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  • 1. IAEA BULLETIN INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY September 2011 | 53-1 | too little, too hard to findWater for Santa Elena • Farming When the Rains Fail • Protecting Coastal Waters
  • 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. IAEA BULLETINCONTENTS INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY September 2011 | 53-1 | 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 Past editions are archived on-line atby Sasha Henriques 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 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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 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. 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: 8 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 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: IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 9
  • 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. 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: 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. 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. 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: 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. 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. 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. 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: 16 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 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. 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.               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. 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. 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 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. 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: 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: Radiation treatment using electrons, causing no linger- Agnes Safrany, IAEA Nuclear Applications, contributed to this article.22 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 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 financial support from AMREF, the African IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 23
  • 26. Towards Sustainable Agriculture ods without having a scientific basis, we might fail and could come into conflict with a community that still considers water to be more important to their livestock than to any other activity.” The Maasai site is one of nine projects that are being coordinated by the KARI under the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme to promote the use of small-scale drip irrigation, supported by nuclear science. With drip irrigation, water is applied in droplets near the plant’s root zone through small tubes called drip-lines. It is the most efficient form of irrigation, using up to 70 percent less water than other techniques, and can improve crop yields threefold. Alex Ntasikoi, who It forms part of an on-going campaign, initiated has been trained by by Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, to improve the This simple, low-cost set-up avoids over-water-KARI in drip irrigation health and livelihoods of the Maasai people by ing, which can damage both the soil and themethodology, shows encouraging them to move towards sustainable crops. Too much water can flush away vital nutri- agriculture, while protecting the environment. ents and can increase the salinity level of the soil,other members of his which can curtail crop growth. community how the “The Maasai are by tradition pastoralists, depend- system works. ing on their livestock as a source of income and When plants receive too much water it can lead to (Photo: L. Potterton/IAEA) food,” says David Mathenge from the Green Belt runoff from the area where the crops are grown Movement, who oversees the project. “But times and eroded topsoil and applied fertilizers can find are changing. Populations are increasing and their way into neighbouring streams, rivers and land for animals is becoming scarce. Also during lakes. the droughts livestock die, so the Maasai need to diversify.” KARI’s Irrigation Coordinator Isaya Sijali, says: “Nuclear techniques are very important and use- Having access to a source of water was only part ful in agriculture. We can use the neutron probe, of the solution. The Maasai farmers needed to for example, to measure soil moisture levels and know how to use it efficiently and effectively. The advise farmers on how much water to apply and Green Belt Movement approached the Kenyan when. These techniques can help them save Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) for assis- water and money and get better crops while pro- tance. Through its partnership project with the tecting the environment.” IAEA, KARI was able to help. He decided to use these techniques to study the “We had a challenge on our hands. We needed dynamics of water and nutrients at the site, since recommendations on how best to use a small the community needed to know how to use their amount of water in a very dry area. We don’t limited water and nutrient supplies to grow crops know how much water is needed for the plants in a sustainable manner. and how much moisture there is in the soil and this is where the IAEA and its technology proved “The IAEA is directly helping these new farmers their value,” adds David. and many others will be able to benefit from this site and the findings we get from this project,” Nuclear techniques, such as the neutron probe says Sijali. that measures soil moisture levels, can provide the guidelines and advice the farmers need to be Experts from KARI visit the sites to explain how able to irrigate at the best times, using the right and why the nuclear techniques work and pro- amount of water, without wastage. vide advice and guidelines based on the tests that have been carried out at their laboratories in “It would be very presumptuous to say that this Nairobi. would work without involving modern technol- ogy. Even the boreholes have low yields,” David “Using isotopic techniques we can study the says. “If we go on irrigating using traditional meth- uptake of nitrogen, the most important element 24 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 27. Towards Sustainable Agriculturerequired by the plant, and advise the farmer onhow to get the most benefit from the fertilizer Seeing Through Soilthat’s been applied,” Sijali adds. by Peter KaiserIn the Maasai community, Alex Ntasikoi, who has Nuclear technology helps farmers makebeen trained by KARI in drip irrigation method- the most of waterology, shows other members of his communityhow the system works.“We’ve really seen the benefits of drip irrigation,” I rrigation consumes seven of every ten litres of fresh water used daily around the world. As globalhe says. “The system is cheap and requires lit- population rises, so too does thetle water, which is very important in our region demand for food, which is satisfied bybecause we have so little of it. Also, the plants get expanding cultivation and increasingless disease because the water goes into the roots irrigation. If irrigation efficiency canand not on the leaves,” Ntasikoi says. be boosted, much can be done to reduce farming’s thirst for fresh water,But the real beneficiaries of this project are the and help preserve this irreplaceableMaasai women. The men can be away for up to a resource.year in pursuit of grazing land for their livestock,while the women and children remain in the com- One of the nuclear technologiesmunity. employed in tackling water scarcity and saving water in agriculture is a“Drip irrigation is a new technology for us and “soil moisture probe”, or “neutronsince it’s been introduced we can plant our own probe”, which is used to measure howvegetables and don’t have to depend on live- much water is present in the soil sur-stock alone,” says Mary Kashu. “We can improve rounding the probe. Measurementour children’s nutrition and raise some income. across