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Fresh Water Under Ocean Could Hold Off Water Crisis in Dry Areas

By Clyde Hughes   |   Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013 02:43 PM

Researchers in Australia say they have discovered vast reservoirs of fresh water underneath the ocean floor that could be used by areas facing water shortages.

Researchers at the National Center for Groundwater Research and Training told Voice of America that the underground water could supply some dry regions with fresh water for decades and starve off a global water crisis.

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The results of the study were published in the science journal Nature.

"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," Vincent Post of the Center and the School of the Environment at Flinders University told Voice of America.

Post said they believe the reserves were created when sea levels were much lower thousands of years ago when the coastline was farther 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," Post told the Voice of America. "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."

United Press International reports researchers said they found the freshwater reserves off the coast of Australia, China and North America.

The study states that the water reserves are probably protected by clay and sediment layers that prevented the fresh water from mixing with the salt water of the ocean.

"There are two ways to access this water — build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers," Post said, wrote UPI.

Cost and sustainability issues would need to be examined because of the difficulty of reaching these reserves by drilling. Post was concerned about nations contaminating the water supply while trying to access it as well.

"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," Post said, according to UPI.

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