Australian scientists may have found treasure buried at the bottom of the sea in the form of valuable freshwater resources.
A study by scientists at Flinders University "reveals that an estimated half a million cubic kilometers of low-salinity water is buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around the world," according to a blog post from the school.
The fresh water is shielded from seawater by blankets of clay, the post said, just as aquifers exist below ground.
“Knowing about these reserves is great news because this volume of water could sustain some regions for decades,” said researcher Vincent Post of the School of the Environment at Flinders University.
Post said the volume of water located by the researchers is a hundred times more than the amount extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface since 1900. Scientists already knew about freshwater under the seafloor, he said, but thought it was much lower in quantity.
“Our research shows that fresh and brackish aquifers below the seabed are actually quite a common phenomenon,” he said.
Science World Report provided some background on the topic: "Rainwater penetrated into the ground and filled up the water tables in regions that are currently under sea. This event was similar around the globe. Nearly 20,000 years ago, the sea levels rose, the ice caps began melting and the areas were covered by oceans."
Guardian Express noted that the freshwater does have a level of salinity, but it can be treated.
"Since freshwater from aquifers under the seabed is much less salty, converting it into drinkable water requires a lower energy demand, relative to desalination techniques," the report said.
The report noted some water scarcity stats that make this research valuable: "According to the United Nations, around half of the planet’s populations will remain under water stress by 2030."
The researchers published their work in the journal Nature last week.
Scarcity is one of the top three U.S. water problems. Read more on Water Online.
Image credit: "Ocean Surf," © 2006 Avery Studio, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
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