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Earth Science

Scientists Discover Huge Freshwater Reserves Beneath the Ocean 273

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-dissolving-and-water-removing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered huge freshwater reserves beneath the seabed on continental shelves off the coast of Australia, North America, China and South Africa. '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. Fresh water on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages' says Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University."
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Scientists Discover Huge Freshwater Reserves Beneath the Ocean

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  • by mentil (1748130) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:14AM (#45637883)

    Presumably this water will need to be accessed via drilling and pumping the water. Imagine the horrors if there were a water spill, contaminating all that ocean water with its freshness!

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:20AM (#45637899) Homepage

      You jest, but a change in salinity could have a big impact.

      This will turn into just another way to rape the planet instead of trying to do things sustainably.

      Remember: There's no place to go once it's trashed

      (Which it will be, I have no doubt about that. So long as somebody, somewhere can make a buck doing so, they'll do it...)

      • by stjobe (78285) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:28AM (#45637923) Homepage

        You jest, but a change in salinity could have a big impact.

        Indeed it could, just read up a bit about thermohaline circulation [wikipedia.org] and you'll see why some people are worried not just about sea-level rise from melting polar ice.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          Who knows, it could even happen, "The Day After Tomorrow". I wonder how busy Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal are.

          Slightly more seriously, on the recent risk report, fresh water stopping the Gulf Stream was rated quite low-risk. (I forget the adjective.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495)

        Have you ever heard the phrase "all rivers run into the sea"?

        There are lots of ecological problems to be concerned about, freshwater contamination of the oceans is not one of them. Environmentalist over-reaction to damn near every scientific advance put forth doesn't do them any favors. It just makes you look like reactionary nutjobs.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          This may be many things, but it's not a "scientific advance".

          • Good point. Better change his statement to:

            Environmentalist over-reaction to damn near everything doesn't do them any favors. It just makes you look like reactionary nutjobs.

            As for saying that "there's nowhere to go" after draining these reserves.. well, it's possible to desalinate salt water by various means.

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              As for saying that "there's nowhere to go" after draining these reserves.. well, it's possible to desalinate salt water by various means.

              Did I say that? I could have sworn I said "after trashing the planet".

              The point is: Why don't they use the "various means" right now instead of using up all the natural resources first (with unknown consequences)?

              • by rmpotter (177221) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:48AM (#45638369) Homepage

                Exactly. Blind faith that "future" technology will save the day is not much better than any other kind of faith.

              • It is basically a scientific certainty that there are other habitable planets out there. Eventually this planet will be destroyed. That doesn't mean humans should be irresponsible, but there is something to be said for harnessing resources in a responsible way with clear goals so we can get off this rock. Then we'll ony have to worry about brane collisions destroying the fabric of the univerese. And there are always going to be unknown consequences; even not taking action will result in unknown consequence
                • by Joce640k (829181)

                  It is basically a scientific certainty that there are other habitable planets out there.

                  The problem is getting to them. There's no reason to believe interstellar travel is possible.

                  there is something to be said for harnessing resources in a responsible way with clear goals

                  That's never happened to any resource discovered so far.

              • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:02AM (#45638801)

                Yeah, I worry about the same thing. Pumping up water from that depth has to be a bit of a challenge and use energy (though there are temperature gradients they could borrow to assist). Still, you also have the problem that after you remove a lot of fresh water -- that creates a new chamber that sea water could flood and contaminate.

                And what happens when you cause a landslide or underwater quake if you displace a LOT OF water? We've had sink-holes and land drop from removal of groundwater -- if the chamber is 100 times larger and the pressure 1000 times more, well, how bad does it get before the problem shows up?

                I'm not paranoid of the future, but our system currently is unable to change course if a profit is involved. We as a society in the USA can no longer expect that if something were to cause massive damage -- you for instance "fracking" natural gas MIGHT poison fresh water and cause small earthquakes (and well, it does in fact do that) -- but you wouldn't have the news really report it and you wouldn't have the FDA shut them down because someone would just secure a nice consulting job for when they left government service and Congress would get some campaign donations and do nothing and the media wouldn't report that because they'd get some advertising dollars featuring Deer sipping from ponds over a pump.

                Did I mention a broken system that cannot correct errors? I'm waiting for someone to pay me to blog happy things about Deer sipping from ponds over a pump -- I've seen them myself and people who don't like Frakking / Deep See fresh water are Hippie Commie tree huggers who hurt our economy!

                • by omnichad (1198475)

                  Still, you also have the problem that after you remove a lot of fresh water

                  Simple - just replace it with Carbon Dioxide! Well - provided that you could cap it under pressure in the end.

        • by gmuslera (3436)

          Is all related to volume. If those reserves and the spill are big enough, it could make a measurable change in ocean salinity.

          Also, the water that come from rivers, came from rain, and in the end came from the ocean, water evaporated, salt remained and later the same water returned, in global scale things keeps being more or less the same. But what if you add enough "new" fresh water to the cycle?

        • It just makes you look like reactionary nutjobs, and by the time you're proven right, people will have forgotten you said anything or will actually blame you for failing to convince them.

          FTFY. As far as reactionaries go, "don't fuck it up" is probably the safer of the two than "Aw, you crazy environmentalists, saying the sky is falling, IT'LL NEVER BE A PROBLEM!" which is all too prevalent.

          We're just discovering these freshwater reserves, and you appear to state for a fact that we need not be concerned about messing them up? Based on what exactly? TFA states they were made hundreds of thousands of years ago and are not being replenished, so there's no reason to believe there's a mai

        • However you obviously are complete clueless. I suggest you read up a bit how ocean currents work and the general 'behaviour' of water with shifting salt contants.

        • by P-niiice (1703362)
          Don't make generalizations about scientific matters that you know nothing about. On a scientific level, the subject IS a huge concern. Whether this particular article is one to be concerned over is another matter.
      • This will turn into just another way to utilize untapped resources instead of trying to do things like hunter-gatherers.

        FTFY

    • Prophesy!! (Score:5, Funny)

      by flyneye (84093) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:22AM (#45638279) Homepage

      Was this not foretold by the Prophet David Byrne?

      Water dissolving and water removing
      There is water at the bottom of the ocean
      Remove the water, carry the water
      Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean
      Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
      Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
      Into the blue again, after the money's gone
      Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
      Into the blue again, into silent water
      Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground
      Letting the days go by, into silent water
      Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Presumably this water will need to be accessed via drilling and pumping the water. Imagine the horrors if there were a water spill, contaminating all that ocean water with its freshness!

      Imagine a spill of ocean water into the freshwater bed; causing the entire reserve to be ruined.

  • by beh (4759) * on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:26AM (#45637919)

    Before we try and get and that additional freshwater - has anyone found another possible _deposit_ location for all the rubbish and toxic waste we're producing? ...even if we would get at that water, it would only be a stop-gap -- right now, most seem to think that there will always be some new source of whatever resource we need to keep our "unsustainable" pace going...

    It's the same about what people say that the shale oil will give the US enough oil for 100 years -- it's _maybe_ 100 years _at the current pace of consumption. But if there is a 100 years worth of more energy - why even _try_ and save? Why not even indulge in even more energy-intensive enterprises?

    The same goes for finding huge amounts of new fresh-water - we'll just find ways to consume it even faster, instead of trying to focus on limiting the damage we do to the planet, and treating any additional resources as 'emergency rations' that we won't touch unless there is no other way.

    • by khallow (566160) on Monday December 09, 2013 @06:14AM (#45638079)

      Before we try and get and that additional freshwater - has anyone found another possible _deposit_ location for all the rubbish and toxic waste we're producing?

      Well, there is the ground. That's where we put most of our rubbish and toxic waste. It works pretty well despite the complaints to the contrary.

      But if there is a 100 years worth of more energy - why even _try_ and save? Why not even indulge in even more energy-intensive enterprises?

      Because the cost is greater than the benefit. Sometimes it actually is worth conserving cheap energy.

      The same goes for finding huge amounts of new fresh-water - we'll just find ways to consume it even faster, instead of trying to focus on limiting the damage we do to the planet, and treating any additional resources as 'emergency rations' that we won't touch unless there is no other way.

      What's the point of this "focus"? The planet isn't that damaged. The resources in question aren't that depleted.

      But what I find fundamentally frivolous about this whole story is that apparently they've discovered a year's worth of rainfall (which is also in the neighborhood of half a million cubic kilometers). Freshwater is not a resource we're running out of. It's merely poorly distributed compared to who wants to use it.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      The rubbish will largely degrade. The rubbish that won't degrade (plastics, etc.) will be a resource for future generations. In addition, have sharply reduced toxic waste production over the years (if we use the same definitions across time).

      But your assumption that we need to live sustainably is wrong; humanity has never lived sustainably, and we shouldn't try.

      • But your assumption that we need to live sustainably is wrong; humanity has never lived sustainably, and we shouldn't try.

        Why not? Because it might inconvenience you? Because it is our god given privilege to pollute the planet?

        Seriously, does it hurt to be this myopic?

        • But your assumption that we need to live sustainably is wrong; humanity has never lived sustainably, and we shouldn't try.

          Why not? Because it might inconvenience you? Because it is our god given privilege to pollute the planet?

          Seriously, does it hurt to be this myopic?

          "A lot of times when you have very short term goals with a high payoff, nasty things can happen. In particular, a lot of people will take the low road there. They'll become myopic. They'll crowd out the long term interests of the organization or even themselves." -Daniel H. Pink

      • humanity has never lived sustainably, and we shouldn't try.

        What the fuck? Are you hoping for some magical technological saviour to all of our logistical problems, or do you just really enjoy the idea of overpopulation, and people killing each other for resources?

      • The rubbish will largely degrade. The rubbish that won't degrade (plastics, etc.) will be a resource for future generations.

        Interesting take - I envy future generations, which will have amazing resources like, say, debts the level we can't even dream of yet.

        You think they might be able to just climb up to the moon on the pile of IOUs from the US, Japan and other western democracies?

        Another valuable resource, no doubt will be the dead oceans - from overfishing and animals killed from plastic rubbish; if only they could find something else to eat.

    • has anyone found another possible _deposit_ location for all the rubbish and toxic waste we're producing?.

      A huge amount of products and processes are just waste.

      Economics, politics, etc try to stimulate, encourage, reward the production of more. More of whatever. Generally, more waste. In my view, we need to address this waste-stimulation.

      As it is, generating waste is directly linked to generating product, profit, jobs, and taxes. That link needs to stop.

      • by EmagGeek (574360)

        We need to address waste stimulation, but government can't do that.

        People need to take personal responsibility for themselves and own this problem. My wife and I take a trash can to the dump once every 3 or 4 weeks. We have really worked hard to cut down our trash profile by reusing, recycling, composting, reducing, and conserving (for example we use empty dog food bags as trash bags).

        Government can't successfully make people do this. They can tax noncompliance to kingdom come but it won't accomplish anythi

    • by memnock (466995)

      Right now, we pump - oh sorry "inject"- our wastewater from fracking underground [agu.org]. That water contains heavy metals and radioactive components. (Nothing like just making the problem 'go away'.)

      Now that these large potential sources are revealed, what's the implications for their purity with that waste being underground also? There is no way to be sure that the wastewater won't find a channel or crack that will let it flow into those reserves.

  • I'm afraid that pumping this water will lead to the same phenomenon in Libya :

    As they pump the fossil water of deep aquifers in the desert, the dwells all around get dry or have now a much lower water level.

    See the GMMR project: huge pipe to provide fresh water to the coastal cities, pumped from deep fossil aquifers of the desert that may not get resplenish any time soon. This is maybe not as simple as communicating vessels, but the people think the dwells dry out are link to this project.

  • by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Monday December 09, 2013 @06:08AM (#45638059)
    At the moment Australia is looking at desalination to support the growing population and as a backup for when floods and droughts cause problems with our existing dams. Desalination tends to take up a lot of energy so you have to wonder if pumping this fresh water is a better solution. We already run some large pipelines so what's a few more?
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Monday December 09, 2013 @06:21AM (#45638109)
    1) Find a new natural resource, a crown jewel of mother nature
    2) Start immediately raping this resource and pumping it dry
    3) ???
    4) Profit!
  • Whew! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spit (23158) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:15AM (#45638261)

    For a minute there I thought we'd have to stop washing our shit away with drinking water.

  • Scientists should stop discovering resources. Every newly discovered resource reduces the pressure to apply more reason to the usage of existing/known resources...
  • That since 1900 is greater than a century right?

  • They'll start fracking now, to get every last drop.

  • I always saw him and Squidward finding some river or something below the ocean.

  • There is water at the bottom of the ocean Remove the water, carry the water Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down Letting the days go by, water flowing underground Into the blue again, after the money's gone Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground Into the blue again, into silent water Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground
  • Yes, all our fresh water, once drunk, is lost forever to space. Some say water you pee into the toilet or behind a tree runs to the sea, evaporates into clouds, falls to the ground as rain, and flows as rivers and springs back to the great intake pipes that lead to your faucet in the great hydrological cycle, but I call that junk science. Mumbo-jumbo about conservation of mass and energy aside, once you've used something. IT. IS. GONE. FOREVER.

  • How does one propose transport the fresh water? In Tankers?

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