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Fresh water under ocean: Scientists find huge reserves of freshwater under ocean

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Fresh water under the ocean discovered by scientists is revising what most science books teach. The huge reservoirs of freshwater found under the ocean floor is considered to be amazing news because those freshwater reserves could sustain some regions that are experiencing droughts for decades. According to a Dec. 11, 2013, Latin Times report, "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.”

The discovery of the fresh water under the ocean happened when scientists explored the ocean floor for pockets of oil and gas.

Researchers estimate that there is about 500,000 cubic kilometers, or about 120,000 cubic miles, of low-salinity water held in reservoirs und the seabed off the coasts of North America, South Africa, China and Australia.

The discovery of the fresh water in reservoirs under the ocean floor was described in the study "Offshore fresh groundwater reserves as a global phenomenon” by authors Vincent E.A. Post, Jacobus Groen, Henk Kooi, Mark Person, Shemin Ge and W. Mike Edmunds. The study was published in the journal Nature.

In an interview with Science Daily, lead author Dr. Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University said that since”freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain,” the discovery of such a huge amount of freshwater under the ocean floor is exciting.

"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.”

Dr. Post explains in his interview that the freshwater reserves were formed over the past hundreds of thousands of years when on average the sea level was much lower than it is today, and when the coastline was further out.

"So when it rained, the water would infiltrate into the ground and fill up the water table in areas that are nowadays under the sea. It happened all around the world, and when the sea level rose when ice caps started melting some 20,000 years ago, these areas were covered by the ocean. Many aquifers were -- and are still -- protected from seawater by layers of clay and sediment that sit on top of them."

While the discovery of the fresh water in aquifers under the ocean floor is phenomenal, Dr. Post points out that in order to access the fresh water, one would have to build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers.

As in gas or oil drilling, offshore drilling for freshwater under the ocean floor would not only be costly but would also have an environmental impact on marine life.

Most importantly, Dr. Post emphasizes and warns that the freshwater reserves found under the ocean are not renewable. “We should use them carefully -- once gone, they won't be replenished until the sea level drops again, which is not likely to happen for a very long time.”

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