And so, it has come to this. Climate change-induced drought and desertification has gotten so dire in some places of the world that companies are now making plans to tow icebergs from Antarctica for drinking water, reports Gulf News.
Drought has become an intractable problem in the United Arab Emirates, and the desert nation's groundwater is expected to dry up in as little as 15 years. Desalination currently supplies 98 percent of the drinking water for residents of UAE's gluttonous cities, but desalination is expensive and ravaging to the local environment. Meanwhile, Antarctica contains around 70 percent of the planet's freshwater. It's a natural solution, right?
Towing icebergs from Antarctica might seem like an extreme idea — the idea has certainly garnered its fair share of ridicule — but an Abu Dhabi-based firm, the National Advisor Bureau Limited, is dead set on carrying it out, and they believe it can offer a real solution to their region's water woes.
"This is the purest water in the world," said Sulaiman Al Shehi, managing director of the National Advisor Bureau Limited. "We have formulated the technical and financial plan. Towing is the best method. We will start the project in the beginning of 2018."
Computer simulations for the plan predict that even a sizable iceberg will lose at least 30 percent of its total mass while being towed, but given that the average iceberg contains roughly 20 billion gallons of freshwater, there will still be plenty of it left by the time it got delivered to its destination in the Gulf of Oman. The journey would take about a year, and a single iceberg could potentially quench the thirst of millions of residents for years.
Al Shehi also believes that the out-of-place iceberg could become a significant tourist attraction, making the project more financially feasible. He even contends that the presence of an iceberg could radically alter the local weather, generate clouds and even bring rain, further helping to solve the water crisis. That's certainly a bit of salesmanship — an iceberg would have to be impractically huge to significantly alter the region's rainfall — but the mammoth block of ice could absolutely generate clouds in its immediate vicinity, making it an even bigger spectacle for tourists.
The firm has released a somewhat amusing animation that visualizes the whole plan, even depicting wildlife still living on the towed iceberg. (Specifically, it depicts penguins and polar bears, a bit of a faux pas given that polar bears only live in the Arctic.) You can view it here:
The video also misleadingly suggests that the plan will eventually transform the arid landscape of the UAE into a verdant, green paradise. That won't happen, but it's a zealous plan with or without the ambitious predictions. We'll just have to wait and see if it all comes to fruition.