December 13, 2013

ANOTHER KICK TO MALTHUS: Huge Freshwater Reserves Found — Under The Oceans.

We may soon be looking to our oceans for our freshwater—or more accurately, we’ll be looking underneath our oceans. A new study, the first to comprehensively survey the world’s known reserves of undersea freshwater, estimates that there are roughly 120,000 cubic miles—more than 100 times the amount of freshwater we’ve drilled from the ground since 1900—of fresh and nearly-fresh water trapped underneath seabeds. The upshot: we could be seeing more offshore drilling for water as well as oil in the future. . . .

Some of these reserves will be fresh enough that they won’t need to go through the energy-intensive desalinization process, while some of them will be only slightly brackish, and will be easier and, importantly, cheaper to desalinate. In fact, this kind of offshore drilling for water is already happening; NPR notes that there are already operations in places like Cape May, NJ to drill for and eventually desalinate low-salinity water.

Water scarcity has been a favorite topic for the Chicken Littles of the world. Just 18 years ago the vice president of the World Bank was ominously warning that “the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” It’s easy to drum up fears of “water wars” some undetermined time in the future, but studies like this one, and discoveries of new water sources like this one in Kenya, or this one under the Sahara, suggest that these fears that have gripped Malthusians—and that Malthusians have in turn used to push through otherwise unworkable policy recommendations—are a lot less serious.

It’s as if they’re drumming up fear to consolidate power or something. But when someone announces a crisis whose solution requires less power for government and elites, I’ll listen more closely.