Présentations Colloques

Oral Presentation
5.02
Session 5.02: Groundwater and global change
Martin-Nagle Renee
Offshore aquifers : an answer to water scarcity ?
During the last two decades mounting evidence has indicated that vast amounts of fresh to brackish water lie in confined aquifers under continental shelves around the world. Indeed, these aquifers have been discovered along the coast of every continent, and their genesis dates back to the last glacial maximum, when sea levels were much lower than they are today. Sheltered for thousands of years, these waters should not contain any modern pollutants, and extracting and transporting them should not be much more difficult than similar operations for offshore oil and gas. Indeed, the hydrocarbon industry has invested enormous human and financial resources into producing state of the art exploration and extraction technology that could be very helpful for developing offshore aquifers. Assuming that predictions of vast offshore water reserves are accurate and that development is financially and technically feasible, these aquifers could serve to meet critical needs in times of global water scarcity. However, several questions will have to be answered first. To date, none of the offshore aquifers has straddled an international marine boundary. In the event that transboundary offshore aquifers are discovered and targeted for development, ownership of the reserves will have to be agreed by the nations concerned. Further, selecting between competing agricultural, industrial, domestic and ecosystem needs in a water-scarce world will require thoughtful analysis, careful deliberation and skillful diplomacy. Hydrogeologists and policy-makers will doubtless play major and collaborative roles in crafting solutions. This presentation will show compelling evidence of the existence of offshore aquifers, will describe the technical and legal challenges to be addressed in conjunction with their development, and will discuss how competing needs should be weighed in a world where fresh, clean water has become scarce enough that is must be sought from the global seabeds.
United Kingdom