a farm plot provides the farmerWe can use the money to pay school fees and to invaluable insights into an otherwisemaintain the pump to get more water from the invisible phenomenon: how much ofborehole.” the irrigation or rainwater is held in (P.Pavlicek/IAEA) the soil and how much of that water is accessible and usedThe IAEA is currently implementing the drip irri- by plants.gation project in 19 countries in Africa. Lee Heng,a water specialist who manages the project, says: In the hands of a trained and licensed operator, a probe can“We hope that this project will empower the farm- literally see through soil to detect the faintest traces of water.ers to farm in an efficient, productive and sustain- The device is so sensitive it can even calculate how muchable manner.” water a plant consumes.She adds that agriculture is responsible for By flicking a switch, the operator can trigger a speciallyaround 70% of freshwater use and for most of shielded, tiny radioactive source that emits a thin stream ofthe world’s groundwater depletion. However, on neutrons. They travel at great speed through the soil. Theaverage, only 37% of this water is used efficiently, passage of those neutrons that struck hydrogen atoms indue to inappropriate irrigation technology and water molecules is dramatically slowed. After the neutronsfarming practices. collide with other particles, they are reflected back towards the probe, which measures the speed of the returning neu-“As water becomes more and more scarce and trons. Water’s braking effect on the neutrons is registeredgrowing populations demand more food, it is of by a detector within the probe. Thus, the amount of return-paramount importance that we manage agricul- ing, slower-moving neutrons counted by the detector indi-tural water better to grow more crops for every cates the soil’s hydrogen content. The probe translates thisdrop of water we use in both rain-fed and irri- data into an exact soil-water content measurement, which isgated agriculture,” says Lee. expressed in millimetres of water. That data is exactly what the farmer needs to immediately plan irrigation and water storage strategies that make the most of water for irrigation. The probe itself does not cause any radioactive contamina- tion, nor are any radioactive traces left in the soil.Louise Potterton, Division of Public Information.E-mail: L. J. Peter Kaiser, Division of Public Information. E-mail: IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 25
  • 28. If I HadFarmers in Kimutwa, Machakos county, Kenya are “praying” that it will rain. It’s been declareda failed season for agriculture and rainfall is becoming more infrequent. Cecilia and Philip Munguti run a small farm in Kimutwa. Around 80% of Kenyan farmland is classified as arid and1 “It’s a disaster, my crops have dried up because there’s not enough rain. We could have eaten them or sold 2 semi-arid with low and erratic rainfall. But with no water for irrigation, from wells or boreholes, most farmers rely them. If I could get water from a borehole, I could on the rains. irrigate; it would not be like this,” says Cecilia. The Munguti family used to have water that came Dried up rivers, ponds and empty water tanks are a3 directly from the hills into their village tank, but now the tank is empty. 4 common site in Kenya. Whether for farming or domestic use, there’s simply not enough water. One farmer says: “We’re in trouble, facing starvation.” 26 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 29. Water... by Louise Potterton An IAEA project is showing these farmers, who depend on rain-fed agriculture, how to grow crops in the driest of seasons using isotope-based water, soil and nutrient management practices. The Munguti family uses this rain-filled pond, the Kwa- Cecilia and her family rely on this water, there’s no5 Aka dam, for water for washing, cooking and drinking. The water is heavily polluted with animal waste and from 6 alternative: “The water is dirty. We have to boil it before we use it. Some animals even die when they drink it. soil erosion. There are worms and liver flukes in there,” she says. Philip Munguti says: “The water in the pond is dangerous, People walk for up to 10 kilometres to reach the Kwa-7 animals come here too to drink and they pollute it. It’s used by nearly 2,000 people. People walk far to get here, 8 Aka dam. One local woman explains: “We need to get our water for domestic use from here. We use our backs to but when the water is gone, we will need to go even carry it. It’s dirty. It makes people ill. There are people in further to get it.” the local hospital with typhoid.” IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 27
  • 30. The IAEA is working with the Kenya Agricultural KARI soil scientist Kizito Kwena, who was trained by the Research Institute (KARI) to help farmers like the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, is using nuclear science to conduct 9 ones in Machakos, grow healthy crops despite the 10 research on plants that thrive with little water, retain lack of rain with the support of nuclear and isotopic moisture and improve soil fertility. He shares that knowledge techniques. with local farmers. Some farmers’ crops have withered in the drought. At this IAEA experimental site the crops are thriving despite The little water available to this community from the lack of rainfall. Kizito Kwena says: “We have a variety11 the Kwa-Aka pond is needed for domestic use and 12 of crops under different cropping systems and we need to is insufficient for irrigation. One farmer says: “Our figure out the most water efficient ones and this is where season was so bad, there’s not enough food.” nuclear techniques play an important role.” The IAEA project is also supporting the cultivation For some farmers in Machakos, the IAEA project is showing of the legume “pigeon pea” in Kenya. Nuclear- benefits. Many crops have indeed died, but the pigeon pea13 based research has shown that the plant is not 14 and cassava are surviving, thanks to good soil and water only drought-tolerant but also improves the soil’s management practices, supported by nuclear science. “I’ve capacity to retain water. Furthermore, it acts as a used pigeon pea as a fertilizer and it’s working really well,” natural fertilizer for present and future crops. says Cecilia. Since these photos were taken in June 2011 the Kwa-Aka dam has dried up. Photos: Louise Potterton and Petr Pavlicek/Division of Public Information • Text: Louise Potterton 28 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 31. by Louise Potterton No Rain, No Food How Nuclear Techniques can Support Agriculture in Dry ConditionsA ccess to sufficient water supplies is essen- Louise Potterton spoke to IAEA soil and water In many parts of the world, tial for successful and sustainable farm- expert, Karuppan Sakadevan. either too much or too ing.  Without water, crops die, farmers lose little rain falls, often at thetheir income and people go hungry. wrong time, leading to water scarcity, droughtsThere are two types of cropping systems namely What are the major challenges and crop failure.irrigated and rain-fed. to rain-fed agriculture and how (Photo: P. Pavlicek/IAEA) is it different from irrigatedAgriculture that depends upon rainwater repre-sents about 80 % of the total area under cultiva- agriculture?tion and produces the majority, or about 60%, ofglobal food. Rain-fed agriculture is a low-input system. Depending on total annual rainfall and its distri-In many parts of the world, either too much or too bution as well as the type of soils, productivitylittle rain falls, often at the wrong time, leading to can vary greatly from moderate to low.water scarcity, droughts and crop failure. Agriculture that depends on rain is more riskyThe IAEA’s Soil and Water Management and Crop with the possibility of crop failures in drier areasNutrition section is using nuclear and nuclear- due to erratic and unpredictable rains. Rain-fedrelated techniques to help farmers in the devel- agriculture is generally more successful on soilsoping world to conserve water and cope better that can store a lot of rainfall (i.e. loamy and clayeyunder dry conditions. soils). IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 29
