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🗣️ Bringing Water from Antarctica to the Desert

(don't) Waste Water!

Photo by Eric Welch / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Antoine Walter
Guest: Abdulla Alshehhi | Managing Director | National Advisor Bureau Limited
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:10] “Back in 2013, I’ve started writing a book called “Filling the Empty Quarter”. The books details several projects related to water harvesting and water saving. And the mission for that book is to make the Empty Quarter Desert, which is the second-largest desert in the world, […] green. […] So I was researching different projects and [what] struck me [was] the iceberg project.”

[5:51] “The Saudis faced two problems [back in 1977]. One of the issues is the availability of towing tug boats […] to tow the iceberg. But currently, we have hundreds of very strong tug boats, which can help us on the operation. The second issue was the depth of the iceberg. The iceberg on average can go up to 150 meter in depth. So they were not able to bring it to the Red Sea due to the shallowness of the water over there. And Saudi Arabia does not have a coast on the Arabian Sea, while we in the United Arab Emirates [do] have [one], so we can do it.”

[8:20] “The technology which we are working on will reduce the melting rate and will help mitigate some of the risks related to the iceberg operation like utilizing green energy while transporting the iceberg, utilizing the wind for guiding the iceberg, as well in order to reduce the fuel consumption during the transit […].  But let me highlight as well, […] why we need water from icebergs in the first place. Currently due to global warming many icebergs disintegrate from Antarctica. And once they disintegrate and they leave Antarctica, they float in the ocean and they melt, wasting billions of gallons of the world’s most important substance, which is freshwater. The water in Antarctica and North Pole as well is the world’s […] freshest water. Unfortunately, currently it is melting, wasted, not utilized.

[14:10] “Our intention or the plan is to have the project in two phases. The first phase would be a pilot with a smaller iceberg, and we will be towing it to either Perth, Western Australia, or to Cape Town in South Africa. By that we will strengthen the technical part. And we will ensure that all risks are mitigated. Of course, we will learn from it in order to start the second phase, which is to the United Arab Emirates. The journey from the place we were intended to harvest iceberg to Perth or South Africa may take three to four, while to the United Arab Emirates it can take up to nine months.”

[17:48] “Currently the water resources, not only in the United Arab Emirates but throughout the Gulf, is from desalination plants. […] We have the biggest desalination plants in the world. Because we have an increasing population and we don’t have many water resources. Unfortunately, the desalination plants not only pollute the air, but they pollute the ocean as well by dumping hundreds of millions of brine water, which is brackish water, […] which is not helping the Marine in the Gulf. I believe it’s not a long-term solution to the problem.”

[22:56] “When we launched the project back in 2017 and we announced it in the news, some researchers have contacted us and they have highlighted something, which I believe is more crazy than the iceberg project itself. They told us that the presence of this iceberg [in] the warm water of the Arabian Sea will create a micro climate. These icebergs, being cold bodies, will attract floating clouds in the Arabian Sea […] causing a vortex mechanism until that makes the clouds heavier [and it] rains. […] This of course needs further studies. That’s why we are in discussion with the research center.”

[29:39] “Antarctica is the water reserve for humanity. Currently 10,000 trillion tons of fresh water is available. […] And we’re not going to go and cut any piece, we’re going to drag [what will be] disintegrated and will be wasted and melting. So I think the rationale behind it is logical and makes sense. I was invited by the United Nations in 2019 to speak about the Iceberg Project as one of the unconventional water resources in Stockholm. From a technical point of view, the scientists and the people there were really amazed about it. So we believe it’s a, from a technical point of view, not undoable.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: “The Magical Substance You Need to Green a Desert Actually Comes from Antarctica”)
🕰️ 35 min | 🗓️ 09/14/2021
✅ Time saved: 33 min

Additional Links:
The Iceberg Project