Isotope methods for management of shared aquifers in northern Africa.



Wallin B, Gaye C, Gourcy L, Aggarwal P.

Ground Water. 2005 Sep-Oct;43(5):744-9.


Access to fresh water is one of the major issues of northern and sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of the fresh water used for drinking and irrigation is obtained from large ground water basins where there is minor contemporary recharge and the aquifers cross national borders. These aquifers include the Nubian Aquifer System shared by Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan; the Iullemeden Aquifer System, extending over Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Benin, and Algeria; and the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System shared by Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. These resources are subject to increased exploitation and may be severely stressed if not managed properly as witnessed already by declining water levels. In order to make appropriate decisions for the sustainable management of these shared water resources, planners and managers in different countries need an improved knowledge base of hydrological information. Three technical cooperation projects related to aquifer systems will be implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and United Nations Development Programme/Global Environmental Facility. These projects focus on isotope hydrology studies to better quantify ground water recharge and dynamics. The multiple isotope approach combining commonly used isotopes 18O and 2H together with more recently developed techniques (chlorofluorocarbons, 36Cl, noble gases) will be applied to improve the conceptual model to study stratification and ground water flows. Moreover, the isotopes will be an important indicator of changes in the aquifer due to water abstraction, and therefore they will assist in the effort to establish a sustainable ground water management.

Keywords: Isotopes,Radioisotopes,Water Supply