Acknowledging that water resources are under growing threats from pollution, over-exploitation and climate change, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has launched the Global Water Analysis Laboratory (GloWAL) Network. The initiative is intended to help countries generate site-specific chemical, biological and isotopic water data and develop tailored water management strategies.

The GloWAL network will encourage partnerships between developed and developing countries in regional sub-networks, to support the growth of the network through designated laboratories, each categorized as one of three ‘nodes.’ Development nodes have basic water analysis capacity and require significant investment, growth nodes are operational but need more equipment or capacity development, and anchor nodes are well-equipped and support other laboratories or countries.

Armed with extensive water quality and supply data, policymakers can make informed decisions on siting agricultural activities and urban planning, based on sustainability and quality of bulk water supply. Emphasis is being placed on the utility of isotope hydrology, enabling analysts to measure isotope ratios and track the flow of water and its travel time. Stable isotopic tracers can be used to determine water quality, while radioactive tracers can serve to monitor water movement.

As part of this effort, construction is under way on the IAEA Isotope Hydrology Laboratory in Vienna, Austria, which will provide more capacity support for the network and help member states develop more efficient analytical methods.

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