semi-arid before there was barely a trickle. tropical climate conditions, where more water is lost through evaporation and transpired by plants,—so-called evapotranspiration— than can be replaced through annual precipitation. Rivers are seasonal and recharge to aquifers is limited, so dependence on groundwater is ris- ing. Local aquifers are affected by seawater intru- sion, with the salinity of soil water and groundwa- ter increasing due to intensive pumping. In some areas the groundwater is no longer fit for human consumption, and the situation has been dis- tressing for both residents and farmers. ESPOL applied for an IAEA Technical Cooperation project and the first project — implemented in collaboration with local groups — began in 2007. The IAEA has contributed to training, provided experts, equipment, mapping tools, as well as a solid foundation for the project. But the project has been able to accomplish something beyond a standard water assessment. “For the first time it belongs to them,” says Luis Araguás Araguás, a scientific officer from the IAEA’s Isotope Hydrology Section involved inAt the Chemical Institute “Thanks to studies ESPOL (the university, Escuela the project. “It is not something the government of the Escuela Superior Superior Politécnica del Litoral) has given us does for them; this is why they are deeply com- Politécnica del Litoral, and to adaptation of the aquifers, we now have mitted.” the IAEA’s partner in four more wells. Since 2009, we have had water isotope hydrology, 24 hours a day,” says Miler Muñoz, president of “We have done a standard assessment of waterFernando Morante, PhD. the local group Junta de Agua Manglaralto (the resources in the area, and are still in the ear- Head of the Laboratory, Manglaralto regional water board). Prior to this, lier stages of characterization. From a scientific Priscila Valverde and there were only three wells supplying water for a point of view it is not extraordinary,” says Araguás Byron Galarza, conduct limited number of hours per day. Araguás. “What makes it different is the social research in the water component.” and environmental lab- “We have received several seminars from the IAEA oratory, February, 2010, and expert visits. This is our salvation because we What is different is that ESPOL has equipped the Guayaquil, Ecuador. need water in the area. The seminars have helped communities at a local level to test their own us to find solutions to obtain water. water quality. IAEA experts informed local people about the science of isotope hydrology. “Wells “It has benefitted us. We have a permanent water are only drilled after ESPOL has tested a site,” supply. For example, the cabins where people sell says Araguás Araguás. “There is a kind of owner- food at the seaside could not operate because ship by the community, and they are interested in they did not have water. We have trained our- monitoring. Now the community asks ESPOL to selves, and requested outside help…to solve our come. ESPOL has produced specific management problems related to groundwater, Muñoz said.” instructions for each sector.” 12 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  15. 15. COLOMBIA ECUADORElena Find Water Santa Elena BRAZIL PERU by Maureen MacNeill The communities have been integrated in this programme, says Emilio Rodríguez, president of the local Junta Regional de Agua Olón (the Olón regional water board). “They are an active com- ponent of this process. These studies are not easy to perform due to high costs and lack of equip- ment.” Many changes have occurred as a result of two IAEA projects underway in the peninsula, accord- ing to Gricelda Herrera Franco an ESPOL counter- part. “First the communities worked in associa- tion with the university and they use technology and techniques. The communities then worked on the projects and they developed a new cul- ture for working in teams. Finally, the commu- nities now have a permanent water supply (365 days a year). Before this was not possible. “This programme is for everybody in the commu- Miller Muñoz and Victor Hugo Yagual show the IAEA Director General nity. With a permanent water supply they think Yukiya Amano (taking water from the tap) a new well whose sustainable about possible business for tourism development siting was supported through the IAEA’s expertise in isotope hydrology in the areas. They also believe in new opportuni- and its Technical Cooperation Programme. ties for agriculture. They feel very happy and have (Manglaralto Commune, Santa Elena Province, Ecuador, July 2011. ) confidence in themselves. They see themselves as entrepreneurs.” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visited the site in July 2011 and was impressed by the results he found there. He told the local counterparts, “In our culture we say one arrow is weak, you can bend it, you can break it. If there are two it’s very difficult. If three are combined, you can’t break it, it’s very strong. We now have the IAEA, an inter- national organization, we have ESPOL, a univer- sity, and we have the local community of Santa Elena. With the cooperation of these three part- ners, I am very certain we can have a successful project.” The project provides solutions, yet the main chal- lenge lies ahead, to ensure that the results the communities have achieved can be sustained with the support of ESPOL and IAEA. Maureen MacNeill, Division of Isotope Hydrology. E-mail: M.Macneill@iaea.org People queue for water at the communal well in the Valdivia Commune, Photos: ESPOL Santa Elena Province, Ecuador. IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 13
