Fresh water found in the ocean is making headlines with the potential promise of a new source of drinkable water in a world where many people live without the luxury of clean water already, and the threat of a global water shortage constantly looms thanks to overpopulation. However, accessing the water may prove to be challenging due to the expense of drilling and environmental concerns associated with drilling. In addition, unfortunately, drilling could actually pose a threat to the quality of the fresh water in the ocean if saline ocean water contaminates the freshwater reserves.
A Dec. 10, 2013 report by Inhabit called the discovery of the freshwater found in the ocean "more precious than fossil fuels or minerals." However, just because there's 120,000 cubic miles of low salinity water in the ocean doesn't mean that it's easily accessible. Furthermore, the water won't soon be replenished. Despite its vast quantity, it is not an endless supply or a renewable resource.
International Business Times reported that scientists found the massive aquifers beneath the ocean floor while exploring for gas and oil, not fresh water. Researchers believe that the amount of fresh water in the ocean, which is located in continental shelves, has been bear
The water has reportedly been trapped in continental shelves near North America, South Africa, China and Australia for hundreds of thousands of years. According to scientists, oceans were shallower hundreds of thousands of years ago than they are now, and most of the global water at that time was frozen into glaciers. When it rained, the water would soak into the ground and become trapped in aquifers, creating the fresh water recently found in the ocean.
It wasn't until 20,000 years ago that polar caps started to melt, releasing water that caused sea levels to rise. By this time, sediment and clay layered above the freshwater aquifers protected the fresh water from the ocean water, keeping them separate, and simultaneously trapping the fresh water beneath the floor of the ocean.
Despite the excitement surrounding the discovery of fresh water in the ocean, Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University called the presence of "fresh and brackish waters beneath the sea bed… a common phenomenon."
Still, the discovery is impressive, particularly in its size. Post said, "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."