SYDNEY – Australian researchers said Thursday they had established the existence of vast freshwater reserves beneath the ocean floor that could sustain future generations as current sources dwindle.
Lead author Vincent Post, from Australia’s Flinders University, said that an estimated 500,000 cu. km 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 subsurface in the past century since 1900,” said Post of the study, published in Nature. Post said his team’s findings were drawn from a review of seafloor studies done for scientific or oil and gas exploration purposes.
Post said the deposits are comparable with the bore basins that are 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 still be expensive, and Post said great care would have to be taken not to contaminate the aquifers.