Vast freshwater reserves are trapped beneath the ocean floor which could sustain future generations as current sources dwindle, say an international team of scientists.
In this week’s issue of Nature they estimate 500,000 cubic kilometres of low-salinity water is buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around the world, including 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," says Australian lead author, Vincent Post, a groundwater hydrogeologist from Flinders University in Adelaide.
"Freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting," says Post, who is also with theNational Centre for Groundwater Research and Training.
"It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages."
UN Water, the United Nations’ water agency, estimates that water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population in the last century due to demands such as irrigated agriculture and meat production.