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Climate change and our water

Seventy percent of our planet is covered by water, but most of that water is salty, frozen in glaciers or deep underground. Water scarcity affects every part of the globe.


In a world of around 8 billion people, 2 billion lack safe drinking water and 3 billion lack adequate sanitation. Climate change is exacerbating the situation, causing water shortages and extreme droughts in some areas, and floods and heavy rainfall in others.


As the global population grows, water scarcity is expected to worsen, leaving nearly half of us in water stressed areas as soon as 2025. Protecting our water supply is a major priority. To do that, it’s crucial to know how much water we have, how it is replenished, how vulnerable it is to pollution, how long its supplies last and how climate change affects those supplies.

Scientist Pipetting

How can atoms help answer these questions?

Water from different locations has a unique composition of isotopes — forms of an element that vary in atomic mass and physical properties. These ‘fingerprints’ reveal key information about the origin and age of water, as well as the path it has travelled through the different stages of the water cycle.


Atomic data can also identify any pollutants, such as heavy metals, chemical fertilisers and pharmaceuticals that contaminate water supplies.

Data-based decision making

Policy makers and heads of government can depend on the accuracy of the data these atoms provide as they make decisions on how to adapt the way we use water, so that we protect this essential resource and can keep benefiting from it for generations to come.

Stream and mountains
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