  16. 16. Treasure Maps by Peter Kaiser The IAEA’s Hydrological Atlases Reveal Hidden Resources The plate from theHydrological Atlas of Morocco showing water that is only minimally recharged as red areas. The green areas indicate water that is recharged. T he IAEA’s water experts have published When did this global project a unique series, the Atlas of Isotope begin? Hydrology, including volumes devoted to regions of Africa, the Americas, as well as We started to compile information in the hopes Asia and the Pacific, and the first national Atlas of producing an atlas about ten years ago. We that profiles Morocco. Pradeep Aggarwal, the wished to bring together data that already Isotope Hydrology Section Head, explains why existed, much of which was available in our the Atlases were produced and how they help archives, yet was rarely seen or used. We invested water planners ensure access to fresh water for a considerable amount of time searching for data the future. in the IAEA and external archives. We published the first volume on Africa in 2007. Over 100 coun- Above, the plate from the Hydrological Atlas of tries’ data are included in this series. Morocco shows older water that is only minimally recharged as red areas, while the green areas indicate water that is recharged. Water that is not recharged, is considered to be water that is mined Had anyone ever tried to as an exhaustible resource. integrate the available water databases into one cohesive The Guarani aquifer, one of the largest fresh water reservoirs in the world, stretches between document like the Atlas before Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In a this effort began? plate from the Hydrological Atlas of the Americas (see page 16), the sampling points located in the No. No one had and that was the driving force four countries overlying the aquifer are shown. behind this effort. For more than 50 years, the 14 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  17. 17. Treasure MapsIAEA has been publishing the Global Isotopes in When an expert views thesePrecipitation databases, which are used to under- maps, what can they decipherstand hydrology. The Atlases contain data col-lected mainly through IAEA projects conducted from these symbols andin developing countries. These data were not figures?available to anyone outside these projects. It wasa great concern to us that the countries whose For instance, if you compare the isotopic data inwater systems were studied could not access this groundwater with precipitation at a given loca-data. tion, you can determine whether the under- ground reserves are being recharged andAs a result, when we visited countries in the 1990s can help identify the source of the water thatand early 2000s, we would come upon a situation recharges the reserve, such as a local sourcein which no one knew whether studies had been or a distant mountain. If the precipitation andpreviously conducted, thus projects were con- the groundwater data do not match, regardlessducted without understanding what was done in whether you compare local sources or distantthe past. If we did learn that a project had been sources upstream in the mountains, then poten-conducted previously, the data was often no tially the underground reserve was recharged inlonger accessible. Therefore, to be able to offer the past by a very different climate system.Member States a resource that can be used toachieve progress, rather than treading water by Therefore the isotopic database and the Atlasrepeating studies that simply collect similar infor- can help you understand a vital process for watermation, as well as to offer researchers around management, whether an underground reservethe world comprehensive data, we decided to is recharging and how quickly.produce these Atlases to advance the science ofhydrology. Does this Atlas help planners find water and use itWhat insights can be gained sustainably?from a database of isotopes inprecipitation? Yes, it will. The primary purpose for using iso- topes is to acquire information about the waterIsotopes in precipitation help us understand cli- system in a timely and cost-effective manner. Imatic systems. The product of a hydrological sys- could spend 50 years in a country, measuring thetem is precipitation. So, we are trying to under- rain and water levels in rivers and aquifers, andstand atmospheric processes by using isotopes I would have a reasonably accurate picture ofin precipitation, which tell us how climate influ- what happens to water in that system. Or, I could A detail from an isotopicences precipitation, or how precipitation results review the isotopic composition of the water now overview map of China takenfrom a certain climate. and acquire the same level of understanding from IAEA’s Hydrological Atlas fairly quickly. of Asia.Once precipitation reaches the surface, it thenenters lakes or rivers or the ground water systems.If you want to understand how your rivers func-tion, if you want to know how water supplies willbe impacted by climate change, or by land usechanges, or if you need to know whether you cancontrol the pollution that results from agricul-tural activities, you have to know where the watercomes from and how it flows through the hydro-logical system.The same holds true when trying to understandthe underground water systems. As with riversand lakes, when studying aquifers, you need toknow where the water came from and how theaquifer is recharged and how quickly. All of thatinformation relates back to precipitation. And it isisotopes that allow us to trace precipitation. IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 15
