NM EPSCoR Geothermal Researcher Published in Nature

Natalie Rogers December 13, 2013

Geothermal Energy component co-lead Mark Person and his colleagues recently had their research review on groundwater reserves published in Nature. "Offshore fresh groundwater reserves as a global phenomenon," by Person (NMT), Vincent Post (Flinders University), Jacobus Groen (VU University Amsterdam), Henk Kooi (VU University Amsterdam), Shemin Ge (University of Colorado), and W. Mike Edmunds (University of Oxford), was published in Volume 504 of the magazine earlier this month and discusses the large amounts of groundwater found below continental shelves. Continental shelves are the borders of the continents submerged in shallow seawater. According to the paper, large freshwater aquifers exist beneath the continental shelves due to the exposure of the shelves in the past from falling seawater levels, but hydrogeology research on the shelf aquifers is sorely lacking since most hydrogeology studies occur on land. Research in this area will help appraise this groundwater as an element in environmental change, and, "because continental shelf aquifers underlie areas that are in a continuous state of transition in response to global climate and seal level, offshore groundwater could hold important clues to the natural variability of the hydrological cycle over thousands of years, or even longer."
The review focuses mostly on the evidence that groundwater reserves below the sea floor are found all over the globe, and discusses recent discoveries and advances in the understanding of basic geological and human functions that preserve it. Indeed, "widespread confirmation of the scale of offshore fresh and brackish groundwater reserves... provides opportunities for the relief of water scarcity in densly populated coastal regions..." as well as alleviate environmental damage from onshore pumping. The abstract is quoted below, but the full review is well worth a read and can be found on Nature's publications website. Dr. Person's work for EPSCoR as part of the Geothermal Energy component explores the viability and sustainability of New Mexico's underlying natural hydrothermal systems. Congratulations to Dr. Person and his team on the publication!

The flow of terrestrial groundwater to the sea is an important natural component of the hydrological cycle. This process, however, does not explain the large volumes of low-salinity groundwater that are found below continental shelves. There is mounting evidence for the global occurrence of offshore fresh and brackish groundwater reserves. The potential use of these non-renewable reserves as a freshwater resource provides a clear incentive for future research. But the scope for continental shelf hydrogeology is broader and we envisage that it can contribute to the advancement of other scientific disciplines, in particular sedimentology and marine geochemistry.