Scientists discover vast undersea freshwater reserves

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SYDNEY: Australian researchers said Thursday they had established the existence of vast freshwater reserves trapped beneath the ocean floor which could sustain future generations as current sources dwindle.

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Lead author Vincent Post, from Australia’s Flinders University, said that an estimated 500,000 cubic kilometers of low-salinity water had been found buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa.

“The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” said Post of the study, published in the latest edition of Nature.

“Freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting.

“It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages.”

UN Water, the United Nations’ water agency, estimates that water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population in the last century due to demands such as irrigated agriculture and meat production.

More than 40 percent of the world’s population already live in conditions of water scarcity. By 2030, UN Water estimates that 47 percent of people will exist under high water stress.

Post said his team’s findings were drawn from a review of seafloor water studies done for scientific or oil and gas exploration purposes.

“By combining all this information we’ve demonstrated that the freshwater below the seafloor is a common finding, and not some anomaly that only occurs under very special circumstances,” he told Agence France-Presse.

The deposits were formed over hundreds of thousands of years in the past, when the sea level was much lower and areas now under the ocean were exposed to rainfall which was absorbed into the underlying water table.

When the polar icecaps started melting about 20,000 years ago these coastlines disappeared under water, but their aquifers remain intact—protected by layers of clay and sediment.

Post said the deposits were comparable with the bore basins currently relied upon by much of the world for drinking water and would cost much less than seawater to desalinate.

Drilling for the water would be expensive, and Post said great care would have to be taken not to contaminate the aquifers.

He warned that they were a precious resource.

“We should use them carefully: once gone, they won’t be replenished until the sea level drops again, which is not likely to happen for a very long time,” Post said. AFP

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1 Comment

  1. Arch.Angel(Lito) Lingan Mallonga on

    Yes I fully agree that we should take care with our underground water specially when disposing our garbage by the method of segregation or else we will suffer for the rest of our lives in the Philippines. Remember that we are surrounded by water in most of our 7,100 islands and if we do not move now, we will be buying our fresh water from other countries and will cost dearly in our economy.

    The cost of taking these fresh water below the sea is very expensive. Since we are surrounded by water might as well move towards desalination of using the sea water for our agriculture needs and build more dams for both power and water supply for drinking and irrigation rather than this just gets to the sea.

    A 3 stages of Dam will be needed to make it work. First Dan, Poer Supply, the 2nd Dam below the 1st dam will be for water supply and below the 2nd dam will be for agriculture. I have made this recommendation when I was ask on the San Roque Dam. But nobody listen and now during that strong typhoon in the Province of Pangasinan the entire province was flooded and poor farmers and most of the Milk Fish got destroyed and went out from its cages. Yet they were no being compensated by the government.

    It is a waste of time and money for all of them as it would have brought revenue not only to the province but to our National Government as well.