After decades of theorizing and searching, scientists are reporting that they’ve found a massive reservoir of water in the Earth’s mantle — a reservoir so vast that it could fill the Earth’s oceans three times over. This discovery suggests Earth’s surface water comes from within, as part of a “whole-Earth water cycle.”
This new study, authored by geophysicists and scientists from across the US, leverages data from the USArray—hundreds of seismographs located throughout the US that are constantly listening to movements in the Earth’s mantle, the thick (~1,800 mile) layer between the Earth’s crust and its outer core. Recent findings of Ringwoodite—a rare, diamond-like rock that is 1.5 percent water bound as oxygen and hydrogen molecules—also suggest there is a vast store of water located in the transition zone between the upper and lower mantle, between 250-410 miles below the Earth’s surface. At that depth, mantel water cannot be reached by conventional drilling techniques. The deepest a human borehole has ever gone is less than eight miles.
However, decades of research have shown that mantle water can be forced closer to the Earth’s surface, due to geologic activity, and held in rock fractures where it can be drilled for and tapped. A technique known as fracture trace mapping helps locate fractures in the bedrock where the water is contained. This technique has been successfully used throughout Pennsylvania to locate wells that produce millions of gallons of water per day. Pal Pauer of the Primary Water Institute, has conducted decades of primary water studies and successful drilling projects around the world. He maintains that wells sufficient to service the entire state of California could be dug and serviced for about $800 million – less than 2% of the cost of the controversial Delta water tunnels – and this feat could be accomplished without robbing the North to feed the South. Mantle water may be a key answer to the world’s water shortage and it’s literally right under our feet.
Sebastian Anthony, “Scientists discover an ocean 400 miles beneath our feet that could fill our oceans three times over,” Extreme Tech, June 17, 2014, http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/184564-scientists-discover-an-ocean-400-miles-beneath-our-feet-that-could-fill-our-oceans-three-times-over.
Becky Oskin, “Rare Diamond Confirms That Earth’s Mantle Holds an Ocean’s Worth of Water,” Scientific American, March 12, 2014. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rare-diamond-confirms-that-earths-mantle-holds-an-oceans-worth-of-water.
Ellen Brown, “California Water Wars,” Dissident Voice, March 24, 2015, http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/03/california-water-wars/
Joseph Castro, “Oceans of Water Locked 400 Miles Inside Earth,” Discovery News, June 12, 2014, http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/oceans-of-water-found-locked-deep-inside-earth-140612.htm.
Student Researcher: Kayla Smyth (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)