Environmental isotopes in the hydrological cycle: Principles and applications

The changes in the isotopic composition of water in the water cycle occur primarily during the passage of water into and through the atmosphere. The specific isotopic signatures engendered by these processes are then imprinted on the terrestrial water bodies, forming the basis for the many applications of isotopes in hydrological studies. A detailed understanding of the complex and changing processes involved is thus a necessary pre-condition for the use of this tool in studies of present and past climatic systems.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UNESCO have established a close co-operation within the framework of both the earlier International Hydrological Decade (IHD, 1965–1974) and the ongoing International Hydrological Programme (IHP) in the specific aspects of scientific and methodological developments related to water resources that are of mutual interest to the programmes of both organizations. In view of the fact that the IHP’s objectives also include a multi-disciplinary approach to the assessment and rational management of water resources and taking note of the advances made in isotope hydrology, the IAEA and UNESCO initiated a joint activity in the preparation of a series of six up-to-date textbooks, covering the entire field of hydrological applications of natural isotopes (environmental isotopes) to the overall domain of water resources and related environmental studies.

The main aim of this series is to provide a comprehensive review of basic theoretical concepts and principles of isotope hydrology methodologies and their practical applications with some illustrative examples. The volumes are designed to be self-sufficient reference material for scientists and engineers involved in research and/or practical applications of isotope hydrology as an integral part of the investigations related to water resources assessment, development and management. Furthermore, they are also expected to serve as teaching material or text books to be used in universities and teaching institutions for incorporating the study of isotopes in water in general into the curriculum of the earth sciences. Additionally, the contents can fulfil the need for basic knowledge in other disciplines of the earth sciences dealing with water in general.


«Environmental isotopes in the hydrological cycle: Principles and applications» is a six-volume series, originally based on the lecture material for the courses in isotope hydrology that professor W.G. Mook gave at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, now known as the VU University Amsterdam. The series is a co-production of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The publications are a significant Dutch contribution to the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO.


Environmental isotopes in the hydrological cycle: principles and applications (2000–2001)

acrobat_icon I: Introduction; theory, methods, review

acrobat_icon II: Atmospheric water

acrobat_icon III: Surface water

acrobat_icon IV: Groundwater, saturated and unsaturated zone

acrobat_icon V: Man’s impact on groundwater systems

acrobat_icon VI: Modelling


acrobat_icon IAEA Water Resources Programme, brochure