Dr. Ricardo Oyarzún, a researcher at the University of La Serena, associated with the CEAZA Scientific Center and the Fondap CRHIAM Center, has developed studies on groundwater recharge in arid areas. He comments that knowledge of aquifers is important in terms of reserve of water resources in semi-arid basins, such as those in the Coquimbo Region, where thousands of water-dependent inhabitants and an ecosystem that also survives by that resource live.
"It is the same as the bank account, if I have no idea how much is deposited month by month, and I get money, there is the risk of leaving the account in" 0 ". In the case of groundwater, the recharge is the income, the deposit, in this case of water, ”explains the researcher.
He adds that in our country the groundwater for human consumption reaches 40% of the total volume consumed. Meanwhile, for rural drinking water it would increase to 76%.
For this work the scientist uses the technique of isotopic or atom analysis, which allows obtaining information about the water resource from different perspectives.
“Isotopes are atoms of the same element, which have different numbers of protons and, therefore, the mass varies, which means that their 'signal' is modified in the hydrological cycle. As a tool they help identify the origin of water. For example, if the recharge is local or the water comes from elsewhere. It also allows to characterize the age of the water ”, he details.
He warns that, like every tool, isotopes have advantages and limitations, and the results are better if it is integrated with other monitoring techniques (eg hydrogeochemistry).
Presentation at CONAPHI-Chile
Dr. Oyarzún presented the presentation "Isotopes: potentialities and limitations in the context of the study and characterization of groundwater recharge" in a workshop on the theme of "Recharge of Aquifers", organized by the Hydrological Engineering Program for Water Management Irrigation and Drainage of CONAPHI-Chile (Chilean Chapter of the National Hydrological Program of UNESCO) coordinated by the CNR (National Irrigation Commission).
The work with isotopes has been an important component in various projects carried out by the academic. Among the most recent is the characterization of aquifer recharge in mid-mountain rainfed areas (FONDECYT 1150587). Another of his works disclosed isotopic techniques, such as support for water resources management, funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency.