By: Amanda Froelich,
Many organizations are working hard to ensure that the 1 billion inhabitants still without water may someday have easy access to the life-giving compound. While this form of physical water scarcity is a concern for many, it is not the only type of shortage the world needs to be concerned with, however.
Economic shortage of aqua is an ever increasing issue as more and more people continue to put demand on limited supplies. In effect from the growing population (which has not yet implemented sustainable methods to support it’s growing numbers) cost and effort to build or even maintain access to water will increase. This means water’s importance to political and social stability will also grow with the crisis.
Individual action to curb non-essential use of the precious resource will greatly aid balanced disbursement of water, but the projected shortage is still a concern that will eventually affect all. Thankfully, a new freshwater supply has been discovered with the potential to sustain future generations.
Earlier this month, Australian researchers established the existence of vast freshwater reserves which are trapped beneath the ocean floor.
The lead author, Vincent Post from Australia’s Flinders University, said that an estimated 120,000 cubic miles 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 sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” reported Post of the study, which was published in the latest edition of Nature.
All agreed that this was an exciting find. “Freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off of the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages.”
As irrigated agriculture and production of meat have increased, water demand has almost doubled in the last century, according to the United Nations’ water agency. Pollution of oceans, lakes, and rivers is also a growing concern in maintaining freshwater. And finally, those with easy access to water rarely think twice about curbing their use, an additional contributing factor to the shortage.
With more than 40% of the world’s population already living in conditions of water scarcity, it’s an issue that demands immediate action now. UN water projects that around 2030, the percent of people living in under high water stress will increase to 47%.
Because water is essential to all of life, it cannot be overstated how important an issue managing freshwater resources is.
According to Post, his team’s findings were drawn from a review of seafloor water studies done for scientific or oil and gas exploration purposes.
“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,” he told AFP.
This means the deposits were formed over hundreds of thousands of years ago, when the sea level was much lower and areas now under the ocean were exposed to rainfall which was absorbed in the underlying water table.
Scientists theorize that when the polar ice caps started melting 20,000 years ago, these coastlines disappeared under water, but their aquifers remained intact. Protected by layers of clay and sediment, they are now deposits that can hopefully be used to supply freshwater to mankind in the future.
The scientist said the deposits were comparable with the bore basins currently relied upon by much of the world for drinking water and would cost much less than seawater to desalinate.
The current issue preventing action being taken is the high cost of drilling into the ocean floor. Post also said great care would need to be taken not to contaminate the aquifers. He warned that they are a precious resource.
“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.”
While this is good news for all inhabitants of the Earth, it’s also a reminder that the use of resources are available at a cost. To prevent tragic water shortage in the future, every individual should take preventative action by being mindful of their non-essential water use. By curbing our carbon footprint now, future generations may live in ease.
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