9 April 2024
by Alex Brinded

Using nuclear techniques to find African groundwater

Scientists in the Sahel region of Africa are finding quality groundwater sources using isotope hydrology.

The Sahel is a semiarid region of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal eastward to Sudan. © Michel Isamuna / Unsplash

Isotope hydrology and other nuclear techniques are being used by African experts to assess the age, vulnerability and sustainability of water resources, says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Analysing nitrogen isotopes in water can also help work out the source of pollutants, reports the IAEA.

The agency is providing training, support for academic research and equipment to African scientists in the Sahel region, which has particularly scarce water resources and is dependent on groundwater.

Experts from the 13 countries in the Sahel can now better characterise shared groundwater resources in five basins, notes the agency.

The current project is said to build on a decade of work by countries in the region and is being expanded to include shared basins in the south of the continent.

The scientists involved have confirmed a large amount of quality groundwater in the Sahel basins using isotope hydrology.

The IAEA says it has provided the University of Lome, Togo, with a laser isotope analyser to measure stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in water samples.

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Alex Brinded

Staff Writer