  18. 18. Treasure Maps From the Hydrological Atlas of the Americas, this plate displays the Guarani aquifer, one of the largest fresh water reservoirs in the world. The map provides information about sampling points in thefour overlying countries. If you have an Atlas, it gives you instantane- those systems in the hopes of acquiring the same ously a hydrological picture of a large area over understanding that you can acquire by studying a long time period. You can use those data to isotope data. This is not a panacea – additional refine future water investigations to garner more work, investigation and investment is needed accurate insights into this complex system, and, to understand these “treasure maps”. They are a as your investigations proceed, the data can be valuable resource that offer an instant picture of placed in a cohesive framework which then gives how the underground system is configured, how you an understanding of the inter-relationships it works and where to focus your investigation between systems. The Atlas helps you deepen and thus speed your search for the treasure you and broaden your understanding of water sys- seek or the knowledge you need to protect the tems. The Atlas facilitates the investigations of water resources. water. If planners invest in learning how to interpret iso- topic information, they will save money by avoid- Where do you wish to go from ing drilling wells that will run dry or not deliver safe here? water. That is the purpose of the Atlas: we build these “larger-than-local” maps to show where the We now hope that the series will expand to water is located and how it flows between differ- include many, many national Atlas projects that ent rock systems so that you have a better ability will be carried forward by our partners at the to tap these waters sustainably and economically. national level. Is the Atlas a “treasure map”? To some extent, because otherwise you would Peter Kaiser, Division of Public Information. have to make physical measurements of all of E-mail: P.Kaiser@iaea.org 16 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  19. 19. all about Water .5% of a n ly 2 ll t O arth is fre ne sh he wato wa er ter Less than 1% of this freshwater is usable and available for ecosystems and humans. ate face w r and Sur r freshwater 1.3 e % oth ding lakes and rive clu rs) (in Of this fraction, one third is groundwater % — hidden in the Earth’s crust and 68.6% of the world’s .1 30 often hard to access. freshwater is in the Ice c a p s 6 8.6 % r ate form of ice and Ground W This vital resource is poorly permanent snow in understood and poorly managed. mountains. Frozen water is unavailable for nd And as little as 0.3% of freshwater is consumption or use in sa easily accessible in lakes and rivers. ie r ac agriculture. Glaccessibility IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 17
  20. 20. 12 of the 15 most water scarce countries are located in the Middle East and North Africa. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity. Today, 1 Billion people have no access to safe drinking water, and only about 15% of the world’s population enjoys relative abundance. Over 1.4 billion people live in river basins where they consume water faster than it can be replaced, depleting ground water. C How the STI ME world uses DO Freshwater 8% 22% IND 70% UST RY IRRIGATIONconsumption18 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  21. 21.               urbanisation                                                                                                                                                                    For the Millennium Development In 1900 In 2011 Goal related to drinking water to less than 15% of the this figure has be met by 2015, 961 million urban world’s population reached 50%. dwellers must gain access to an lived in cities. improved water supply. industryIndustries use up 22% of world’s freshwater High-Income Countries 70% INDUSTRIAL 22% WASTE 59% of total water use is for industry. Low-Income Countries In developing countries, 70% of industrial waste is released untreated Only 8% of total water into waters, polluting the usable use is for industry. water supply. agriculture Water Needed to Produce Food Global Average Food Item Unit (in litres) Chocolate 1 kg 24, 000 Beef 1 kg 15, 500 ● In rain-fed agriculture, up to Cheese 1 kg 5, 000 85% of rainwater is lost before it Pork 1 kg 4, 800 Olives 1 kg 4, 400 reaches crops. Chicken 1 kg 3, 900 Rice 1 kg 3, 400 ● By the year 2050, 50% more Groundnuts (in shell) 1 kg 3, 100 water will be needed in agriculture Dates 1 kg 3, 000 Mango 1 kg 1, 600 to feed the growing world Sugar (from sugar cane) 1 kg 1, 500 population. Bread (from wheat) 1 kg 1, 300 Banana 1 kg 860 Milk 1 glass 250 (250 ml) IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 19
