A gigantic aquifer, consisting mainly of freshwater and hugging the coast from New Jersey to Massachusetts, sits beneath the ocean floor. It contains at least 2,800 cubic kilometers of fluid. That's enough water to fill 1.1 billion Olympic swimming pools.
It is the largest known underwater freshwater aquifer in the world. But more importantly, there may also be other such freshwater aquifers around the world, a potentially huge natural resource on a planet with a steadily growing population.
It was created after the Ice Age
Kerry Key, geophysicist at Columbia University, and Rob Evans, geologist and geophysicist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, special instruments near these ancient oil wells on the ocean floor drop to measure electromagnetic fields and image the water. Since fresh water is not as good for electromagnetic waves as salt water, the fresh water stuck out.
Their research revealed that the aquifer, which is about 600 feet below the seafloor, ran from the coast up to 75 feet from the coast.
How did the fresh water get there? The researchers suggest that the freshwater in the aquifer is ice that has melted after the last ice age and caught in rocky sediments. They also believe that the aquifer is fed by subsurface drainage from the coast.
Gustafson, Key and Evans hope that their research can be used to locate other underwater coastal aquifers around the world that could be "a potential resource in on-land regions". Freshwater resources have decreased.
The fresh water in the aquifer still needs to be desalinated before it can be used for drinking water, since the water is slightly salty, as it mixes somewhat with the saltier seawater.