Scientists have found a gigantic freshwater aquifer hidden deep below the ocean.
The surprising discovery, from a new survey of the sub-seafloor off the northeast U.S. coast by researchers from Columbia University, appears to to be the largest formation of this type anywhere in the world — stretching from Massachusetts to New Jersey and extending continuously out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf.
Researchers said that if it was discovered on the surface it would create a lake covering some 15,000 square miles.
“We knew there was fresh water down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry,” lead author Chloe Gustafson, a PhD. candidate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in a press statement. “It could turn out to be an important resource in other parts of the world.”
Scientists used measurements of electromagnetic waves in order to map the water, which is trapped in porous sediments lying beneath the ocean.
The water deposits begin at around 600 feet below the ocean floor and bottom out at about 1,200 feet, researchers said, and it’s believed that they hold at least 670 cubic miles of fresh water.