  22. 22. marine pollution Coastal zones support 60% of the world’s population, providing food, income and living space. Every day, 2 million tons of human waste enter water courses. Oceans and seas receive the brunt of human waste — a serious threat to marine creatures and habitats. working on solutions A key requirement for assuring adequate water supplies and their sustainable management is to improve the assessment of water resources.iaea The IAEA deploys its expertise in nuclear techniques in more than 90 Member States to help locate, manage, and conserve freshwater, as well as to protect the oceans.  The IAEA databases broaden our understanding of water systems, oceans and climates. The IAEA’s water experts help developing countries through technical cooperation, by providing advice, materials, equipment, and training, as well as offering fellowships and research projects. Sources: UNEP, World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development (GEO-4), Human Development Report 2006, World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and UN-Water, Young People’s Trust for the Environment, The Water Footprint of Food (2008), Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, University of Twente, the Netherlands, Water For Food, The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas), Sweden. Photos: Louise Potterton/IAEA (pg 18); iStock (pg17); Nancy Falcon Castro/UNIDO (pg20). 20 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  23. 23. Improving Farming withNuclear Techniques by Sasha HenriquesS oil erosion, land degradation, the excessive slopes and hence improve downstream water or inappropriate use of fertilisers in agricul- quality. Emilio Sanchez from the La Roblería vine- ture and poor water quality are threats to yard in Apalta says, “The vineyard associationsthe environment and hamper development. have been open to embrace nuclear research techniques as it has been a win-win relationshipIAEA projects apply nuclear technology to evalu- for the farmers of the region.”ate these risks and find ways to make better useof water and soil resources. Many countries have In Kenya, agriculture is the second largest contrib-benefited from this programme, including Qatar, utor to gross domestic product, with 70% of theChile, Kenya, Turkey, Vietnam and Bangladesh. population working in the sector. Yet the major- ity of farmland is arid or semi-arid, with low andQatar is one of the 10 most water-scarce coun- erratic rainfall. And food production is low withtries in the world and all its arable land is irrigated frequent crop failures. The IAEA worked with thewith groundwater. But, more than half of the local scientists to develop small-scale, low-costwater being used doesn’t reach the crops, evap- drip irrigation technologies for poor farmers.orating from the soil to the atmosphere. As moregroundwater was used for irrigation, and levelsfell, seawater and saline water from deeper aqui-fers intruded on the supply of fresh groundwater. Isotopic techniques were used toIsotopic techniques were used to determine the determine the most efficient way to usemost efficient way to use saline groundwater andtreated sewage water through drip irrigation. saline groundwater and treated sewage water through drip irrigation.Drip irrigation reduced the amount of waterneeded by up to 30%, compared to sprinklerirrigation.There are now plans to use 100 million m3 of saline These technologies, perfected by the Kenyagroundwater with 60 million m3 of treated sew- Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), are cur-age water annually, which will effectively increase rently being transferred to smallholder farm-agricultural acreage eleven fold. ers for use with high-value crops like cucumber, tomato, kale and lettuce. An example is a pro-Nearly 60% of arable land in Chile is affected by ject that provides Maasai farmers at Namanga onerosion, and in Central Chile, a shortage of flat the Tanzanian border hands-on training in drip-land has increasingly compelled wine growers to irrigation techniques (see page 23). KARI nowplant vineyards on hillsides which eventually pol- provides technical expertise and know-how onlutes water downstream. Three consecutive IAEA agricultural water management to 23 Africantechnical cooperation projects were undertaken countries.in Chile to investigate this problem. A fallout radi-onuclide was used to determine the extent of Turkey is the world’s 5th largest potato exporter.soil erosion and resulting water pollution. The The main challenge farmers encounter is to useresearch showed that current vineyard manage- water and fertilisers more efficiently by applyingment practices are untenable. irrigation water mixed with fertilisers, also known as fertigation, to the right place, at the right timeSo there are now plans to investigate the use of and in the appropriate amount. Using drip irriga-permanent ground cover between vines to effec- tion significantly reduced the amount of watertively minimise soil erosion and water runoff on and fertilisers that were needed. This is having IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 21
