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Atlantic freshwater aquifer has enough water to fill 1 billion Olympic swimming pools



A gigantic aquifer of mostly freshwater, hugging the coastline from New Jersey to Massachusetts, is located below the ocean floor. It contains at least 2,800 cubic kilometers (that's about 739 trillion gallons) of liquid. That's enough water to fill up to 1.1 billion Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It's the largest known undersea, freshwater aquifer on Earth. But, more importantly, there may be other such aquifers like this throughout the world, and a potentially huge natural resource on a planet with a steadily growing population.

The discovery was made by researchers from Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution while they were making a survey of the sea floor off the US northeast coast, according to a study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports

Since at least the 1

970s, companies in the region drilling for oil on the sea floor would sometimes we hit pockets of fresh water, but it was unclear as to how much water was down there

"We knew there was fresh water down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry," Chloe Gustafson, and PhD. candidate at Columbia University and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "It could turn out to be an important resource in other parts of the world."

In 1915, Kerry Key, a geophysicist at Columbia University, and Rob Evans, a geologist and geophysicist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, dropped special instruments to the ocean floor near those old oil drill holes to measure electromagnetic fields and map the water.

Their research has shown the aquifer, which lies about 600 feet below the ocean floor, ran from shoreline to as far as 75 miles away from the coast

So how did the freshwater get there? The researchers were theorizing the fresh water in the aquifer, which was melted after the last ice age and was trapped in a sediment that was rocky.

Gustafson, Key and Evans hope their research can be used to pinpoint other undersea coastal aquifers around the world that could be "a potential resource in regions where onshore freshwater resources have diminished. "

The fresh water in the aquifer would still need to undergo desalination before it could be used for drinking water, because the water is slightly salty since it mixes a little with the saltier ocean water


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