  • 32. No Rain, No Food On the other hand, irrigated agriculture can be to design the size and identify best locations for highly productive with low risk but at a high input developing these farm ponds and wetlands. cost (i.e. irrigation equipment, energy) Since oxygen is a major element of water, the use of oxygen-18 isotope can help to separate the water loss from soil by evaporation and plant How can the IAEA help uptake. This helps in developing management farmers who practice rain- practices such as tillage, residue retention, plant fed agriculture conserve and density and crop rotation for reducing soil evap- oration losses. manage water? A crop’s ability to capture every drop of water The IAEA through its Research and Technical depends on its health. That is why it is important Cooperation Programmes has implemented 30 to know whether a nutrient such as nitrogen, water conservation projects in rain-fed agricul- a major building block of crop growth, is ture in IAEA Member States in Asia, Africa and sufficiently available. Nitrogen-15, a stable Latin America. These projects focus on practises isotope of nitrogen can be used to measure the such as minimum tillage, crop residue retention efficient use of applied fertilizer nitrogen to crops and crop rotation. under different management practices and thus determine the efficient use of water by crops. On average, 65% of rainwater is lost and not avail- able to crops in rain-fed agriculture. Farmers need Since carbon is another major component in to capture and store water so they can use it dur- plant growth, the amount of carbon stable iso- ing the dry period. topes in light (carbon-12) and heavy (carbon-13) fractions can help us to identify crops that are tol- Conservation or minimum tillage is a farming erant to drought. practice in which crops are grown with minimum soil disturbance. It reduces the breakdown of soil We also use the neutron probe, an instrument organic matter and therefore increases the water used to measure the amount of water stored in holding capacity of the soil. This tillage practice the soil and to assess the effect of different man- along with crop residue incorporation into the agement practices such as tillage and crop resi- soil reduces water loss through evaporation and due retention on soil moisture holding capacity. the impact of rainfall on soil erosion. Another example of addressing water scarcity is water harvesting. This involves collecting and Can you give me more details storing runoff water in natural or man-made farm about water harvesting? ponds and wetlands that can be used for supple- mentary irrigation or drinking water for livestock. Water harvesting and storage is gaining increas- We also run programmes that support the selec- ing importance in arid and semi-arid regions tion of drought and salinity-tolerant crops, such throughout the world as water becomes increas- as rice and wheat. ingly scarce, due to changing climatic conditions, erratic weather events or the unsustainable use of existing water. With this technique, rain water is captured, usually in a pond on a farm. What are the nuclear techniques involved? Water harvesting acts as a buffer against drought, providing water for livestock and a limited capac- In order to save every drop of water, we need to ity for irrigation and fire protection. know where the water goes. Isotopic techniques can help to trace the movement of water between soil, plant and atmosphere. Can you give me an example In water harvesting, the oxygen isotope (oxy- of an IAEA project where these gen-18) is used to identify water sources such as practices are working? surface runoff and seepage flow entering into farm ponds and wetlands. This will allow farmers IAEA has implemented water harvesting technology in China, Estonia, Iran, Lesotho,30 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 33. No Rain, No FoodNigeria, Romania, Tunisia and Uganda to increasethe productivity of rice, wheat and vegetablecrops through a network of coordinated researchprojects.Through both Technical Cooperation projectsand coordinated research projects, conserva-tion agriculture practices have been imple-mented in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India, Kenya,Morocco, Mexico, Niger, Pakistan, Turkey, Ugandaand Uzbekistan to increase water availability forcrops during the growing period. And our pro-jects have achieved good results. In Niger, cow-pea production increased nine-fold by using croprotation with millet and crop residue retention. InPakistan, crop residue retention and crop rota-tion increased wheat yield by 18%.What about extreme droughtsituations — how can nucleartechniques help here?Extreme drought situations arise when a regionreceives below average or no rain for months oryears. During prolonged droughts, losses in crop The amount of water that is retained within the The physical properties ofand livestock production can reach 50% or more. root zone for crop use also depends on the activ- the soil, such as particleThe projects we operate that support water con- ity of soil organisms and earthworms that influ- sizes and the proportionsservation and harvesting are useful in these con- ence water runoff along the soil surface or water of clay, silt and sand, itsditions, since water stored in farm ponds and wet- movement and retention within the soil. So tech- chemical properties and itslands can be helpful for irrigating crops for one or nologies that help to improve the physical, chem- mineralogy can determinetwo growing seasons. ical, and biological properties of soils are vital to how much water the soil improving agricultural water management. holds, for how long and toAlso we have projects that use nuclear-based what depth.research to support the cultivation of drought- (Photo: P. Pavlicek/IAEA)tolerant crops. For example, pigeon pea and cow-pea are tolerant to drought as they develop deep Which nuclear techniques areroots and extract water from depths up to two used to improve soil fertility?meters below the soil surface. Stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon are used. These techniques are not used directly to improve soil fertility, but help us to identify on-farm man-The IAEA also develops soil agement factors that influence the extent of themanagement techniques. Does movement of nutrient of added organic mattersoil play an important role in between soil and plant across agricultural land- scapes.water management? This information is useful to provide advice onIt certainly does. Soil is different all over the world. the best soil and nutrient management practicesCertain crops thrive better in certain soils and dif- that enhances soil fertility and reduce soilferent soils can hold varying amounts of water. degradation.The physical properties of the soil, such as parti-cle sizes and the proportions of clay, silt and sand,its chemical properties and its mineralogy candetermine how much water the soil holds, for Louise Potterton, Division of Public long and to what depth. E-mail: IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 31
