A gigantic aquifer of mostly freshwater, hugging the coastline from New Jersey up to Massachusetts, sits below the ocean floor.
But more importantly, there may be other such freshwater aquifers like it throughout the world, 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 doing a survey of the sea floor off the US northeast coast, according to the study, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports.
In 2015, 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 showed the aquifer, which lies about 600 feet below the ocean floor, ran from the shoreline out to as far as 75 miles away from the coast.
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 freshwater in the aquifer would still need to undergo desalinization before it could be used for drinking water, because the water is slightly salty since it does mix a little with the saltier ocean water.