Fossil Water, What Fossil Water Is and The Use of Fossil Water Around the World

Fossil Water Dangers
Depletion of Fossil Water Resources
Alternate Options to Fossil Water


The term fossil water, or paleowater, refers to underground water reservoirs that have been geologically sealed. The water contained in them cannot be replenished and may have been locked in for thousands of years. The age of the water is what gives it the name 'fossil water'.

Figure 1. False color NASA image of fossil water irrigation in Libya

Fossil Water Dangers

Some arid lands like Saudi Arabia, Libya and Jordan have been found to have underground supplies of fossil water that have now been tapped. The problem is that this water is a finite resource and often comes with dangers in addition to the water running out after the population has come to rely upon it. Fossil water aquifers can be brackish and salt water contaminated or even be highly radioactive depending on the surrounding geology

Depletion of Fossil Water Resources

By their very definition fossil water resources will eventually run out one they begin being used. For over 50 years Libya has relied on fossil water supplies that are now dwindling but the prospect of fossil water reserves running out is not limited to the Middle East or northern Africa. Parts of the former USSR, India, China and Mexico all depend on non-renewable water taken from ancient aquifers. In the United States a number of the Great Plains states take a considerable amount of their water from a fossil water aquifer. This water reservoir is the Ogallala Aquifer or the high planes Aquifer. Estimates forecast this aquifer being empty in 25 years. The disruption is likely to be immense as the aquifer covers portions of eight states, and supplies 82% of the drinking water for these states and around 30% of the water used for crop irrigation in the area.

Alternate Options to Fossil Water

For poor countries there are few options available other than using fossil water supplies. For wealthier nations options include desalination of salt water from oceans. The problem with this is that fossil water supplies have no regard for international boundaries. Neighboring countries may share an aquifer and one country is unlikely to use the expensive desalination option while its neighbor continues to cheaply extract fossil water.

Source: AZoNano


  1. Janet Neo Janet Neo United States says:

    After Fossil water finish underground.  Will it affect the land collapse as fossil water being empty underground.  As fossil water act like a cushion to support the earth layers.

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