  • 34. by Rodolfo QuevencoSUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF COASTAL WATERS A profile of the history and levels of coastal pollution in the Caribbean emerges F ive years is but an instant in the course of ◆ The coastal areas in the Caribbean are mainly centuries recorded by the science of ocean used for tourism, fishing, industry and commerce, sediment core sampling. But for the marine seaports, and as shelter for marine biodiversity; scientists gathered in Monaco in Spring 2011, the last five years yielded a treasure trove of data on ◆ Coastal pollution has been steadily rising and the study and understanding of coastal pollution results mostly from domestic sewage discharges, in the Caribbean. industrial waste dumping, residue from oil and other fossil fuels, shipping and port activities, The scientists represented countries sharing hurricanes and other natural, agricultural runoffs, the coastal resources of the Caribbean Sea -- and deforestation and soil erosion; Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, ◆ The most common types of coastal pollution Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. Joined by result from high concentrations of heavy metals experts from the IAEA, Spain and its Environment (lead, mercury), inorganic elements (cobalt, chro- Laboratory in Monaco, they met in a special ses- mium, zinc, nickel), and organic pollutants (pes- sion on the Caribbean during the International ticides and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons). Symposium on Isotopes, Marine Ecosystems and Climate Change. The session aimed to assess results of a regional Colombia project using nuclear techniques to measure The Bay of Cartagena is one of Colombia’s major the paths of coastal pollution in the participat- waterways. It is a hub for tourism, for fishing and ing Caribbean countries. First launched in 2007 for industry. It also has one of the largest ports in under an IAEA Technical Cooperation project the Caribbean and a manufacturing base for hun- (RLA/7012), the project involved taking sediment dreds of small and medium factories. core samples in all 12 countries, and analyzing these samples to determine the trend and his- Pollution in the Bay of Cartagena can be attrib- tory of pollution from heavy metals and organic uted to domestic sewage discharges; industrial contents for the last 100 years to support deci- dumping; leachate landfills; and sediments from sion makers’ appropriate environmental man- the Canal del Dique. agement decisions. Equipment and training were provided under the project to strengthen the Built over 300 years ago to connect Magdalena analytical capabilities of participating countries’ River to the Bay of Cartagena and the islands of scientific institutions. Rosario and Barbacoa, Canal del Dique is con- sidered to be the major source of sediment dis- To date, about 6000 data points have been gener- charge for the bay. Its impact has been cata- ated from the analysis of the sediment cores sub- strophic for the bay’s ecosystems, leading to the mitted by the participating countries. This infor- existing coral reefs’ destruction, as well as of all mation, including the trend of mercury pollution sea grass. Dating tests indicate an increase in analyzed in the sediments, is the first-ever com- the sedimentation rate in recent years, due most prehensive results reported in the area. likely to changing land use and climatic events affecting the canal watershed. There are similarities across the region and com- mon pollution trends. For example: 32 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 35. Mercury pollution is also evident in Cartagena Overall, measurements continue to indicate pol- Across the Caribbean,Bay, according to the analysis presented, with lution levels are higher than values prior to val- pollution by heavyhigh concentrations detected in the deeper sedi- ues from the 19th century but that management metals, includingment layers. measures implemented in the bay since 1990 mercury, is causing have helped restore the natural flow of sediments increasing concern aboutEfforts are invested in ensuring the canal’s navi- in the marine ecosystem. its effects on tourism,gability, but not the sustainability of the ecosys- clean beaches, andtem. Dredging can further mobilize mercury pre- Data collected have made it possible to under- fishing. The presencesent in sediments, thus emphasizing the need of mercury in fish can stand the evolution and current state of pollu- be a health issue. Thisand importance of heavy metal pollution control tion, and demonstrate the impact of rehabili- fisherman in Nicaraguain Cartagena Bay. tation programs to restore the environmental relies upon clean water to quality of the ecosystem. catch fish that are safe for him and his family to eat.Cuba (Photo: D.Sacchetti/IAEA)The Bay of Havana is Cuba’s major waterway and Dominican Republicgateway to its capital city. The coastline is densely Huge volumes of agricultural pollutants andpopulated and includes a large number of indus- industrial and municipal waste make their waytries that dump their sewage into the water. An into Rio Haina from industrial areas in the basinoil refinery and the sewage system built as part of and from the city of Santo Domingo. The coun-industrialization and urbanization have contrib- try conducted its first studies to assess the extentuted to oil and organic pollution in the bay. of the contamination in the mid-90’s. From 1995 onwards, a recovery program was implementedSedimentation rates show an increase from 1890 to reduce the effects of pollution. Some improve-to 1980 with peaks attributed to severe weather ments have already been that have hit the area. From 1990 therehas been a reduction of sediment accumulation Analysis of the sedimentation at Rio Haina indi-rates, coinciding with efforts to reduce socio-eco- cate peaks during periods of extreme weathernomic activities and implement sound pollution events, for example, strong hurricanes that struckreduction measures. the area in 1940, 1945, 1979 and, again, in 1998. IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 33
  • 36. Sustainable Growth of Coastal Waters While recorded levels of organic and inorganic tal areas around the bay. In addi- pollutants are low, there is an increased trend in tion, continued deforestation and the presence of lead, arsenic and other organic high soil erosion in Haiti’s water- pollutants in the area. sheds contributed to a significant MEXICO increase in sedimentation rates in Pesticide pollution – from DDTs – fluctuated in the last hundred years, affecting the correlation with their use in farming activities, ecosystem’s health, in particular the coral decreasing from the 1980s onwards as use of reef. these pesticides were gradually discouraged. Although industrial activity in Port-au-Prince Bay is limited, the generation of solid and liquid waste dumped into the bay — estimated at 1500 Guatemala tonnes per day — resulted in a steady increase of Amatique Bay is a semi-enclosed body of water heavy metals in the water, particularly lead and along the eastern coast of Guatemala hosting a mercury. This represents a potential danger to complex ecosystem of coastal lagoons, swamps, public health from the consumption of marine marshes, river systems and channels that connect organisms. protected waters and the adjacent continental shelf. Fishing, tourism, shipping and marine con- Information and data gathered so far on the servation are among the main activities in the evolution and state of pollution in the bay is bay. Coastal and marine tourism alone accounts expected to serve as baseline for evaluating for 2% of Guatemala’s gross domestic product; policies and coastal management programmes tourist visits have steadily increased through the to be established. years. These activities are believed to contribute to con- tamination, in terms of leachate from solid waste; Honduras industrial effluent discharges; agrochemical run- The bay in the coastal city of Puerto Cortes in offs and domestic sewage. However, it is soil ero- Honduras is the site for its fuel and mineral stor- sion and deforestation that has been identi- age industries, fertilizer plants, and textile manu- fied as the main environmental problem in the facturing. Central America’s largest port – a hub Amatique Bay. for cargo vessels and luxury cruise ships – is also located along the bay. These activities, coupled According to a 2006 environmental profile of with rapid population growth, constitute the Guatemala, the country lost 11% of its forest area main sources of pollution in the bay area. in the last 10 years, resulting in increased sedi- mentation rates in the bay area. At the same time, the high rates of erosion in the region, prolonged flooding of the coastal The continuous growth in sedimentation rates zone, and uncontrolled disposal of