The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Making the most of Africa´s scarce groundwater resources

Understanding the impact of climate change and development on groundwater resources in Africa is the theme of a conference opening this week in Kampala, Uganda. In a continent already facing water scarcity, phenomena such as climate change and rapid population growth are expected to force local populations to increase their reliance on groundwater resources to meet domestic, agricultural and industrial water demands.

As a conference sponsor, the IAEA Water Resources Programme is promoting isotope hydrology tools to improve the management of groundwater resources. The aim is to help define technical studies needed to assess impacts of climate change scenarios, which ultimately should lead to more effective mitigation and improved sustainability of groundwater resources in Africa.

'Isotope methods are a powerful tool for looking at climate related problems because they can reveal important linkages between hydrologic, atmospheric, and ecologic processes all of which affect groundwater renewal,' says Brent Newman of the IAEA Water Resources Programme.

Another major aim of the conference is to improve networking and cooperation among Member States. 'The water climate issue has, by definition, a regional dimension. With this conference we are trying to improve hydrological understanding and cooperation among African Member States,' says Mr Newman.

Participants to the conference are also expected to agree on a set of technical recommendations to be published and forwarded to regional bodies and international fora focusing on water issues. 'The IAEA Water Resources Programme has a long history of working with Member States in Africa on water resources problems,' says Pradeep Aggarwal, Director of the IAEA Water Resources Programme.

'We recently published an atlas of isotope hydrology for Africa that makes decades of isotope data from coordinated research and technical cooperation projects available to the public. These data are being used to improve water management at the national and regional level and are a baseline for monitoring climate change effects. We also have several on-going projects in Africa to address trans-boundary water management problems as well as local water supply and water quality problems.'

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