Originally published on December 9, 2013
Researchers in the University of Flinders in Australia have found vast reserves of low-salt water beneath the seabed.
Rivers and rain water over the past hundreds of thousands of years infiltrated the ground to form aquifers. Even as sea level rose when ice caps started melting 20,000 years ago, sediment and clay partially kept salt water from seeping into the groundwater.
The research team at University of Flinders found 3.1 cubic kilometres of groundwater reaching up to 80 km off the coast of Gippsland, Australia. Other reserves off coastal cities in China, North America and South Africa have been identified, with an estimated half a million cubic kilometres of freshwater.
These water stores can be accessed by drilling from platforms out at sea using technology similar to that used in oil rigging. While offshore drilling is considered expensive, low-salt water can be readily converted to drinkable water.
"Freshwater under the seabed is much less salty than seawater," Dr. Vincent Post, who heads this research, said in University of Flinders press release. "This means it can be converted to drinking water with less energy than seawater desalination, and it would also leave us with a lot less hyper-saline water."
Post also cautions against disrupting the seabeds around the reserves to prevent contaminating the groundwater.
"Sometimes boreholes are drilled into the aquifers for oil and gas exploration or production, or aquifers are targeted for carbon dioxide disposal. These activities can threaten the quality of the water," Post said.
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