urban waste increases the vulnerability of fragile reef systems have contributed to increased sedimentation in in the Atlantic region of Guatemala, and could the coastal areas. Hurricanes’ seasonal passage directly impact the fisheries of the region. aggravates the situation, resulting in increased pollution load and heavy metals discharge into Increased traces of heavy metal pollution have the marine environment. The rate of sedimen- also been detected, but this has been attributed tation has tripled in Puerto Cortes in the last 50 more to increased sedimentation rather than the years, and is expected to double its current rate in level of industrial activity. the next 20 years if left unchecked. At the current rate of sedimentation, Honduras expects that the frequency and cost of dredg- Haiti ing the harbour area may increase in the near Port-au-Prince Bay acts as a natural harbour for future. Urgent measures may also have to be Haiti’s like-named capital city. It hosts much of taken along the upper basins of the rivers Ulua the country’s industrial activities, such as load- and Chameleon to control soil erosion. ing docks, fuel storage, food processing, cement manufacturing, and metal processing, which constitute the major sources of pollution for cos-34 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 37. Sustainable Growth of Coastal Waters Havana Bay★ ★ Sagua Estuary THE BAHAMAS Gulf of Batabanó ★ ★ Cienfuegos Bay CUBA DOM. REP.Río Coatzacoalcos ★ Port-au Prince Bay ★ JAMAICA ★ ★ HAITI BELIZE Kingston Bay Haina Estuary Amatique Bay ★ ★ Puerto Cortés GUATEMALA HONDURAS EL SALVADOR NICARAGUA ★ Blue elds Bay Cartagena Bay ★ Gulf of Cariaco ★ COSTA RICA Jamaica ★ Almirante Bay Kingston Harbour provides fishing, port and air- PANAMA VENEZUELA port facilities for Jamaica. It is the site for thou- sands of industrial and commercial enterprises, as well as home for nearly one million people. However, the water quality has badly degraded, COLOMBIA and the surrounding area has deteriorated, thus reducing its environmental use and tour- istic attractiveness. Pollution and alien species brought by shipping additionally threaten its rich biodiversity. Environmental studies at Kingston Harbour high- ECUADOR light two major problem areas: severe eutrophi- cation (increased presence of chemical nutrients in the water) and continuing deterioration of the water quality from untreated industrial wastewa- ter, disposal of agrochemicals and sewage, and an increased sedimentation rate in Hunts Bay caused by the Portmore Causeway, a bridge con- est in the country. Waste water from industrial necting Portsmore to Kingston. processes and expanding human settlements have dramatically altered the environmental pro- Higher levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocar- file of this important river basin. bons have also been detected since the 1980s. Dating measurements using lead-210 showed At the same time, high levels of metals were that an increased rate in sedimentation and asso- found in some sediments. The experts advise that ciated pollutants began to appear with the rapid the government should take this into account in urban growth and industrial expansion between coastal management efforts, and should also 1970 and 1990. The increase in average sediment consider studying the uptake of metals by marine accumulation rates is most likely a result of soil biota. erosion caused by changes in land use to support industrial and urban development in this area. Increased oil pollution is also evident in the river Mexico estuary. Concentrations of organic pollutants The Coatzacoalcos River is the third largest river in core sediments point to the burning of fossil in Mexico. The industrial corridor built along its fuels as a probable cause. From 1980 onwards, banks is home to about 65 petrochemical plants heavy metal concentrations in the area have including the Lazaro Cardenas refinery, the old- reached levels that could pose a risk to marine IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 35
  • 38. Sustainable Growth of Coastal Waters Juan Pablo Parra biota. The experts recommend a program of coastal ecosystems in Nicaragua with similar of the Instituto de periodic checks, including measures to control conditions, and even extend the study to inland Investigaciones Marinas the amount of urban and industrial going into water bodies. y Costeras (INVEMAR) Coatzacoalcos river and its tributaries. laboratory in Colombia, recovers sediment from the seabed to check it Panama for pollutants. After Nicaragua A major economic activity in Almirante Bay in extracting a sample from The Bluefield Lagoon in the south Atlantic the province of Bocas del Toro, Panama, is the the ocean floor, Parra will autonomous region of Nicaragua is an ecological processing of bananas for export. Bananas use nuclear techniques to haven for a variety of marine life and ecosystems. have been grown in the area for over 100 years;identify contaminants and It provides a natural habitat for fish, crustaceans it is an agricultural activity noted for its high reconstruct the pollution and marine species of great commercial interest. dependence on agricultural chemicals and sources. However, rapid population growth in settlements fertilizers and for increased cargo ship traffic to Parra received training in around the lagoon, and increased activities in the local seaports. using nuclear techniques fishing, forestry, and agriculture are threatening to analyse sediment the balance of this delicate ecosystem. This major industry thus accounts for the bay’s through a program increased pollution by organic chemicals and supported by the IAEA’s The lagoon is also the main tributary of the hydrocarbons. Another source of contamination Technical Cooperation Escondido river, which carries an estimated emanates from the settlements along the Bay of Programme. 11.6 billion cubic metres of sediment and river Almirante. The absence of adequate treatment (Photo: D.Sacchetti/IAEA) flow each year. Moreover, the devastation from plants means waste-water, solid waste and sew- Hurricane Joan in 1988 almost completely age are deposited untreated directly into the bay destroyed the basin and added significantly to or nearby rivers. In the last decade, the increasing sediment build-up. the number of passengers who travel, for tour- ism, to Colon Island via water taxis, has exacer- Analysis of lead-210 dating and other environ- bated this situation. mental indicators have helped Nicaragua evalu- ate changes in the sedimentary process and iden- These factors, combined with the bay’s topogra- tify possible causes. They also indicate trends of phy that inhibits the water’s active exchange with increased level of inorganic pollution in the last the open sea, and the deforestation of the man- 100 years. grove forest, have resulted in increased levels of environmental degradation of the marina in the Nicaragua will be using knowledge gained from Bay of Almirante. these analyses to replicate the study in other 36 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 39. Sustainable Growth of Coastal Waters Counterpart Institutes The following national institutes participated in the regional project for sustainable coastal management of the Caribbean: ❖ Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (INVEMAR), Colombia (Institute of Marine and Coastal Research) ❖ Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), Costa Rica (University of Costa Rica) ❖ Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, Costa Rica (Costa Rica Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems) ❖ Japdeva, Costa Rica ❖ Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, Cuba (Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment)Each of these country reports stress that data on the ❖ Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, República Dominicanatrends in heavy metal and organic pollution gath- (Autonomous University of Santo Domingo)ered for the last 100 years will be a useful tool fordecision makers in crafting strategies for