Towing Icebergs for Drinking Water

If glaciologists and engineers can somehow harness flotillas of icebergs at the frozen corners of the Earth, it may signal hope for the throngs of thirsty people around the world. 

What's the Latest Development?


A recent computer model suggests that a tug boat could tow an iceberg off the coast of Greenland all the way to northwest coast of Africa could supply drinking water to populations literally dying of thirst. Dragging a 7 million-ton iceberg, which carries enough water to meet the annual consumption needs of 35,000 people, a heavy tug boat could make the journey in about 140 days. The French company that developed the computer model is also working to make a synthetic skirt to put around an iceberg so it would not melt in the ocean currents. 

What's the Big Idea?

With much of the world's fresh water locked away in Arctic icebergs, is it practical to bring the massive frozen chunks down to latitudes where people desperately need new sources of drinking water? With an estimated price tag of $11.5 million per journey, towing an iceberg from the north seas is not a cost-effective solution, at least not yet. Should technology advance, enabling bigger icebergs to be towed, the costs would decrease. Other concerns exist, such as the iceberg breaking up mid-journey and causing dangerous tidal waves. 

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