As we head towards a future where the planet's resources may not be able to sustain the population boom, Australian scientists have made a valuable discovery in the form of new reserves of freshwater.
Researchers for Australia’s Flinder University have discovered 120,000 cubic miles of low-salinity water beneath the continental shelves off Australia, China, North America, and South Africa. The scientists were searching for oil or gas when they made the discovery. According to lead researcher Vincent Post, the find is equivalent to all the water that has been manually extracted over the past century.
This freshwater find will give the Earth’s inhabitants more options to deal with future water shortages. The water deposits formed hundreds of thousands of years ago when the sea level was lower allowing rainfall to be absorbed into the water table. When the polar caps melted 20,000 years ago, these freshwater deposits were trapped under the high saline content water.
“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.” — Vincent Post
The United Nation’s water department cites the “irrigated agriculture and meat production” as the two key reasons for increased demand for freshwater. When combined with an overall increase in water consumption by the global population, over 40% of the total population lives under conditions where water is scarce and projections show that by 2030 that percentage could reach as high as 50%.
However, drilling for the deposits would be an extremely expensive and difficult endeavor that if not done properly could contaminate the water and render it useless. On the other hand, considering the future challenges we face regarding our global water needs perhaps it is time to take the plunge and start developing the needed infrastructure to insure that we always has access to this vital resource.