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ICEBERGS: If they’re going to melt anyway then why waste the water?

PortandTerminal.com, October 3, 2019

Editor’s note: For the record, PortandTerminal.com would strongly prefer that runaway climate change was not melting the world’s glaciers and threatening life on our planet.

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – In the past week, the media has been filled with articles about a giant iceberg larger than Los Angeles breaking off from the ice shelf in East Antarctica.

The enormous 650-square-mile iceberg separated or “calved” from the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica on Sept. 26, the Australian Government’s Antarctic Division said in a news release on Tuesday.

Icebergs, as every schoolchild learns, are made up of crystal clean, frozen freshwater. Once they melt in the salty sea though, that’s it. No more freshwater. That’s an enormous loss of freshwater in a world that is quickly running out of it. Is there not a way to make lemonade out of this climate change lemon?

Icebergs & Glaciers

Of the Earth’s water, 97 percent is salty while just 3 percent of it is fresh, drinkable water. Of the world’s total supply of precious freshwater, almost 70% of it is locked up in icebergs, glaciers and permanent snow.

Glacial ice covers 10-11 percent of all land on earth and according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), if all the glaciers melted today the seas would rise about 230 feet (70 meters). Case in point, during the last ice age (when glaciers covered more land area than today) the sea level was about 400 feet (122 meters) lower than it is today. At that time, glaciers covered almost one-third of all land.

Global water crisis

From Cape Town to Flint, Michigan, and from rural, sub-Saharan Africa to Asia’s teeming megacities, there’s a global water crisis. The world is running out of water. An estimated 844 million people lack basic drinking water access, more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.

Without clean, easily accessible water, families and communities are locked in poverty for generations. Children drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living.

Women and children are worst affected — children because they are more vulnerable to diseases of dirty water and women and girls because they often bear the burden of carrying water for their families for an estimated 200 million hours each day.

One man’s bold plan to use icebergs to help ease the water shortage

Nick Sloane is a professional marine salvager who recently oversaw the refloating of the capsized Italian cruise ship the Costa Concordia

Nick Sloane has a plan to move a 125-million-ton iceberg across the sea — and then melt it down for drinking water to help ease the shortage in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.

Refloating the Costa Concordia

If anyone can do it, he can. Mr Sloan is a highly respected, professional marine salvager who recently oversaw the refloating of the capsized Italian cruise ship the Costa Concordia.

Severe drought in 2017 led to Cape Town nearly running out of water, and the city — which Sloane calls home — still has restrictions of 18 gallons (70 litres per day).

“If the taps run dry, the first-day people will be standing in lines at watering points throughout the city. The second day, if you don’t get your water, well, people are killed for that.”

Nick Sloane

His plan is to harness and tow an enormous Antarctic iceberg, and then convert it into drinkable water. His plan is not without precedent. In the mid-1800s, Chilean breweries would tow small icebergs — sometimes fitted with sails — for refrigeration purposes. Mr Sloan’s plan is on a much grander scale though.

“To make it economically feasible, the iceberg will have to be big,” Mr Sloane explained.

Making use of his unusual skill set, Mr Sloane plans to harness and tow an enormous Antarctic iceberg to South Africa and convert it into municipal water. “To make it economically feasible, the iceberg will have to be big,” Sloane says. Ideally, it would measure about 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) long, 500 meters wide, and 250 meters deep, and weigh 125 million tons. “That would supply about 20% of Cape Town’s water needs for a year.”

Cape Town residents line up for freshwater

Mr Sloane has reportedly assembled a crack team of glaciologists, oceanographers and engineers to bag the iceberg. He also has investors. The entire mission is expected to cost upwards of $US 190 million to pull off. This will largely be funded by two South African banks and a Swiss water tech firm called Water Vision AG.

The world needs bold ideas now more than ever. Nick Sloane’s vision is not only bold, it just may be feasible.

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