  24. 24. Improving Farming with Nuclear Techniques a major impact on Turkey’s potato production, ant crop varieties during the project, have ena- yielding substantial savings for farmers. bled farmers to introduce and harvest a second crop, in addition to aman (paddy) rice, on poten- Vietnam has also been affected by erosion, loss tially up to 2.6 million hectares of highly fertile of soil nutrients, as well as water and fertilizer use coastal lands. This could, for example, possibly efficiency problems. They sought the IAEA’s help. add an additional 4 million tonnes of wheat to the Compound-specific stable isotope techniques national bread basket. were used to identify areas of land degradation. The findings of the project have been used to Abdul Aziz, who is a farmer from Noakhali, raise farmers’ awareness and to help them adopt Bangladesh, says, “I used to leave my family in the strategies to mitigate the impact of typhoons on village and go to Dhaka in search of a job because agriculture in north-western Vietnam.  I could not grow any crop from August to April due to the high salt content in the soil. Now, I earn Soil salinization is a major threat to crop pro- about US $2000 per hectare each year from the duction in Bangladesh; such that about 90% of cultivation of newly introduced groundnuts and potentially arable lands in the coastal area remain wheat.” unused during the dry season. Improved water management practices through drip irrigation, Sasha Henriques, Division of Public Information. coupled with the identification of saline-toler- E-mail: S.Henriques@iaea.org Making the Most of It by Peter Kaiser Radiation technology cleans polluted water for re-use T oday, cities host rapidly growing populations and expanding industries. The flow and severity of the pollution that transforms freshwater into wastewater is ing radioactive contamination due to the low energy of the electrons. increasing as a result. Common chemical contaminants At an industrial textile dyeing complex in Daegu, Korea, in water include persistent organic pollutants, petro- the first electron beam waste water treatment plant has chemicals, pesticides, dyes, heavy metal ions, as well as been working successfully since 2006 The treatment excreted pharmaceuticals. These complex compounds plant handles 10 000 cubic meters of textile wastewa- are difficult, often impossible, to remove or degrade ter daily, or approximately the volume of four Olympic using conventional means, and remain in the water swimming pools. to pose new and worsening health risks. Neutralizing these risks makes wastewater management challeng- The Daegu plant has demonstrated that “the process ing and more expensive. Cities and industries need is safe and effective” said Bumsoo S. Han, an interna- cost-competitive solutions to treat water to be able to tional expert on electron beam wastewater treatment. reuse it responsibly. Han compared the performance of the existing tech- nologies and concluded that “the electron beam tech- Frequently, cities face a water shortage, which they nology produces the desired quality of effluent water at hope to alleviate by treating wastewater so that it can lower cost, without additives. It is a win for the environ- be utilized for tasks such as fire fighting, street cleaning, ment and a win for the industry.” urban park and horticultural irrigation, industrial cool- ing and laundry, and boiler water for heating that do Together with its international partners, UNIDO and not require drinking-water quality. This “reuse water” national institutions, the IAEA supports research and can be produced through a variety of means, includ- expert collaboration in the field and is pursuing waste- ing treatment with energy delivered by an electron water treatment projects in  Hungary, Iran, Morocco, accelerator. Electron energy leads to the formation of Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, and highly reactive free radicals that inactivate toxic micro- Turkey. organisms, parasites and also decomposes the com- plex pollutants into less harmful and more easily treat- Peter Kaiser, Division of Public Information. able substance, which other means and agents cannot. E-mail: P.Kaiser@iaea.org Radiation treatment using electrons, causing no linger- Agnes Safrany, IAEA Nuclear Applications, contributed to this article.22 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  25. 25. Farming by Louise Potterton when the Rains Fail Nuclear techniques are helping the Maasai in Kenya improve their livelihoods.On (P.Pavlicek/IAEA) a dusty, dry patch of land in south- Medical and Research Foundation, they now have east Kenya a lone Maasai man access to freshwater for irrigation via a borehole. admires a thriving fruit and vegeta- By harvest time, they will have nutritious crops toble plot. Mangoes, papaya and spinach flourish eat and produce to sell at market.under the searing heat of the African sun. This project is one of many across Africa that isThis is a rare sight here in Ng’atataek on the operating within an IAEA Technical CooperationTanzanian border, an arid region where rainfall project that supports the use of drip irrigationis scarce and the little water available is usually for high-value crops. With the help of nuclearreserved for the livestock. technology, the system enables farmers to grow healthy crops using very little water in dryBut this Maasai community is fortunate. Thanks conditions.to financial support from AMREF, the African IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 23