sustainable ❖ Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM), Guatemalacoastal management. (Ministry of Energy and Mines) ❖ Empresa Portuaria Quetzal, Guatemala (Quetzal Port Enterprise)The Next StepsThe project on the sustainable management of the ❖ Ministère de l’environnement, HaïtiCaribbean Sea is scheduled for full completion in (Ministry of the environment)2012. ❖ Secretaria de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente (SERNA), HondurasUntil then, follow-up training on the use of lead -210 (Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment)for dating sediments and a review meeting for allcounterparts are still foreseen. More important are ❖ National Environment and Planning Agency, Jamaicastrategies to make these reports available — in fulland concise form— to as wide an audience as possi- ❖ Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Méxicoble. The results will be presented at an inter-govern- (National Autonomous University of Mexico)mental meeting of the United Nations EnvironmentProgramme in the Caribbean for higher-level dissem- ❖ Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, Nicaraguaination. (National Autonomous University of Nicaragua)Strategies to further support Caribbean countries in ❖ Autoridad de Recursos Acuáticos de Panamá, Panamádeveloping and sustaining their individual capabili- (Authority for Aquatic Resources of Panama)ties for environmental monitoring and managementshould thereafter be developed to lend meaning to ❖ Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales ythese valuable scientific results. Tecnológicas (CIEMAT), Spain (Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology Research)Rodolfo Quevenco, Division of Public Information. ❖ Universidad del Oriente, VenezuelaE-mail: (University of the Orient)Staff from the Department of Technical Cooperationand Nuclear Science and Nuclear Applicationscontributed to this article. IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 37
  • 40. DETECTING A colonies of algae—simple ocean plants that live in the sea—grow out of control and produce tox- ins that can poison fish, shellfish and other marine life, and pose a major threat to people’s health and fishermen’s livelihoods. Not all algal blooms are harmful. In fact, most of them sustain marine life, providing a vital source of nutrients for a host of sea creatures. Certain algal species produce poisons called saxitoxins. When conditions are ideal – i.e., higher nutrients in water through coastal upwelling or agricultural runoffs - these algae can “bloom” and overpopu- late, inevitably resulting in the release of massive amounts of toxin that kill fish and can accumulate in clams, mussels and shellfish, making them dan- gerous to eat. Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), characterized by death through paralysis of the respiratory system, is one of the most common health threats from eating contaminated shell- fish. Despite its ‘red’ moniker, many outbreaks of HABs often do not discolour the water, or may have other colours like green or yellow. In fact, most blooms are difficult to detect with the naked eye. Undetected, the risk of spoiled fish harvests and/or contaminated sea products entering the human food chain increases many times over. The global impact that HABs can have on human health, economies and the ecosystem, makes it one of the most serious, naturally occurring coastal problems in the world. As outbreaks of these poisonous blooms of algae become wide- spread and more frequent, the IAEA is stepping T A sudden onset of hey are the seas’ silent killers, toxin-laden up efforts to help countries understand the phe- harmful algal blooms patches of algae that amass along coastal nomenon and use more reliable methods for (HABs) can poison fish, shores and wreck havoc on marine eco- early detection and monitoring so as to limit shellfish and other systems. They appear with no warning and out- HABs’ adverse effects on coastal communities marine life, and pose a breaks have become more frequent. Virtually everywhere.major threat to peopleís every coastal country in the world has suffered health and fishermen’s from their effects. livelihoods. (Photo: F. Boisson/IAEA) These are harmful algal blooms (HABs), more Detection as the Best Form of commonly known as ‘red tides’ because their Prevention ominous presence is sometimes characterized by a massive red patch of water encroaching the Early detection is key in HABs control. For dec- shorelines. Often outbreaks are invisible and thus ades, the conventional method to test for impend- pose an even greater threat. HABs occur when ing red tide events was through mouse bioassay. 38 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 41. KILLER TOXIN by Rodolfo QuevencoScientists would inject toxin extracts from sus-pect algae or shellfish samples into a laboratorymouse and measure how long it would take forthe mouse to die. The mouse bioassay methodis considered to have a low sensitivity, and is notable to precisely pinpoint levels of toxicity.A nuclear-based technique using receptor bind-ing assay (RBA) is benign, quicker and much moreprecise. RBA works by mixing a shellfish samplewith a ‘marker’ — in most cases, tritium-labeledsaxitoxin — then exposing the mixture to a tis-sue sample. If the shellfish is contaminated, thepoisons compete with each other to “bind” to thenerve cells of the tissue, with the radioactive toxinbeing displaced or “bumped off’ its receptors bypoison already present in the shellfish. By meas-uring the amounts or radioactivity left, scientistscan then pinpoint exactly what the levels of toxic Florence Boisson, a scientific consultant of the Philippine Nuclearconcentrations are. Principality of Monaco working at NAEL, believes Research Institute the IAEA has a clear leadership role in delivering Director, Alumanda de laRBA is thus a far more sensitive and precise meas- the benefits of the RBA to its Member States. Rosa, says completion ofuring method, and the IAEA has long been spear- major modifications toheading efforts to widen its use among as many To further understand the paths used by the HABs the receptor bindingcountries as possible. To this end, it has entered toxin to enter seafoods, NAEL Monaco works with assay technique wouldinto partnership agreements with international its Collaborating Centre — the Philippine Nuclear enable the technology toorganizations involved with HABS; it actively Research Institute (PNRI) — to apply RBA in field be brought to the field.facilitates international collaboration on the use studies at selected aquaculture areas in the coun- (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)and advancement of RBA, and supports several try. PNRI’s pioneering work in RBA since the lateregional and national projects. 1990s, and the country’s rich aquatic resources, makes it an ideal partner for research and devel-Currently 23 IAEA Member States have active opment work. Experts are giving special atten-technical cooperation projects dealing with the tion to measuring the transfer and eliminationmonitoring and early warning of seafood toxicity of the biotoxin which causes PSP, and tracing theusing the RBA method. Several successful appli- transfer of the toxin from the shellfish all the waycations of RBA for HABs have been reported and up the human food chain.documented in Chile, El Salvador, Namibia, andthe Philippines, to name a few. With technical support from NAEL Monaco, the Philippines is also extending R&D work to mod- ify the procedure and instrumentation — for example using iodine-125 instead of tritium andRBA Research and Deployment a gamma counter instead of liquid scintillationLeading the IAEA’s efforts on HABs is its — which would allow the procedure to be per-Environment Laboratories in Monaco (NAEL). For formed in the field or in small laboratories in theyears, the laboratory has been at the forefront coast. Analytic results would be quicker, and alertsof promoting the use of RBA for early detection of impending red tide events can be announcedand monitoring of HABs occurrences in Member at a shorter notice.States. PNRI, whose status as IAEA Collaborating Centre on HABs was renewed in July 2011, hopes to fin- IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 39
  • 42. Detecting a Killer Toxin project (INT/7/017) to provide coordinated sup- port for using RBA to address impacts of harmful algal toxins in seafoods. One overall project aim is to build a support struc- ture to allow countries to develop and implement strategies and programmes on HABs. Another is to upgrade regional capabilities in receptor bind- ing assay through training and technology trans- fer. As a part of the tripartite agreement between the IAEA, UNEP and UNESCO’s International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), signed on 25 February 2011, a long-term collaboration began with the IOC to build countries’ capacity to moni- tor HABs.  This collaboration has already resulted in regional initiatives in Africa and Latin America aimed at strengthening these regions’ capacity ish major RBA modifications this year. When com- to monitor outbreaks of harmful algal blooms. A fisherman in Sorsogon pleted the technology will then be shared withBay in the Philippines sets other IAEA Member States through an IAEA tech- “One overall project aim is to build a support struc- out at dawn for the early nical cooperation project. ture to allow countries to develop and implement morning catch. strategies and programmes on HABs. Another is (Photo: F.Boisson/IAEA) “It is an honour for the Philippines that our peers to upgrade regional capabilities in receptor bind- recognize the work that we have done in this ing assay through training and technology trans- area”, says PNRI Director Alumanda de la Rosa. fer”, says Boisson. “ We are also glad that our R&D strategies have become the model that other regions can use in A direct offshoot of this international coordina- studying their HABs problem.” tion is a Manual of Methods for Harmful Algal Toxin Detection Using RBA, due for issue in late 2011. A joint endeavor by the IAEA and NOAA, the manual will serve as a useful guide for developing coun- Horizons of International tries wanting to use RBA for HABs. It is another Cooperation step forward in the growing acceptance – and use – of RBA to help detect and forecast the location In early 2011, IAEA and the US National Oceanic of harmful algal blooms. and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a practical arrangement formalizing their col- Controlling the toxic menace from the sea will laboration to provide technical assistance in the continue to be an elusive goal for years to come. management of the impacts of HABs. Continued research in technologies like RBA are helping to bridge the gap in understanding the This announcement followed in the heels of a phenomenon of the ‘red tide; and forewarning of major meeting of an international scientific advi- its coming. sory committee on harmful algal blooms organ- ized by the IAEA in March 2010. Held in Charleston, With health and livelihood in the balance, these South Carolina, the meeting brought together are potent tools for countries that need them the international experts known for their expertise in most. the use of receptor binding assay for HABs. The meeting reviewed reports on existing appli- cations of RBA for HABs; addressed issues of sup- Rodolfo Quevenco, Division of Public Information. ply for radio-labeled reagent toxins; defined E-mail: strategies for further development; and plotted the course for strengthened international col- Staff from the IAEA’s Department of Technical laboration among organizations involved with Cooperation and the Environmental Laboratory HABs. It was held as part of an IAEA inter-regional contributed to this article. 40 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 43. Protection from aToxic MenaceIAEA helps El Salvador handle the threat from by Sasha HenriquesHarmful Algal BloomsT he potentially deadly toxins released by This system depends on a network of monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) threaten El stations located in fishing parks. Samples from Salvador’s shellfish harvest and pose a the monitoring station are brought to the facilitygrave health risk. Through several of the IAEA’s for analysis. The new toxin detection methods areTechnical Cooperation projects, scientists at the faster and allow scientists to analyse more sam-Laboratory of Marine Toxins of the University of ples, and thus provide an early warning of a HAB-El Salvador (LABTOX-UES) have received sup- induced spread of toxins.port from the IAEA’s Technical CooperationProgramme in setting up a permanent monitor- The concept was proven when an early warninging system that provides early warning of toxins of a “red tide” was issued in 2010. LABTOX-UESin microalgae and seafood products. publishes its analyses online (http://toxinasmari- to support early warningsThe IAEA equipped the laboratory and provided of algal outbreaks and help reduce the healthtraining on specialized detection equipment that threat posed by this natural used to monitor HABs. This is a unique capabil-ity that no other laboratory in the region has yet HAB events havedeveloped. What is the IAEA doing become a common globally? problem both inThe government relies on the facility to detect developed andtoxicity in HABs for its early warning system, The IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation, developing countries,which is used to alert fisherman and locals as together with international and national organ- affecting public healthsoon as there is a dangerous concentration of tox- isations around the world, works with national and the shellfish and fishins in the water. marine institutes and governments to tackle the farming industry. issue. (Photos: Nancy Falcon Castro/ UNIDO) IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 41
  • 44. The IAEA equipped the Laboratory of MarineToxins of the University of El Salvador and provided training on specialized detection equipment used to monitor HABs. (Photos: Nancy Falcon Castro/ UNIDO) In addition to its work in El Salvador, the IAEA These facilities are prime examples of the benefits works with the Philippine Nuclear Research of cooperation between the IAEA and Member Institute, which is the only IAEA collaborating cen- States to protect national food security, public tre on HABs in the world. The Institute undertakes health and the economy. research with the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco to track the impact and fate of biotox- They contribute to the sustainable management ins in the marine food-chain. of fishery products and the coastal economy, increase food security and are a resource for fac- Through the Technical Cooperation programme, ulty, students and the Government: all benefits 14 marine laboratories were established in Africa, that will last long into the future. Asia and in Central and Latin America. Through an on-going project in the Caribbean and Latin America, the IAEA will be establishing three more laboratories by 2013 and will develop the capabil- ities of eight other countries to detect HABs. Sasha Henriques, Division of Public Information. E-mail: Also, a new regional project in Asia will enhance the capacity to monitor the impact of toxic algae The IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Department’s by addressing ciguatera (a disease contracted Communication staff also contributed to this when one eats fish contaminated by toxins). article. 42 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 45. by Peter KaiserAn Ocean of KnowledgeOn 10 March 1961, the IAEA con- cluded with the Principality ocean. The research is buttressed by strategic partnerships with other Two years after UNEP was founded in 1972, the Laboratory provided theof Monaco and the Oceanographic UN ocean agencies such as the essential scientific and analytical sup-Institute, then directed by Jacques Intergovernmental Oceanographic port for a landmark study of radio-Cousteau, their first agreement on a Commission, which also celebrates active and non-radioactive pollut-research project on the effects of radi- this year its 50th anniversary, as well ant levels in all principal seas. Theoactivity in the sea. Fifty years later, as the United Nations Environmental Laboratories have undertaken world-that cooperation expanded signif- Program, the United Nations wide radioactivity baseline studies oficantly through collaboration with Development Program (UNEP), the the Atlantic, North and South Pacific,international and regional organi- United Nations Educational, Scientific Indian, Arctic and Antarctic Oceanszations, as well as national laborato- and Cultural Organization, and the and the Far Eastern, Mediterranean,ries. The Laboratories that grew from International Maritime Organization. and Black Seas. Regional studies havethis initial agreement comprise the been conducted in the Gulf, the Irish,only marine laboratory in the United Many Member States’ national lab- Kara and Caspian Seas, New CaledoniaNations system that undertakes oratories rely upon the Laboratory’s and the Mururoa and Fangataufaresearch, while providing training and accurate analyses of sea water, sedi- services for the study of the ment and marine life samples. Theseoceans and marine environments. analyses help assure the quality of the By 1986, the Marine Environmental research conducted by collaborating Studies Laboratory was established inInitially, the Laboratory was hosted in laboratories  engaged in joint environ- Monaco. This Laboratory is concernedMonaco’s Oceanographic Museum. mental studies, utilizing the IAEA’s reli- mainly with non-radioactive pollut-The Laboratory’s subsequent, and its able reference materials at an afford- ants such as pesticides, polychlorin-current permanent premises, were able cost.  ated biphenyls (PCBs), petroleumalso provided by the Principality of hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromaticMonaco, considerably expanding and In Monaco, the Radiometrics hydrocarbons (PAHs), antifoulingenhancing the quality of laboratory Laboratory uses radionuclides as envi- paint booster biocides, and recentlyspace over this period, now named ronmental tracers, in collaboration also dealing with radioactive contam-the Environment Laboratories. The with leading research centres around inants. In cooperation with regionalLaboratory began its work by stud- the world, to quantify ocean circu- laboratories, the Laboratory pro-ying radioactive substances in the lation, the transport of pollutants in vides training and implements marinemarine environment and their effects coastal ecosystems, sedimentation monitoring programmes, while act- marineon marine life. and submarine groundwater dis- ing as the analytical support centre charge. for regional organizations protectingUnique data derived from the marine environments.application of nuclear and isotopic The Radioecology Laboratory studiestechniques improve scientists’ the impacts of contaminants on sea-knowledge of oceanic processes, food safety (including Harmful Algal Peter Kaiser, Division of Publicmarine ecosystems and support Blooms), of climate change and ocean Information.pollution impacts assessments. acidification on marine organisms, as E-mail: P.Kaiser@iaea.orgThese studies support the well as the ocean’s ability to seques- Staff of IAEA’s Environmentalsustainable development of the ter CO2. Laboratory contributed to this article.laboratoryBy 1986, the Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory was established in Monaco.This Laboratory is concerned mainly with non-radioactive pollutants radioactive contaminants. (Photos: IAEA) IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011 | 43
  • 46. by Maureen MacNeill Unlocking Rain’s Secrets In March 1960, the World Meteorological environmental isotopes when assessing water Organization (WMO) and the IAEA began their resources. The database provides unique cooperation: WMO meteorological services and information and tools to understand atmospheric other national agencies started collecting rain circulation processes and to verify and improve water over 50 years ago and continue to send atmospheric circulation models, the study of samples to the IAEA and other cooperating labo- climate change over different time periods, as ratories, where the samples’ isotopic content is well as for ecological research. The database is determined. now routinely used in palaeontology, landscape ecology, anthropology, plant physiology, animal Naturally ocurring isotopes in water help migrations, food webs, food authentication and researchers trace the sources, movement and forensics.  history of water molecules in the water cycle. Isotopes in precipitation are particularly useful Today, the network contains isotope data for more tracers since precipitation recharges — directly than 900 stations, with over 120  000 monthly or indirectly — all freshwater systems. Already in records. GNIP is the world’s largest database of the late 1950s, the IAEA recognized that countries isotopes in atmospheric waters, available to all with limited water resources would need reliable Member States to support isotope techniques and comprehensive hydrological information to for hydrological and atmospheric research, while Today, GNIP includes be able to plan drinking water supplies as well as the IAEA laboratory assists countries in determi- about 900 stations, agricultural and industrial water consumption. ning the isotope composition of water samples to producing over 120 000 assess present and future water supplies. monthly records. The resulting database, the Global Network of Below: Map of WMO Isotopes in Precipitation, or GNIP, helps scientists This newsletter offers more information on GNIP’sstations contributing GNIP profile the characteristic isotopic signature of history: data, 1964, IAEA. precipitation, which is the key to interpreting PDF/Newsletters/WE-NL-26.pdf Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation 44 | IAEA Bulletin 53-1 | September 2011
  • 47. Photo: Caribbean surf lands at a beach near Puerto La Libertad, El Salvador. The sea is never far from home. In fact, it’s just two kilometres away from the homes of four out of ten people who live in the Caribbean region. Home to 14% of the world’s coral reefs, the Sea boasts some of the planet’s most diverse mangrove and sea-grass coverage, according to the United Nations’ Environmental Programme (UNEP). The reefs and coastal habitats support fisheries, and attract tourists, providing Caribbean nations annual revenues of between $3.1 and $4.6 billion. The continued loss of coastal habitats and reefs can impede the region’s economic and environmental resiliency. Pollution and sedimentation are two of the main threats to this delicate environment’s health and diversity. The IAEA is working with 12 Caribbean nations, providing support in the use of nuclear techniques to localize pollution sources and quantify their effects on coastal environments. Preserving the Caribbean’s biodiversity is essential for regional development, according to UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme.11-0711 ISSN 0020-6067 Nancy Falcon Castro/UNIDO
  • 48. fetching water an everyday story for a billion peoplefetchingEight-year old cousins, Mutuku and Mwania, live in Kimutwa in eastern Kenya.  The rain-filled Kwa-Aka dam is their community’s only water source. They walkfive kilometers to reach the dam where they fetch water for their families. The wateris polluted and needs to be boiled thoroughly before it can be consumed. Mutukuand Mwania built wooden barrows to haul the heavy water canisters home.  Water is scarce in this region; the rains are unpredictable and infrequent. Peoplehave few alternative water sources. When the dam water dries up, Mutuku, Mwaniaand others in their village will have to walk 20 km further to find water. A trek theywill make until the rains refill the dam.These photos were taken in June 2011, meanwhile the pond is empty.The next rain is expected in October. Text: Louise Potterton ♦ Photos: L. Potterton & P. Pavlicek